Walmart Files VR Patent For At-Home Shopping, But How Do Consumers Feel?

Walmart Files VR Patent For At-Home Shopping, But How Do Consumers Feel?
Customer Experience Journey

The retailer is ramping up its push toward more tech-centric shopping with a 3D virtual showroom, but consumer uncertainty regarding the effectiveness of virtual reality tools remains

Kim Windyka
  • 27 august 2018

Walmart is continuing its foray into the world of virtual reality. The retail giant recently filed for two patents that would allow shoppers to browse and buy products from the comfort of their own homes using VR headsets and sensory gloves. The 3D experience, which the brand is calling a “virtual retail showroom,” would replicate a walk through a brick-and-mortar Walmart, and even let consumers compare different brands—just as they might in an actual store—before making their purchase decision.

“It seems that Walmart intends to use VR to help consumers curate products together and give them a sense of how they may fit or look side by side. This could be helpful when buying things like furniture, where the spacial elements are important,” Veronika Sonsev, partner at Chameleon Collective, a business and marketing consulting firm, told PSFK. “The other uses I’ve seen are more gimmicky—they focus on using the technology to unlock prizes or access to certain products, which is great for marketing, but doesn’t solve a consumer problem.”

The development is the latest of the retailer’s numerous efforts to expand its digital capabilities; it follows the introduction of a mobile “Scan & Go” self-checkout service, which has already been phased out due to lack of use. In addition, it’s already filed more than a dozen VR patents to date, and has purchased VR software startup Spatialand, the latest addition to Store No. 8, its tech incubator.

However, as has been the case with several retailers and brands, the road to completely adopting VR has been a long and slow journey. One barrier is that the technology tends to be expensive to implement. Another sticking point is shopper adoption, as VR typically requires donning special hardware, like headsets, in a traditional store setting.

And there is also the not-so age-old question, “AR or VR?” According to Sonsev, “AR and VR technologies solve for different needs and can definitely coexist together. AR helps consumers see a product in the context of their reality. For example, consumers can use AR to virtually place a new piece of furniture in their room and see how it looks with the other furniture they already have.”

AR seems more positioned for mainstream adoption than VR, as retailers like Williams-Sonoma, Michael Kors, Macy’s and Sephora are launching a spate of mobile apps that enable shoppers to virtually try before they buy products from fashion and beauty to furniture from their ubiquitous smartphones.

By contrast, VR is more about having an immersive experience without the context of what’s happening in real life, Sonsev said. With VR, “consumers can stage a completely new room and see how new products go together [but] without taking into consideration what is already there.”

For example, Macy’s in-store VR furniture experience lets consumers place Macy’s home products in a virtual room they design with a tablet, first mapping out the size and shape of the room for which they’re buying. Consumers then test out their design choices by virtually stepping into the room, and can walk through the space using VR headsets for a simulated 3D experience.

Will consumers come around to VR shopping? The jury is still out.

Walmart


Lead image: Walmart superstore in Toronto, Canada stock photo from Valestock/Shutterstock

Walmart is continuing its foray into the world of virtual reality. The retail giant recently filed for two patents that would allow shoppers to browse and buy products from the comfort of their own homes using VR headsets and sensory gloves. The 3D experience, which the brand is calling a “virtual retail showroom,” would replicate a walk through a brick-and-mortar Walmart, and even let consumers compare different brands—just as they might in an actual store—before making their purchase decision.

+augmented reality
+macy’s
+Michael Kors
+retail
+retail technology
+sephora
+Transactions & Payments
+Virtual Reality
+Walmart

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