Are immersive technologies ready to build online buying trust?

Discussion
Source: IKEA
Oct 22, 2020
Tom Ryan

Immersive technologies — i.e., augmented reality (AR), 360° video, 3D content and virtual reality (VR) — are advanced, affordable and increasingly being welcomed by consumers looking for greater confidence in making online purchases, according to a recent study.

The research from Accenture Interactive describes immersive technologies as the “missing link” between the trust that comes from touching and trying products before buying in-store and the doubts that come from online purchases.

“The reality is that rotating a 3D model of a designer handbag or seeing a 360° video of an oceanfront rental home is more than a cool interaction. It is an exercise in truth seeking,” wrote Accenture in the study. “Unlike anything else in digital commerce, immersive experiences provide accessibility and tangibility.”

The tech’s potential was shown through a global survey taken in March among 3,000 consumers who relied on immersive technologies to evaluate and/or purchase a product and/or service online over the previous six months.

Asked about their top motivations for trying out immersive technologies when shopping online, the top answers were:

  • Viewing products without visiting the store, 52 percent;
  • Assessing product features and capabilities, 42 percent;
  • Experiencing products before purchasing, 42 percent;
  • Increasing confidence in purchasing decision, 39 percent; 
  • Changing, customizing or personalizing products, 29 percent.

The study found that of all the media that influence purchasing, immersive technology is the only one that consumers see growing in the future — only store visits, customer reviews and online search ranked higher as a purchase influencer.

Accenture’s analysis revealed that 64 percent of “leading consumer brands” are starting to invest in immersive experiences for commerce. However, the firm believes many are not investing in ways that are scalable or connected across the business.

Accenture wrote, “They are investing in pockets, doing things like uploading 3D models on product pages, curating personalized make-up palettes and hosting virtual fashion shows to bring people closer to products in the digital world. Winning in digital commerce takes immersive product and service experiences that give consumers purchasing confidence.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How confident are you that immersive technologies will largely close the sensory gap between the in-store and online shopping experience? How close is retail to seeing such technologies define the online shopping experience?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"I don’t think it will 'define' the online buying experience but in the product categories that are relevant (not hammers and screwdrivers), certainly!"
"...these technologies are a boon to online sales but I see the challenge being getting them to work in the post COVID in-store experience."
"...the question assumes that immersive technologies couldn’t enhance in-store experiences, and I think that’s a superficial assumption."

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14 Comments on "Are immersive technologies ready to build online buying trust?"


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Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

Immersive technologies most certainly provide a richer and more engaging digital shopping experience. They also allow consumers to make more informed choices through being able to explore things like shape or dimensions, which can sometimes be hard to grasp on a one-dimensional webpage. All that said, immersive is not a total replacement for going to a physical store and being able to see, feel, and experience a product. If you’re buying a new sofa or a mattress, for example, being able to test it out is something you need to do in person.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

There is no doubt that immersive technologies will become a huge factor in online shopping — but texture and fit and feel (both physical and emotional) are not factors that can be seen. There is still going to be a lot of first-time learning that is best accomplished in person. Trust is then established in what the brand is communicating. Belief in the brand promise is established over multiple experiences. Then AI and VR can take over. So from my perspective it’s an evolutionary process. And of course, for some it will be a revolutionary process.

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

Well, I initially thought the same about buying an automobile online without driving it (I thought it would never happen) and I have been proven completely wrong.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

I hear you. I am currently shopping for a used car. I will satisfy all my “feel” questions by test driving local cars, and then buy either local or long distance to get the combination of features and colors that I am looking for. And I am guessing you got to the level of trust you hold by having some kind of in-person experience with the brand you bought.

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

The customer journey and path to purchase is evolving and transforming at a rapid rate. COVID-19’s great acceleration has led retailers and other service providers to adapt their operating models to leverage VR and AR technologies to bridge the gap between the digital and physical worlds.

While consumers enjoy the multisensory experiences that come along with an in-store visit, we have seen people become far more adaptive and accepting of making decisions without physically having to be in a showroom. Even when the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, we should expect that consumer purchase decisions will be made via a hybrid of physical and digital shopping journeys.

The critical priority for retailers and consumer product companies is to stay ahead of the innovation curve and leverage the latest AR and VR technologies to enable consumers to have a choice as to how, when, and where they shop.

