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This article is by Featured Blogger Cathy Hackl. Republished with the author’s permission.
Consumers are starting to experience products before deciding whether to buy them. A combination of virtual reality, e-commerce, and social media technology has given rise to “v-Commerce,” a new form of selling that uses augmented reality (AR) and is redefining what it means to shop online.
AR superimposes computer-generated images on a user’s view of the real world. The technology provides the most accessible virtual experience for mainstream users, and can be delivered through mobile phones.
I recently used v-Commerce to pre-order a pair of designer sunglasses. With help from a bot on Facebook Messenger, I tried on an AR model of the glasses using my phone’s camera, and then pre-ordered straight from there. The experience was seamless. I felt secure in my purchase because I was able to visualize the glasses on my face and select the best design for my personal style.
Top players in social media and online retail are making massive investments to create their own augmented reality experiences. Amazon, the leader in online retail, has introduced “AR View,” which allows customers to experience the products Amazon sells in their own environments before they buy — by seeing how an appliance would look in their kitchen, for example.
With its vast array of products and services, and its logistics and online infrastructure, the company is well equipped to offer thousands of products on a v-Commerce platform.
Not to be outdone, Walmart has also been aggressively investing in virtual reality and augmented reality. In February of 2018 the company acquired a startup called Spatialand to build VR technology for its stores and websites.
Taking a cue from video games, Walmart calls its AR experience a “shopping adventure.” Users can interact with AR-based digital signs, animations, and interactive maps and themes. An alliance with CoverGirl lets Walmart shoppers virtually try on makeup before buying it. Walmart has also introduced its “3D Virtual Shopping Tour,” which lets customers see a virtual apartment with different products in each room, which they can click on to buy.
Walmart’s technology incubator, which it calls “Store No. 8,” is transforming the company from a traditional brick-and-mortar retailer to a major v-Commerce player.
Social media and applications
Facebook and Snapchat parent Snap stand out as social media companies exploring v-Commerce technology. Facebook is developing augmented-reality tools, and has focused on specific marketing applications.
Facebook is also introducing “selfie-commerce,” which lets people try on virtual renditions of products by taking pictures of themselves on their smartphones. Instagram, which has a stronger focus on brands, photography and creating different user experiences.
Rival social networks are battling for the millennial audience, whose members face an overwhelming number of new options for virtual shopping experiences. Snap has made augmented reality its core focus.
The company has been a catalyst for mainstream adoption of augmented reality by making playful, everyday AR apps accessible to its audience. Snap has taken a smart approach to augmented reality by fitting its AR applications into people’s everyday lives and routines.
As our digital and physical lives blend further, the combination of immersive technology and e-commerce will have a growing impact on sales and marketing for brands.