Innovative technologies such as augmented reality and virtual reality add a 3D aspect to enhance the shopping experience. Whether you’re viewing products virtually, finding inspiration, or interacting with others in the digital space, the future of shopping is immersive. In ecommerce, immersion means increasingly blurring the lines between traditional shopping experiences and digital ones. Online retail is growing overall, and so are growth opportunities for virtual shopping environments.
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Immersive shopping seems to have been cropping up everywhere in recent years. But what’s actually behind the buzzword? During the Covid-19 pandemic, store closures led companies to try out virtual alternatives. Some offered customers the opportunity to try on clothing and accessories virtually. Physical display spaces, for example, were turned into virtual showrooms. Trade shows and events moved to the internet, so visitors were able to turn up at booths virtually rather than physically. It was even possible to visit an immersive Van Gogh exhibit virtually from home. The pandemic turned out to be a kind of catalyzer for the development and spread of immersive shopping online.
But even post-pandemic, immersive shopping remains a significant element of ecommerce strategies. The significance of immersive online shopping and spatial commerce in online and traditional retail is growing apace. However, for a real immersive experience, you need innovative technologies that not only improve customer loyalty and conversions, but also reduce costs.
Immersive shopping is also known as augmented or virtual shopping and it offers a compelling 3D shopping experience. Advanced, simulation-based technologies such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) help you create customized interactive shopping experiences.
“Immersive” can best be summed up as “experienceable”. However, the intensity with which users can experience a virtual environment varies. Because you don’t always need a fully immersive environment in your online store to provide an impressive virtual reality experience in ecommerce.
Non-immersive environment: In a non-immersive environment, users do not move through the virtual world themselves. Instead, they might control a character or avatar using software on a computer. So they sit in front of a screen, watching the virtual world from outside. Video games, including online role-playing, adventure games, or open-world games, are classic examples of non-immersive worlds.
Fully immersive environment: Fully immersive environments allow users to have realistic experiences in the virtual world and be completely submerged in it. They move around this world with the help of headsets and suits that track their movements. This kind of virtual reality generates an intense feeling of presence, as the real world is completely hidden.
Semi-immersive environment: Semi-immersive VR experiences combine fully immersive and non-immersive virtual reality. Users experience the environment as only partially virtual. Even if they’re concentrating on digital images, they retain the feeling of being in their own reality. Examples of semi-immersive environments are driving simulators with motion systems, such as a steering wheel.
Consumers are changing their behavior and becoming more choosy. Before deciding to purchase, they look for inspiration, ways to try on or try out, or consider other people’s opinions.
Due to the masses of information out there, shop operators are finding it more and more difficult to attract customers’ attention to their own brand. Consumers want to know more about the products they’re planning to buy. They’re becoming more interested in information on sizing, colors, style, sustainability, the supply chain, and much more. They need to trust your product a lot more before buying.
And although people are buying more and more online, they still want to touch and feel products. They can research, discover, and try them on virtually. This is how brands can pique consumers’ interest. Immersive shopping imitates or even replaces the shopping experience in physical stores – the lines between physical and digital retail are becoming blurred.
Virtual experiences strengthen your brand and promote brand loyalty. This creates a lively, realistic, and perceptible image of your brand.
Seamless personal shopping experiences and interactions with your products increase your conversion quotas.
Because customers make better purchasing decisions. When they’re able to try on and try out products virtually, they are less likely to order different variants of the same article and then return some of them.
Collecting data in your online shop gives you a profound insight into your customers’ purchasing habits. It means you can keep adjusting and improving the online shopping experiences you offer.
Immersive customer experiences are a significant factor overall, allowing your online shop to gain more attention and stand out in a competitive environment.
Current ecommerce trends are smoothing the way for immersive online shopping, as mobile devices are used ever more frequently for online purchases. Immersive shopping experiences work particularly well with smartphones and tablets and what’s known as “mobile commerce”. Seamless integration of immersive technologies, especially using augmented reality, allows customers to experience products in a completely new way. Furnishing rooms or trying on clothing virtually becomes an interactive and exciting part of the shopping process.
Social shopping, too, is an emerging trend that combines well with immersive human–machine interactions. Here, social media such as TikTok and Facebook have a considerable influence on purchasing decisions. As part of this development, immersive technology plays a role in promoting social interaction. Joint participation in virtual shopping sessions becomes a social activity that transcends the boundaries of traditional shopping.
One of the biggest challenges is the accessibility of the technologies used. Hardware and software, especially for implementing immersive virtual reality or augmented reality, must come down in price so that immersive shopping experiences can be seamlessly integrated into consumers’ usual shopping routines. That’s the only way to address a wide range of consumers and expand your user base. Another aspect is that customers should be able to handle the technology intuitively. Interfaces such as control systems need to be user-friendly and easy to understand.
Overall, the future of ecommerce looks very bright: Immersive shopping is becoming increasingly important, as consumers not only want to buy products but are also looking for experiences. Expectations are rising for an interactive and appealing shopping experience. And immersive online shopping must flexibly adjust to these new demands. The main challenge is to establish experiential shopping alongside traditional, transactional shopping. While transactional shopping, such as picking up groceries from the supermarket, continues to be important, it will be crucial to anchor experiential shopping as a fixed element of purchasing behavior.