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

I don’t think it will “define” the online buying experience but in the product categories that are relevant (not hammers and screwdrivers), certainly!

Gary Sankary
BrainTrust

In the right categories this makes a lot of sense and is already being implemented. I’m thinking high ticket items, especially items that have to match colors or patterns in a home or office.
I don’t think this will be the primary online experience however. For most shopping like grocery for example, consumers want to be fast. Walking virtual aisles shopping virtual planograms adds friction to the experience. I have a list, I know what I want, many items are a repeat purchases, I just don’t think virtual experiences add value to that shopping trip.

Brett Busconi
Guest

While I am a bullish on these technologies, and the use of them being a game changer for how people shop, I also believe that there is a human layer still needed at the store level. This is when I feel we will move closer to this re-defining the online shopping experience. That shopper who picks your groceries — you are connected. They can ping you and then hold up two items (which do you want?) and the shopper has more connection and more confidence. Same scenario with clothing, luxury products, etc. – the shopper may not just want to see the item in 3-D, they may want to ask specific questions and see specific things. Remote shopping assistance, on steroids, enabled by technology.

There are already ways to do this but I do not believe most companies are looking at that piece. Accenture’s position that many firms are disjointed is one that I can agree with based on what we see.

Ken Morris
BrainTrust

Immersive technologies are here to stay and have gotten an adoption curve push by COVID-19. There is no doubt that these technologies are a boon to online sales but I see the challenge being getting them to work in the post COVID in-store experience. Engaging the customer with as many of their five senses as possible is a retail concept that can’t be replicated online. The store matters and tools to drive traffic to that experience via digital engagement that leverages these immersive technologies are well worth pursuing.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

I am extremely confident that immersive technologies are a step toward closing the sensory gap between the in-store and online experience. That said, the question assumes that immersive technologies couldn’t enhance in-store experiences, and I think that’s a superficial assumption. Behind the question is another, more dangerous, assumption — that consumers still see the in-store and online shopping experience through the same rigidly siloed lens most of the industry does. I think that is a mission critical error. That said, which technologies are adopted and which are not is more dependent on ease of interface than potential function and features and how easily a given technology can be aligned with the consumer’s other shopping tools. Since I have difficulty understanding the value of segregating channels of trade, I’ll pass on answering the second part of the question other than to say that technologies don’t ever set strategic direction they only enable it.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

The more expensive a product, the greater the consumer’s need and desire are to physically experience it to evaluate its quality and desirability. Consumers fear buyer’s remorse from such purchases, and immersive technologies like AR, VR, etc. can help alleviate that fear and establish a sense of trust in making the purchase digitally. While it’s hard to believe these technologies will completely satisfy all consumers’ desires in the future, I can believe that younger, more digitally savvy consumers will seek out brands and retailers that deliver this experience as part of their initial digital shopping journey before making a purchase. The issue will become, how can a retailer or brand afford NOT to have this capability?

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
BrainTrust

Being able to see how chairs or rugs look in your room before purchasing or seeing how clothes might look on you before purchasing can provide more confidence. This is an example of using technology to assist consumers. I am not sure that providing a 360 degree video of a purse is more effective than pictures. In fact the stationary pictures allow consumers the ability to look longer at features of interest. The technology builds trust when the information is helpful and accurate. I agree with the comment that the use of technology needs to provide real benefit for consumers not used just because it is available.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

What percentage of shoppers is it possible to influence through these technologies? Entirely unknown.

This study went to people who have adopted a technology and found — that they like the technology. It doesn’t mean anything for total retail, so retailers should treat this data carefully.

Casey Craig
BrainTrust

Retail technology is already working towards closing the gap between in-store and online shopping. Throughout the pandemic, having an omnichannel approach has played a critical role in helping retailers stay on track as more retailers use online ordering, curbside pick-up, and more. The increased popularity of digital showrooms is another example that retailers are investing in their digital components. This feature was once reserved for the big retail companies, but through creative design and programming, smaller retailers are also able to use this feature to reach their customers while they shop at home. We’re moving in the right direction.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"I don’t think it will 'define' the online buying experience but in the product categories that are relevant (not hammers and screwdrivers), certainly!"
"...these technologies are a boon to online sales but I see the challenge being getting them to work in the post COVID in-store experience."
"...the question assumes that immersive technologies couldn’t enhance in-store experiences, and I think that’s a superficial assumption."

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