In-person retail vs ecommerce – most of the media you find on the subject will have you believe it’s an epic battle between the two.
There are certainly benefits to both. For example, ecommerce brings speed and convenience, whereas in-person shopping provider customers with a personalized experience and a high level of attention.
But is it really a case of either/or? Or could new technology help business owners merge the benefits of ecommerce and brick and mortar stores?
In this article, we explore what immersive shopping is and how it’s helping bridge the gap between both types of shopping experiences.
So, what is immersive shopping?
Immersive shopping takes the regular ecommerce customer experience and elevates it through the use of smart technologies. It’s basically anything that’s added to the online shopping experience to make it more immersive for the customer.
Typically, this involves leveraging one or more tools, such as augmented reality, virtual reality, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and chatbots. By using these tools online stores can hyper-personalize shoppers’ experiences and bring them into the brand story. It also offers shoppers a smart way to visualize products and services in action.
For example, augmented reality (overlaying virtual reality with your real-life environment) can help shoppers see how a product may look either on themselves (such as clothes) or in their home (such as furniture).
We’ll cover some more examples of how an immersive shopping experience can be applied later in this article, but, for now, let’s examine why it’s such a great tool to attract new customers.
We’ve already touched on some of the benefits of immersive shopping. In this section, we dive deeper into these and explore some of the other reasons why ecommerce store owners should consider applying immersive tools to their own stores.
#1. Build Brand Value
One of the top reasons to invest in immersive shopping experiences is the huge brand-building power it offers.
For example, using AI, machine learning and chatbots can help you personalize the shopping experience, such as offering customers bespoke recommendations based on their previous activity with your store. This approach makes life easier for your customers and helps you build the level of trust and value required to secure sales.
In reality, all well-executed immersive techniques will help you build brand value. It provides customers with a reason to interact more frequently and for longer periods of time with your brand.
#2. Increase Conversions & Boost Profits
Immersive shopping can offer a fantastic Return On Investment (ROI). This is achieved in several ways.
For example, by offering novel and engaging customer experiences you’re able to generate more buzz and excitement around a product. With augmented and virtual reality, your business can better support customer visualization, making it easier for them to make a buying decision. Equally, by using chatbots, machine learning, and AI, you can help potential buyers find the information they need fast, reducing any friction in the sales funnel.
Ultimately, almost anything you do in terms of immersive shopping will help you boost conversions and profits.
#3. Decrease Returns
Visualization tools, such as augmented and virtual reality, help customers get a better understanding of how your product may look and feel. For example, an online sofa store may offer customers an AR tool that lets them superimpose a sofa they’re considering into the space they may put it in. This can be applied to many other areas such as virtually trying clothes on.
This level of visualization can drastically decrease costly returns by helping customers make better choices.
The application of immersive shopping is practically endless and only limited by your imagination. Here are some examples of how you can implement an immersive shopping experience in your store:
#1. Virtual Assistant
A visual assistant is much as it sounds – an online assistant that helps customers with their inquiries. You may apply AI to a virtual assistant to help create a custom and comprehensive experience. For example, your virtual assistant could help customers find the very best products to meet their specific needs.
#2. Augmented Changing Rooms
One of the biggest challenges for online clothes store is customers returning items that don’t fit in the way they imagined. Offering augmented reality changing rooms will allow real products to be overlaid on customers’ bodies, offering better insight into how the product may look once they buy it.
#3. Hyper-Personalized Suggestions
AI may be able to help businesses that sell detail-specific products to better serve their customers. For example, you can combine AI with a customer’s phone camera to help automatically take measurements of a window and offer suggestions for the best blinds to fit in that space.
LG’s Virtual Showroom
LG has created a virtual reality showroom that lets you explore its products from within the environment you use them in. This includes family home, office, and studio options. This tool helps customers visualize the products and how they may look and work in their own environment.
Sofology Create Your Look
UK-based Sofa company Sofology offers customers a tool where they can drag and drop any sofa into a bespoke environment. This makes it easy for customers to test the look of a sofa in an environment that closely matches their own – this tool is especially helpful for color matching.
Even though there are fantastic examples of immersive shopping already available to explore, it’s still in its early stages. As technology develops it’s likely that we’ll see businesses applying immersive shopping techniques alongside other ecommerce trends to help improve customer experiences. This is especially true in the ecommerce space as we continue to see explosive growth each year.
Greater business profits mean greater investments, allowing businesses to overcome key challenges in this area. This includes applying immersive techniques to drive better levels of personalization and generate smoother buyer journeys.
It’s clear that the immersive shopping experience is already having a huge impact on customer experiences and in turn on the profitability of online stores. As we continue to see growth in this area we’ll also see new and innovative ways to apply immersive technology to ecommerce, with those who are early to adopt this technology benefiting most from its outcomes.