When it comes to eCommerce in VR or AR, there are two areas to consider(vCommerce and aCommerce) when it comes to how you spend your cash
The pace of technological innovation doesn’t look like slowing anytime soon, and as such today’s savvy consumer expects an omnichannel shopping experience and with that there are evolving a variety of eCommerce aspects to consider in spending: vCommerce and aCommerce.
This typically begins with research prior to purchase, carried out on a mobile or tablet device, or on a laptop or desktop computer. What follows is usually an in-store visit, or a prolonged period of time browsing an online store or mobile app store.
No matter the journey taken by the prospective customer, it’s clear that new and improved technology is crucial to the modern retail environment.
In fact, you only need to look at the strides made in mobile optimization over the past 3 or 4 years – and the subsequent improvements to mobile conversion rates – to understand just how seriously major retailers are taking it.
And this makes the adoption of both Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) technology the clear next step in the ever evolving arena of eCommerce marketing.
Introducing VR & AR
Before we dive too deep, too quickly, let’s first take a quick look at the concepts of Virtual and Augmented Reality.
VR is the term used to describe a computer-generated environment in which a user can explore and interact. Thanks to specially designed hardware, such as VR headsets, the user is immersed in a virtual world, all while being able to perform actions and manipulate objects.
Major players within the world of VR include Oculus Rift (purchased by Facebook in 2014 for $2bn) and HTC Vive.
It is likely that Virtual Reality will enter the mainstream as a means of better experiencing video games and movies, but its applications will also include architecture and design, healthcare, and training simulations for the military.
AR, on the other hand, is all about the merging of the real and the virtual to create visually stunning and engaging content. Rather than entering into a completely virtual world to explore and interact, it’s the world right outside your window that becomes the backdrop to a multitude of applications.
With Microsoft and Google leading the way with the HoloLens and Magic Leap respectively, great strides are expected when it comes to Augmented Reality technology.
What are the Differences Between AR and VR?
It could well be the technological clash for the ages – Augmented Reality vs Virtual Reality. And when we put these competing platforms under the microscope, there are a few clear differences.
For starters, VR is likely to dominate the gaming and entertainment industry, appealing, in particular, to hardcore gamers. AR will undoubtedly enjoy the broader appeal, thanks to its clear applications outside of gaming.
While both utilize HD displays, VR is all about the immersion into virtual environments, while AR adds valuable virtual elements into the user’s real-world environment.
So, it’s not necessarily the case that one is better than the other. Rather, it will come down to which one fulfils its potential.
What is vCommerce?
The idea of Virtual Commerce, where VR technologies are used to support and enhance the shopping experience, is most definitely in its infancy.
That being said, there are a number of retailers out there today who are championing the use of VR in order to improve their customer engagement. Take, for instance, Myer. They are an Australian store who, in partnership with eBay, launched the first ever VR department store.
By utilizing a simple cardboard VR viewer and a smartphone app they were able to transport their customers to an in-store shopping experience, no matter where they were at that particular moment in time.
This allowed the customers to browse and view products from every conceivable angle, making for a more immersive and discovery-led online shopping experience. The idea of a virtual ‘try before you buy’ means customers can ultimately feel more confident in their purchase.
What is aCommerce?
Augmented Commerce has the potential to be something of a game changer for the retail industry.
In essence, aCommerce will allow retailers to add interactive 3D content to a real-world environment, which of course has major implications for both marketing and customer experience. This could include real-time special offers when you walk into a store supporting AR technology, or dressing room mirrors that allow you to see how you’d look in several different outfits, all without having to change in the first place.
And AR will also add value to shopping at home.
Just look at what IKEA are doing with their brochures. Its customers can view a sofa or a bookcase in-store or online, before placing the brochure on the floor in the space where their desired piece of furniture will sit. Using the viewfinder on their smartphone or a dedicated AR headset, they can then view a virtual representation of the furniture in situ.
This will save countless headaches when trying to work out if something will fit, or indeed complement the existing interior design.
Where Should You Invest Your Money?
So, to the big question. When it comes to AR and VR, where should you be investing your hard-earned cash?
For us, the answer is simple. Investing in aCommerce makes more sense than vCommerce. Augmented Reality as an industry is expected to grow much faster than Virtual Reality, primarily due to the lack of obstacles when it comes to the wide scale adoption of the technology.
While VR will require supplementary hardware, which will be more costly in the beginning, AR can rely on the vast majority of its target audience already owning a smartphone.
By 2020 it is expected that the AR/VR industry will be worth in excess of $120bn, but the split in revenue between the two industries tells its own story. VR is projected to be worth $30bn, leaving AR with a massive $90bn in revenue.
As Digi-Capital reports, eCommerce sales – that is, goods and services, not in-app purchases – could rake in almost $2 of every $10 spent using AR/VR within 5 years. Companies such as Amazon and eBay, not to mention a whole host of new and exciting startups, will all be competing to sell their products to customers in new and innovative ways.
What’s more, we’ve already had a glimpse at the speed with which AR technology has been popularized. The immensely popular Pokemon Go mobile game has helped remove barriers to adoption, and opened up the concept of Augmented Reality to a much wider audience.
Augmented Reality – The Future of eCommerce
As with any new technology, the best time to put your money in is during its development phase.
Many analysts predicted rapid growth in the Augmented Reality market between 2013 and 2018, which would also see the value of the market increase.
And thanks to the popularity of Pokemon Go and other AR smartphone applications, there really hasn’t been a better time to invest.
So what do you think? And how do you think you will invest or spend in this area? Share your thoughts and comments below. I would love to hear from you.
Written by: Dmytro Ternovyi