Can your Online Store implement Virtual and Augmented Reality?
In one of our latest blog posts, we have talked about one of the biggest trends in eCommerce at the moment: Voice Commerce. So we decided to keep going in that direction, and talk about one (or should I say, two) of the most discussed technologies for eCommerce right now – Virtual and Augmented Reality.
Let’s start from the beginning.
What is Virtual and Augmented Reality?
To simply put it, virtual reality (or VR) is a technology that creates an immersive, artificial environment for the user. This immersive environment usually works by appealing to two main senses, sight and sound, and it works by using a device – often known as a VR headset – that combines a visor and headphone to make consumers forget their actual surroundings.
Meanwhile, augmented reality (or AR) is an enhanced version of reality. According to Reality Technologies, ‘it uses your existing natural environment and simply overlays virtual information on top of it’. Instead of creating a new world, much like virtual reality, augmented reality adds virtual elements to the ‘real’ world, most of the time using merely a smartphone, enriching what we see, hear and feel.
But here, we found this great 2 minute video that explains it in a more visual way.
Due to its storytelling potential, these technologies are already being used in the entertainment industry for some time, but they’re now expanding to other industries, such as eCommerce.
How will Virtual and Augmented Reality impact eCommerce?
When done right, these technologies have one main goal: to improve consumer’s shopping experience. How? There are two main ways in which these technologies contribute to that.
- Better product visualization
When people buy online, they usually want to see how a product looks like before purchasing it. But augmented reality takes it one step further – it helps people imagining themselves using the product. Whether it’d be a shirt or a couch, AR allows consumers to see how certain items would fit into their everyday life.
IKEA is a great example of the use of this technology for this purpose. They have an AR catalogue app, which allows consumers to see how certain furniture would look like in their home, both aesthetically and dimensionally.
- Real in-store experience (or close to it)
Many shoppers prefer to buy in-store because of the feeling that shopping physically gives. So, when online stores use technology such as VR and AR, they are elevating a simple scrolling-through-a-web-page experience, and they are adding layers to the experience. They are creating steps along the process and, consequently, engagement, almost like a real store.
VR works especially well for this, because it actually creates a virtual store.
Is VR and AR for every online store?
Through the use of virtual and augmented reality, online stores are narrowing the existing gap between the experience people have in a physical and in an online store, because they are providing an actual store, or some parts of it.
The thing is, although these technologies are making a big splash on the eCommerce scene right now, we ask ourselves: is this technology within reach of every online store?
Can a small and medium size online store take advantage of these technologies?
And, almost surprisingly, the answer is yes – with some strings attached, that is.
Although used successfully in other industries for some time now, these technologies are fairly recent in the eCommerce industry – which means that the software isn’t as developed and adapted to eCommerce as it is to other fields.
But that doesn’t mean your online store can’t use it.
There are several companies that are developing these AR and VR specifically for webshops, such as Vertebrae and Augment. And one of the biggest eCommerce platforms is already investing in these technologies.
And I know what you’re probably thinking right now. This all nice and fine, but how much will it cost me?
Yeah, there is where things get tricky.
Is VR and AR affordable?
In terms of Augmented Reality, according to Marxent, an awarding winning AR development company, there are three types of Augmented Reality Apps.
To start off, you have the free and low-cost AR apps. These apps often provide free limited tools or trial experiences for those interested in trying this concept, and as a result you’ll have a very basic 3D story telling service, for example.
On the other side of the spectrum, you’ll have Industry vertical AR solutions. These apps aim at solving issues for industries through a more advanced technology than the one offered – which means that you can’t put a price on it. But don’t worry! This option is considered too advanced for a single online store – it’s more suitable for the eCommerce industry as a whole.
But there is a middle-term option, which is the perfect option for an online store. We’re talking about custom AR apps.
These AR development companies specialize in creating a unique experience based on a brands guidelines, setting them apart from the crowd, and at Marxent, for example, these custom experiences typically start around $25-$30k.
According to Cleveroad, Virtual reality apps have very similar price levels, because it also starts with a very basic set of tools, with a middle level suitable for online shops, followed by 3D games and MMORPG games, and the costs can vary from $5.000 to $100.000+.
Summary: can your online store implement Virtual and Augmented Reality?
As we just saw, betting on Virtual and Augmented Reality is a pretty big financial step for an online store. But it’s a possible one, depending on the stage of your online store.
These technologies offer several advantages to an eCommerce, such as improving customers’ shopping experience and making your webshop stand out from all its competitors. However, you need to take into account if this is the best option economically for your online store – at least for now. This is a serious investment, and if your online shop is only in its initial stages, you’ll probably have other priority areas that you need to take care of.
But if you feel like your store is established, that these technologies will bring serious benefits to your shop and you also have the economic power to make it happen, go for it. Talk to AR and VR development companies and inform yourself better about the next stages.
This decision only depends on your business strategy and resources.