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How VR can change the shopping experience

Wherever you are in the world, imagine for a moment.

You’re being transported to the streets of New York City, it’s summer. It’s hot. It’s busy. You gaze at a high-end boutique apartment and moments later you’re inside browsing the gorgeous interiors on offer. In the living room a chaise lounge draped with a sheepskin throw sits by the window adorned in sunlight; walk around further in the cool and airy studio space and you spot a series of crystal chandeliers hanging above a solid wood dining table all neatly set for dinner; in the bedroom a lady models a pair of stylish designer trousers perfect for the summer heat. On closer inspection a female voice and typeface screen informs you where the trousers are made, whom by, material and washing instructions. You love it all. You tap. You purchase. They’re yours. Nice work.

No longer confined to the imagination, SapientNitro has made this virtual reality shopping experience very real. Partnering with The Line luxury boutique and utilising a Samsung Gear VR headset shoppers are able to enter, browse and shop at the brand’s The Apartment, Manhattan boutique from anywhere in the world. I just happened to be at the Cannes Lions Festival in a penthouse in the South of France.

Too often we buy an item online only to be disappointed by its shape, colour, size. VR can change all that. By wearing a headset you can see items in real life-size proportions, in the context of yourself, space and room around you. The promise is ultra seductive; it turns the flat ecommerce experience into a panoramic masterpiece and changes a customer’s entire online shopping experience by putting them at the heart of it. “Yes please,” retailers are crying. Who are understandably excited about showcasing their goods through the technology and experimenting with a very unique brand engagement.

So, will we be shopping solely through VR in the future? No, not for a while at least. The point of VR is not to replace the walk-in store (we’re a while away from that), think of it instead as a spectacular side dish to accompany a great main. VR shopping adds an extra dimension to retailers’ existing channels; physical brick and mortar stores and the web.

The vision for VR is ambitious, research and aggressive prototyping is already underway to improve the experience, evolve and scale. Google Cardboard has, attempted this by encouraging interest and development in VR and VR applications through simulating the experience in a low-cost cardboard cut out and mobile phone app. How virtual shopping might evolve to include simulation touch, improve user experience, and how valuable it could be to the retail industry still remains to be seen.

One thing is for certain however, the experience of wondering around in my own private New York boutique, with an impressively intuitive stylist and a pair of chic designer trousers in my VR shopping basket has got me reaching for my credit card.

Evelina Lye

Evelina Lye is the Marketing Lead - APAC at SapientNitro.
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