Can virtual reality reinvent the digital circular?

Discussion
Jan 08, 2016

Retale, which enables consumers to browse weekly circulars from dozens of retailers on computers or mobile phones, is adding an Oculus Rift-based counterpart to its mobile app. While promoted as the first “virtual reality, location-based shopping companion,” the launch promises to offer the first VR view of circulars and e-commerce shopping overall.

Consumers will be able to view a digital version of the weekly promotional circulars from nearby major chains with the promise of saving consumers “time and money researching deals.” Using Oculus Rift when it becomes available sometime in the first quarter, viewers will be taken to a “virtual showroom” where they will add items to their shopping list from the 3D versions of merchandise displayed. From there, the mobile app will send a push notification confirming the addition. Users will receive navigation information to guide them to the nearest retail location to purchase their selection.

Retale said VR is particularly suited to its location-based mobile platform.

“We have seen mobile grow from zero to 90 percent of our revenue in just under three years,” said Christian Gaiser, CEO of Retale, in a statement. “In the same way that mobile has rapidly emerged, we see VR as having the same disruptive potential and impact for the retail industry.”

While Retale guides customers to make purchases at stores, a few articles following the launch explored the potential of direct purchases through VR-browsing on websites.

“Of course, it’s only a matter of time before we see a virtual reality app that allows users to shop for and buy products without leaving their couches,” wrote Christian de Looper for Tech Times.

Will virtual reality help digital circulars replace paper circulars? How do you see VR possibly transforming the circular experience for good or bad?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Not ready for prime time ... will definitely NOT replace circulars. VR is too slow and cumbersome for traditional circulars and much of existing advertising."
"I’m going to go with NO. Digital circulars themselves have had enough trouble gaining traction and getting the reach to allow them to replace the declining but still substantial reach of paper. Let’s work on that problem first."
"I’m excited to see how augmented reality (AR) develops over the next few years. What Magic Leap purports to do for entertainment might have vastly bigger implications for commerce than VR."

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18 Comments on "Can virtual reality reinvent the digital circular?"


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Chris Petersen, PhD
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

Not ready for prime time … will definitely NOT replace circulars.

Apps and mobile search are already replacing circulars to a very large degree. The very definition of “showrooming” is that the consumer has the ability to check other ads and price comparison sites while standing in the aisle.

VR is too slow and cumbersome for traditional circulars and much of existing advertising. However, it may play a role in “rich content” and product demos requiring 3-D capability.

However, I see (pun in tended) a huge obstacle — when many consumers are balking at wearing simple classes to watch 3-D cinema, how many will put on something like Oculus Rift headgear or “Google glasses” just so they can see the ad or store in VR?

Max Goldberg
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

With its high price tag and limited availability, it’s going to be a while before Oculus Rift has an impact on retail. And do we really need to see a VR image of a box of Cheerios to know if we want to buy it? I see VR having more application to clothing than packaged goods.

Jonathan Marek
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

I’m going to go with NO. Digital circulars themselves have had enough trouble gaining traction and getting the reach to allow them to replace the declining but still substantial reach of paper. Let’s work on that problem first: how can retailers and their CPG partners get enough scale through digital channels to drive promos at the same level of impact they’ve historically gotten in the declining print vehicles?

Keith Anderson
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

The adoption curve for VR will be longer than mobile. I think VR has potential, but not at the scale or speed that mobile has had.

Commerce technologies are drifting towards low- or no-friction interfaces like the Amazon Echo and both virtual and real-world buy buttons. VR, in contrast, requires someone to consciously interrupt their day-to-day life to immerse themselves in a virtual environment.

I’m excited to see how augmented reality (AR) develops over the next few years. What Magic Leap purports to do for entertainment might have vastly bigger implications for commerce than VR.

Dr. Stephen Needel
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

I’m having a hard time seeing the benefit here — they are using a crappy VR system (in the video above) to browse a catalog. Look at the TV they show, for example, or the furniture. As a purveyor of VR marketing research, this is a pretty disappointing showing. So I don’t think it’s going to replace anything.

Li McClelland
Guest
Li McClelland
6 years 4 months ago

When pigs fly. The concept posed in this question gave me my first belly laugh of the morning.

James Tenser
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

New media displace (not replace) old, said the sage Marshall McLuhan.

In the instance of VR shopping, there is an immense chasm to cross, and some two decades of history already that began with mouse-through interfaces on PCs. To my knowledge there has yet to be a successful “fly-through” shopping implementation at commercial scale, despite the arrival of powerful new technologies like the VR headsets and mobile devices.

Sure the graphics are far better now using the 3-D headset, but the shopping process remains far slower and far clumsier compared with browsing a simple list or (dare I say it) a paper circular. For the time being at least, VR remains a technology that is searching for a relevant customer experience.

