Virtual Reality (VR) has been on the retail industry’s radar for the last few years, but with the introduction of more affordable headsets such as Google Cardboard, retailers are starting to take more notice. VR is a versatile tool that can create an interactive and immersive experience in-store, as well as entice home purchasers to spend.
A diverse array of retailers have dabbled in this technology, with examples including Tommy Hilfiger’s use of VR headsets to transport customers to the front row of a catwalk; the North Face’s transportation of customers trying on jackets to Yosemite National Park; and Topshop turning its flagship store into a virtual water park.
Shopping centres are also seeing the benefits that VR can bring, with Westfield reporting in ‘How We Shop Now: What’s Next?’ that 41% of shoppers would like to use such technologies generally, and 33% would like to use VR to try on clothes. An example of a shopping centre using the technology is Intu, which recently rolled out a trial paid-for VR experience across three of its centres, allowing shoppers to interact with characters from The Emoji Movie.
By creating powerful immersive experiences, VR has the ability to surprise and entice customers in all aspects of the retail sector. In-store, it has the ability to offer an interactive brand experience which can be personalised and customised to allow customers to make better informed purchasing decisions. At home, it allows customers to virtually inspect items that they might ordinarily want to physically see before purchasing, such as furniture or a kitchen fit-out from IKEA.
However, the obvious downside to using VR is its cost. The uptake of VR devices by consumers has generally been underwhelming, largely due to the cost of such devices. Given that many at-home VR retail experiences rely on customers owning the right equipment, many retailers are reluctant to invest and explore this area until it becomes more mainstream and affordable. However, even as VR devices get cheaper, developing bespoke VR content is likely to remain a pricey investment for retailers, so whether VR will be a more prominent feature in retail in the future remains to be seen.