Will consumers prefer a virtual reality department store to the real thing?

Discussion
May 19, 2016
George Anderson
George Anderson

Here’s the (virtual) reality of shopping in Australia: If you have a smartphone that fits inside a VR headset, you can go shopping in the world’s very first virtual reality department store.

According to reports, eBay and Myer, the Australian chain, have debuted an app that will put consumers in a shopping environment where they can buy stuff. EBay sees this first run as just the beginning of an exciting new retail channel that it hopes to exploit.

To spur adoption, eBay and Myer are distributing up to 20,000 free cardboard viewers called shopticals.

The experience is supposed to enable customers to immerse themselves in a shopping trip to a Myer store. Shoppers can browse over 12,000 products, with product information updated in real time. Instead of using a hand controllers, customers can use eBay’s Sight Search which allows them to train their eyes on items to make selections.

“It’s been important to us that we don’t just replicate the ecommerce experience in a virtual environment,” said Jooman Park, managing director eBay Australia and New Zealand, in a statement.  “We are taking the best elements of traditional retail and expanding on them to improve browsing, selection, personalization and efficiency.”

Source: eBay

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you think large numbers of consumers will prefer shopping in a virtual reality department store rather than the real thing? Will they prefer VR to shopping on a modern e-commerce site?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"It’s work to use VR, even more work than it is to try to navigate the aisles of a cluttered department store filled with percent off racks..."
"We’re asking a similar question from a long time ago: Do you think large numbers of consumers will prefer shopping online rather than in stores?"
"In a word, No! Humans are tactile beings. I heard that in a meeting last week and it has become my mantra."

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14 Comments on "Will consumers prefer a virtual reality department store to the real thing?"


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Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

No I don’t. I’ve tried the VR headset and when you can’t get the customer to look you in the face or talk to you I don’t know how you’re going to get them to strap on a VR headset, even with their own phone.

That said it’s really just a picture that has 3-D capabilities, this is not like virtually shopping in a department store — it’s still very crude. It’s work to use VR, even more work than it is to try to navigate the aisles of a cluttered department store filled with 60, 70 and 80 percent off racks.

Max Goldberg
Guest

VR seems to be the topic de jour, as companies rush to try to find ways to include its experience. Why should retail be any different? I don’t think consumers, other than early adopters, will rush to embrace it initially, but VR will find a place in retail. If the experience can deliver on its promises, and eBay and Myer certainly have made some big ones, VR will help e-commerce continue to grow and VR will become another method of shopping.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

I think we’re asking a similar question from a long time ago: Do you think large numbers of consumers will prefer shopping online rather than in stores?

Virtual reality could become almost as normal as shopping online. It will take time for the technology to develop and the costs to the retailer to be affordable. And the VR we know today will most likely be different five years from now. More companies are experimenting with VR and there will eventually be a “tipping point,” where VR becomes part of a typical shopping experience.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

Although this segment of retail has struggled for significant growth, literally for decades, I believe shoppers still prefer to shop these stores on-site. I just returned from a trade event that showed VR and it seems more cumbersome than it truly needs to be at this point. Obviously, technology will improve, however, I don’t think stores of virtually any format need to worry about VR for some time to come.

Kenneth Leung
BrainTrust

I think it depends on the value of VR to the shopping experience. E-commerce catered to segment of customers looking for convenience and zero travel initially and grew to drive behavior change in the average consumer, VR will draw early adopters and the use case will flesh out what it can offer to the shopping experience. Maybe for clothing and furniture the medium has specific advantages but, until people find it, there won’t be mass adoption.

Lee Kent
BrainTrust

In a word, No! Humans are tactile beings. I heard that in a meeting last week and it has become my mantra. Although we love the wow and, of course, VR done right can give us some sensation, it does not ignite any of our other senses.

The decision to buy is often made at a moment in time and based on more than one sense. Just sayin’ for my 2 cents.

Dr. Stephen Needel
BrainTrust

Of course some people will love it and will prefer it over the real thing — we’ve already seen that with online shopping. If the technology works well, some will swear by it. But, like online shopping, you can’t feel the texture of material, smell a fragrance or feel the heft of an electronic item. To some it won’t matter — to most, it will.

Tom Redd
Guest

No. Typical again of press hype and Millennials’ traits of rushing a trend. VR is a young area that will stay that way — off in it’s corner — for a long time, at least in retail.

Some shops and especially people doing articles in this vertical called retail need to learn that the basics of shopping are the most critical. And the basics of retail are speeding up — that alone is a huge challenge that retailers need to focus on.

Toss VR off the list of new areas to explore and focus on the changing world of the retail basics.

Rick Moss
Staff

Forgive this strained analogy, but when people first started making clay pots, they “wove” the clay in the fashion of making baskets because that’s all they knew how to do. Eventually, they invented throwing wheels and found a technique much more conducive to the medium.

Using VR to “walk” through a store is in a similar sense trying to use a new medium to simulate an old one (the physical store). I believe designers will eventually create VR shopping experiences that make sense for VR. Not sure I’ve seen anything approaching that yet.

Brian Numainville
BrainTrust

There will be absolutely be a place for VR in retailing. I already use a VR headset for a number of things and would most definitely prefer to use it over a traditional online/e-commerce site. It will take time to develop (although likely less time than most people think) the right approach but it will be another shopping option once a significant VR adoption level is reached.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

If, presumably, the point of a “real” department store — or “real” anything — is to be able to touch or taste or try on … or even buy and take home with you, then I don’t see this as a replacement. It is, of course, an augmentation of existing screen-based e-tailing, but how much, and whether or not it’s worth it is another matter.

Brian Numainville
BrainTrust

Buy and take home — absolutely agree (although one hour Amazon Prime comes close to that). But as far as “real” necessitating touching, tasting or trying on, that may not be as critical to the next generation of shoppers as it has been in the past. After all, lots of folks think texting isn’t “real” communication but ask a Millennial…

Vahe Katros
Guest
Vahe Katros
4 years 10 days ago

Shopping is a journey — do I think that some portion of that journey in the future will happen in VR? Yes! Can a retailer that nails a portion in the journey in VR gain market share? Yes! It’s not black and white.

Lance Thornswood
Guest

Replicating the physical store experience in VR creates more problems than it solves. Why use a new medium to replicate the adjacency challenges that already exist on a physical store floor or a the typical eCommerce product grid?

We need to use VR to solve a set of customer and/or retailer problems more effectively than those problems are being solved in other channels. What if VR could help a customer navigate all the dimensions of apparel attributes in newer, faster, more engaging way? That would be a big win. I’d love to be the one to solve that UX/CX challenge!

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"It’s work to use VR, even more work than it is to try to navigate the aisles of a cluttered department store filled with percent off racks..."
"We’re asking a similar question from a long time ago: Do you think large numbers of consumers will prefer shopping online rather than in stores?"
"In a word, No! Humans are tactile beings. I heard that in a meeting last week and it has become my mantra."

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