The idea of electronic commerce has been around for some time now. After all, it dates back to the 1980s. It’s hard to believe, but the first online stores were opened around 30 years ago! That’s a lot of time in the world of computers and electronics. So naturally, a lot has changed since then.
The e-commerce market in 2021 was more than twice as big as in 2017, reaching a value of almost 5 trillion USD (according to Statista). This means that competition is fierce and consumers are becoming more and more demanding. Immersive shopping experiences can give you the competitive edge to outperform your rivals and amaze your customers.
What is immersive shopping?
Immersive commerce is an upgrade to regular e-commerce. It enhances the customer experience by the use of new technologies such as augmented reality, virtual reality, AI & machine learning, chatbots and more. It’s not exactly the next version of e-commerce, but rather an extension or improvement.
Immersive shopping aims to create an interactive experience for customers to make them truly sink into shopping instead of just briefly browsing through. This time expenditure makes consumers more likely to make purchases. Additionally, customers spend more time choosing the product and, as a result, become more familiar with it and the brand.
The benefits of immersive retail:
- better conversion rates with lower return rates
- higher sales volume and increased average basket value
- positive brand image and more returning customers
Why a personalized and immersive experience is needed in retail
Simply put, it solves a few significant problems e-commerce is facing. Consumers are becoming pickier about the brands and stores they choose. This means their looking for unique and flawless shopping experiences. It also means it’s harder to grab and keep their attention.
Immersive shopping uses new and interesting technologies, stimulates more parts of the brain and gives a more personal feel to shopping. This way, it increases engagement rates, conversion rates and revenue. For example, customer service statistics show that 90% of customers would pay more for personalized services. And immersive commerce makes it easy to offer the personalization people are looking for.
Another challenge e-commerce is facing is high return rates. Research shows that the average value is around 30% compared to less than 9% for brick-and-mortar. And if your store has a free return policy (which has become a standard procedure), this can be a major problem. Around a quarter of the returns are caused by the product not looking like in the pictures.
Best solutions for immersive shopping experiences
3D visualizations and product configurators
We mentioned that many customers are concerned that the product they receive will look different than on the website. Realistic 3D visualizations solve this problem. They can be viewed from different angles and give a good idea of what the article looks like. Once you have one created, it’s easy to develop a product configurator too. The video below is a great example of such a project 4Experience carried out for Lenovo.
Product configurators and 3D visualizations also improve the engagement of your customers. Being able to personalize an article, consumers form an emotional bond with it. According to Agility PR Solutions, customization makes customers 40% more likely to buy a more expensive product. And 44% more likely to come back for a second purchase.
Virtual showrooms are an extension of 3D visualizations. Let’s say you sell real estate. Instead of making your clients go to every location they find interesting, you can let them view the apartments in VR. This will save both your and their time while still giving them a good idea of how the places look.
This solution is also useful for vehicles and objects made on-demand. With virtual showrooms, you have the option to present your product before you start manufacturing! Products like these are quite expensive so your client will definitely expect more than 2D visualizations.
Augmented reality mirrors
AR mirrors are great for stores offering wearable goods like clothes, makeup, watches, or jewelry. Many consumers are hesitant to buy such items online because they can’t try them on. Virtual mirrors are an answer to this problem.
Augmented reality try-ons make use of the front camera of a device (smartphone, tablet, or PC). They work by overlaying the product onto a live image of the consumer’s face, wrist, or body. To read more about AR mirrors check out this article about virtual makeup try-ons or this article about virtual fitting rooms.
Virtual shopping assistant
Chatbots are a great solution to supplement your customer service efforts. They offer 24/7 assistance, high reliability and immediate, consistent feedback. But arguably their best application are virtual shopping assistants.
An AI shopping helper is another way to make the shopping experience more personalized. It can quickly and effectively suggest articles similar to the ones a customer is currently browsing and offer a comparison. Custom recommendations can increase the order value as well. For example, the AI can propose an elegant case for someone buying a smartphone.
Virtual shopping assistants cost very little to run and can be combined with all of the solutions above. An avatar will make the experience more authentic. It can be custom-built to become a personification of your brand, making it a great gadget for marketing purposes.
Shopping in virtual reality
To get the best results, you can combine all the immersive commerce features we talked about and place them in an engaging VR environment. Shopping in virtual reality is a better experience than regular e-commerce without the need to physically go to a shop, saving time and money on fuel or public transportation.
Immersive commerce in VR becomes even more interesting with NFTs. Let’s say you want a hoodie. In a virtual shop not only can you view a 360 photorealistic representation, compare it with other items, personalize it and get recommendations from a virtual assistant. You can buy it as an NFT with a smart contract meaning you get a digital copy for your avatar and a physical one delivered to your doorstep. Pretty cool, right?
Most significant benefits of immersive shopping experiences:
- Convenience. Customers have a shopping experience similar to a brick-and-mortar store but don’t have to commute.
- Lower maintenance costs. No need to clean the shop or fix broken appliances.
- Possible to implement new technologies. It’s a lot easier to implement futuristic shopping solutions like AR mirrors or virtual assistants in a virtual environment.
- Analytics. You can track the purchasing behavior of your customers better than ever before.
I want to develop immersive shopping experiences, where do I start?
First, you have to decide what your main objectives are or what you want to improve. Do you want to increase the engagement of your customers? Are you aiming to decrease the return rate, raise brand awareness or bring in new loyal customers? Based on your specific needs and goals, we can come up with the ideal solution together.
We talked about a lot of different ideas and concepts in this article. But being honest, we only scratched the surface. If you’d like to find out more, our consultants would be happy to discuss the possibilities for developing immersive shopping solutions for your business. Book a free 60-minute consultation and let us help your business grow!
Marketing specialist with four years of experience. Having spent part of his childhood in Ireland, he's fascinated with its culture and language. Loves history, football and any form of writing.