“What if you could enter a department store that is just for you, one that has learned about you, adapted to what you like to shop for, and in time it’s personalized its product selections just for you?”
Most of us associate virtual reality with sci-fi and serious gamers. Now, thanks to eBay and Australian retailer Myer, those very gamers can continue to avoid the light of day, and the horror of shopping malls, when they need, say, a couple new pairs of plaid lounging pants. Without even getting up, they can find exactly what they had before, checking out said pants in a total 360-degree view and reading all the details and pricing information before buying.
It’s not surprising that eBay is behind elevating the online shopping realm one wonderful level further, and certainly many thousands of people who don’t want to leave the comfort of home are going to be anticipating this new invention that allows them to browse, examine, and purchase items in full 3D, going only to the trouble of donning a headset.
The first virtual reality department store and its accompanying app may be something that catches on for good, appealing to shopaholics—and the opposite too. You can’t actually touch or try on a piece of clothing or stop at the food court when you go this route, but you can eliminate having to find those ever elusive car keys, look presentable, fight the parking lots and greedy crowds—as well as doing all that odious healthy walking stuff.
Aussies will be shopping in peaceful delight from their favorite comfy chairs, or even beds, not having to worry about knocking elbows with strangers at the sales racks while checking out over 12,000 items for purchase. Being almost there looks pretty enticing, and surely the Shoptical device will engage many curious shoppers at least to have a look.
“We believe the next channel for retail will be virtual,” said Steve Brennen, eBay’s senior director of marketing and retail innovation.
“We don’t build gimmicks…If retailers in the future are going to have an omni-channel strategy, it will include retailing a virtual world.”
To get started, users first must have access to a Shoptical VR device, which is extremely reminiscent of Google Cardboard, and obviously perfect in this scenario considering its affordability and capability. After that, they download the eBay VR Department Store app (for iOS or Android) and insert their phone into the Shoptical to begin a futuristic shopping experience, complete with personalized suggestions for items one might like, based on what they’ve been perusing through the app.For users trying out this new ‘no hands’ shopping system, it’s all about the eyes with the use of eBay Sight Search. When you look at an item, the app hones in on it and displays all pertinent information—as well as giving you a complete 360 visual on the potential purchase. When you decide to look at something like apparel or electronics and choose a specific item, 100 of the top products in that category will then become easy to see in 3D. Built-in algorithms will customize your shopping experience further as you select items and say no to others.
“Your eyes can move so quickly,” Brennen said. “It became pretty obvious. Sight Search in a VR world of retail feels very sensible. How much customers use it, do they love it, is where we’ll get to next.”
eBay will give out 20,000 Shopticals at no charge. They will then track the devices to see how customers use them, and of course to rate success of this trial run which could be a precursor to a major new—and convenient—trend. So far the only down side to the technology is that users must take off the headset and use the app manually for the checkout and payment portion of the process.
“We want to get it into customers’ hands and see how they respond, and then we want to adapt and take it to the next level,” said Brennen. “We’re pretty clear it’s a glimpse…but we’re saying you can now start to see where the virtual shopping world will play out in the next couple of years.”
While this will afford users an easy, fun way to shop, it will also obviously give companies like eBay a much easier way to glean data from consumers.
Brennen and his team will be able to understand what consumers give their attention to and for how long, what they discard, and how they go about the exercise of browsing. Currently, though, much of the information they are interested in is relevant to the viability of the virtual department store and what shoppers want from it. Ideas for the future even include social shopping, where developers will work to make it possible for you to shop with your mother or friends while in the virtual reality department store.
“Does virtual reality mean you will shop for longer — will customers browse for longer?” Brennen asked in his remarks at the launch party Tuesday. “Will the conversion rate for online sales increase in this environment? Will the return rate for retailers slow down?”
“Is this the next future of the retail experience? We’re kind of believing now that it could be,” said Brennan.
The program will launch in Australia on May 25. Those who live in Sydney can check it out for the first time at a special exhibition at The Harbourside Room from May 19-20.
3D avatars have also been in development, used to virtually try clothes on, as virtual reality and 3D technologies continue to converge—and make their way to consumers. We’ll see whether such avatars will eventually be used with technologies like this virtual reality department store. Would you shop in a virtual store? Discuss further in the eBay Virtual Department Store forum over at 3DPB.com.[Source: c/net]