Merchant Innovation

How Virtual Reality Tech Might Transform Retail

As if there weren’t enough innovations disrupting the retail space, virtual reality technology might just be the next big thing to change how retail is done.

But perhaps it’s an innovation that may transform retail in ways that haven’t been done before — like through digital dressing rooms and virtual storefronts. That’s the type of virtual reality that may be in store for retail next, according to a Reuter’s report that took a look into the rapidly evolving industry.

The report indicated that developers are testing how to transform the customer experience by adding virtual storefronts to change the way consumers interact with retailers. That technology could involve making eCommerce more lifelike by bringing the personal store experience online. It could also mean using virtual reality devices while shopping in stores.

For virtual reality, the future could mean creating a personalized customer experience right from the comfort of a consumer’s home. It also means adding a game-like features to the shopping experience. At least that’s what SapientNitro, a marketing agency, is doing with a luxury boutique in New York City.

The technology behind that retail experience would involve using a Samsung Gear VR headset, along with a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 phone, to enable shoppers to use a headset to add products to a virtual shopping cart. It also would allow those shoppers to get a product description via the headset, see the cost and explore the product. This technology, which is still very new, could roll out as soon as next year.

While virtual reality tech sounds like a forward-thinking vision, there’s also plenty of limitations — the cost, for one, as adding it to eCommerce platforms could cost upward of $5,000. But it also has the potential to hurt traditional retail, Sanjay Mistry, director of architecture at Unity, a software company, told Reuters.

“The adoption will be slow, but this is building the technology for the future,” he said in an interview. “People are still going to want to physically buy something in a store, but virtual reality is the experience where they can envisage (the item) and use it more as a planning tool than a purchasing tool.”

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