Larry Negrich
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

I guess “time-saving” is in the calendar of the beholder as this looks like it will (someday) be a fun way to fritter away even more time on a mobile device if that mobile device has a very strong connection.

Meld with Google Glass, connect with iPay or Samsung Pay and a user will be able to blink away their paycheck as their self-driving car narrowly avoids a head-on collision with somebody texting … ah, the future.

Tom Redd
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

This is for sure way to early to say that VR will replace the circular! Most of the top gamers do not even have the gear yet. Major no on virtual and retail marketing. Someday we will see a shift to a new level with circulars: but remember, most shoppers do not have the money to toss around on toys like this to help them save when they shop.

 

Gordon Arnold
Guest
6 years 4 months ago
The present day paper circular captures local retailer sale items as an offering to bring people into their brick-and-mortar stores. Everything the consumer needs to know about what is on sale and where it can be purchased is in front of them instantly. This is true for items and product category in need as well as items that may hold passing interest. Another opportunity is the display of product and/or services that may serve sudden unexpected and urgent needs, add-on or impulse sales as well as discretionary gratification indulgence with reduced sale price opportunity. Mobile shoppers are largely item information-, availability- and price-specific. The software proposed in this discussion could speed up the mobile buy process much to the liking of the consumer if it can work with a broad spectrum of enterprise systems in place without becoming user laborious or clumsy. On the other hand, the ability to stimulate and increase sales might be abandoned with this as a standalone advertisement. Most of the infrastructure is in place to create an effective electronic circular… Read more »
Steve Montgomery
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

Let’s see, the WSJ reports that virtual reality is giving people headaches, can create nausea, etc. (admittedly not from looking at ads) and it is going to be the new way to communicate ads/promotions to customers. Oh yeah, I forgot, I also have to buy another device to make it work.

Not going to happen.

Kenneth Leung
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

Doesn’t make sense; reminds me of various attempts to use avatars and game play concepts — e.g. Second Life — to drive retail. People don’t need VR to browse items that don’t have attributes clearly needing it. I can see using VR for things like interior design or fashion applications, but to browse a circular?

Brian Kelly
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

If mobile, then virtual reality.

Uh, no.

First answer these:
1. How do consumers use FSIs?
2. What is the role of the FSI within the MARCOM mix?

Not sure how virtual reality factors into either of those answers.

Virtual reality will have a role in the purchase path. Might be more around considered purchases which require a 3-D experience. Or high level brand building. Perhaps a native placement of a promo within? Seems contradictory.

For now, it’s a tactic in search of a strategy. Not sure how it will deliver against an objective of generating broad levels of awareness of a short term promotional message that will drive traffic.

Recently some early tech adopters were seen scratching their heads and lamenting, “retail ain’t for sissies!”

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

I think this will only help the migration to totally-digital. The challenge is that old habits die hard, and Baby Boomers are having the hardest time. 😉 However, it is only a matter of time now, as these and other viable alternatives have come into mainstream market. This is good news for both consumers and retailers. Better reach and awareness for both!

Lee Kent
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

Don’t mean to pooh-pooh but pooh-pooh. This is not a good use of VR and has limited potential. I don’t mean VR has limits. I mean this app does not need VR.

There are many other ways to replace circulars and they won’t require VR.

And that is my 2 cents!

Robert DiPietro
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

VR has a ways to go to be embraced by the consumer. I don’t see this changing the circular experience for some time, if ever.

Shep Hyken
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

How cool is this?! It’s new and novel, but is a long way from becoming the norm. It will appeal to early adopters and the techies out there. So, not quite ready to become mainstream. It may talk a while (a long while) before VR becomes as common as the consumer using an app on their phone to browse a website.

William Hogben
Guest
6 years 3 months ago

This system will seem familiar to anyone who has studied “cargo cults” — during WW2 indigenous peoples were exposed to new airfields for the first time. When the war ended and the airfields were decommissioned, local groups tried to bring back the cargo planes by waving flags on the runway, copying the behavior they had seen from runway staff.

Building virtual showrooms in VR is exactly the same mistake: The goal is to stimulate sales, but the method is to replicate the appearance of traditional retail. Real showrooms exist in the context of physical constraints — shoppers must be there, they must share the space with each other and associates, products must be positioned in view and given enough space — all things which are no longer true in VR.

VR’s ability to drive sales will come from releasing us from physical constraints, not replicating them with shinier graphics.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Not ready for prime time ... will definitely NOT replace circulars. VR is too slow and cumbersome for traditional circulars and much of existing advertising."
"I’m going to go with NO. Digital circulars themselves have had enough trouble gaining traction and getting the reach to allow them to replace the declining but still substantial reach of paper. Let’s work on that problem first."
"I’m excited to see how augmented reality (AR) develops over the next few years. What Magic Leap purports to do for entertainment might have vastly bigger implications for commerce than VR."

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