VR innovation in retail offers both purpose and pitfalls
Virtual reality (VR) isn’t just for entertainment. It’s a technology that retail stores can use to increase customer service and revenue. According to Adweek, a study by Greenlight VR found that 53 percent of adults would choose a brand that uses VR over one that doesn’t. By using VR innovation, you can see the visuals and hear the sounds of an environment completely different from your own. However, you aren’t just observing the new world — you can interact with it as well.
VR innovation: The gold standard for showing instead of telling
Because the goal of retail is to convince shoppers their products will make their lives better, stores are now using VR to let customers actually see the effects the products will have on them. The challenge is using the technology to show value to the customer in a way that is so impactful that the buying decision becomes a no-brainer. Products with customization are an especially good fit for VR because customers can use the tool to design exactly what they want.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Lowe’s home improvement customers in select stores can use VR to interact with their new kitchen or bathroom fixtures before they start their renovation. This provides real value to the customers because they can make changes to the design based on how it feels, and they’re more confident about the renovation project because they have actually walked through the finished product, albeit virtually.
Last fall, Tommy Hilfiger customers were able to transport themselves to New York Fashion Week shows while physically sitting in their local malls, according to Forbes. Though not as practical as other uses, this was still more than novelty because it created excitement for the brand that is possible only by experiencing the environment of a live show. Adweek reported that The North Face also used VR to take customers on a cold-weather adventure so they could actually see the company’s products in use.
Brands should avoid using VR for the ‘wow’ factor
One of the big challenges is the expense of VR innovation. To experience VR, each customer must have a headset on and content to view. Though headsets are becoming more affordable, it’s expensive and time-consuming to produce great content. Also, in a retail store, there must be an employee assisting the customer one-on-one, which increases the expense.
VR opens up so many possibilities, which increases the temptation to use it for just the “wow” factor without a real purpose. Content that is simply fun and entertaining may create initial buzz, but it won’t have the long-term effect of conversion, which is where the real payoff is for VR. The companies that find true success with VR are those that are able to use it to create a “wow” experience that also shows the customer how the product or service will positively affect everyday life.
VR is more than just a trend — it’s a new technology brands can use to help customers make an informed buying decision. By using the technology in a smart and strategic way, brands can create buzz and value at the same time.