VR Shopping: Retail’s New Reality
Oculus Rift app will let you to visit a virtual showroom before you buy
Analysts believe VR and AR will grow into a combined $4 billion business by 2018, driven by Google Cardboard and Samsung VR Gear. For entertainment, the implications of consumer VR sets are obvious, but could these devices become integrated into our daily lives in more mundane ways? One company wants to probe this question by bringing VR into the realm of retail. Aptly named Retale, the current service is a smartphone app that lets users browse digital versions of the store circulars that come with local newspapers, to help them find deals in stores near their current location.
Retale is now releasing a companion Oculus Rift app that aims to provide “an immersive interface that connects the digital experience with an actual brick-and-mortar one,” the company said in a statement.
Retale VR Shopping starts with a main menu. From there, you will be able to browse for nearby retailers, flip through those stores’ weekly ads, and then check a map that shows where the nearest store is, relative to your current location. You can then select the “Take Me To Showroom” option, which is essentially a 3D rendering of that retailer’s show floor.
Once there, you can shop like you would at the store: you walk around and inspect products until you find one that interests you. Individual product information displays when you choose to inspect a product further.
If you decide you want to make a purchase, you add the product to your shopping list, which syncs with the Retale smartphone app, trigger navigation to your nearest store location, then head there to take care of your shopping list.
Because the original Retale app isn’t made to replace, but rather complement the brick-and-mortar shopping experience, purchases within VR aren’t an option here. This may disappoint some Amazon-devoted hopefuls, but Retale VR Shopping could be a first step in that direction. This technology can easily be developed to create a more lifelike, media-rich online shopping experience. Retale’s smartphone app already supports video, product links, and clipable coupons; it’s not a stretch to imagine VR shopping that might include interactive product demos or presentations by digital sales representatives.
Whether Retale VR Shopping is a helpful or necessary part of the shopping experience will be up to the individual consumer’s preference. After all, you can just head to the nearby physical showroom to shop. For those who don’t like to spend time wandering around in a store trying to decide what to buy, making an informed decision before heading out might be invaluable, while those who enjoy the physical act of shopping may find this method redundant.
Retale VR Shopping will release sometime in 2016. For now, more information and a live demo are available on Retale’s site.