While recent headlines have been rife with big retailers shutting up multiple bricks and mortar shops, many front-runners who excel at the in-store experience have taken the omen as an opportunity. They know that customer expectations have switched to eCommerce because of the more convenient and personalised experience— and as a result in-store innovators have found a way to integrate the best parts of the online experience into their physical stores.
This bricks and mortar renaissance has welcomed a wealth of exciting new technologies onto the shop floor, allowing each customer an extraordinary and unique experience. VR is a great example. While a year or two ago it was often dismissed as a bit of a gimmick, many of today’s retailers have found intelligent and exciting ways to integrate VR into their customer experience. Here are a few retailers who are doing it right.
#3. The North Face
The North Face has been inspiring customers to embrace an active lifestyle by using in-store VR goggles to provide a range of immersive tours. From climbing the steep canyons of Yosemite National Park to husky sledding across the South Pole, viewers can step into the shoes of The North Face’s explorers and bring the great outdoors in-store.
While in this context, VR doesn’t necessarily provide a straight line to a sale like, for example, pay per click advertising might, these efforts higher in the funnel have certainly been creating a positive brand image. “Every brand wants to forge an emotional connection with its customers,” said Eric Oliver, Director of Digital Marketing at The North Face. “Our brand mission is to inspire a life of exploration, so we felt like this was a great way to enhance our storytelling, use technology and transport people to the outdoors.”
#2. Bang and Olufsen
As a high-end electronics company, Bang and Olufsen’s bread and butter is making big ticket sales. The challenge of convincing customers to convert on the shop floor is much harder for these more considered purchases. Often shoppers prefer to browse in-store, and take time to evaluate a multi thousand pound purchase at home, by which time they’ve cooled off from the excitement of the in-store experience. Enter VR.
Bang and Olufsen has harnessed the power of VR to help customers see how their new high-end products would look in their own home. With the help of a shop assistant, shoppers can plot out their homes in immersive 360°, complete with brand new speakers. The VR experience was rolled out in 650 of Bang and Olufsen’s stores across the globe this year, helping fill the gaps in the imaginations of thousands of customers. One customer was even able to kit out their 17 room home using the app.
Speaking at the VR World event in London, Simon Silvia Global Customer Experience Manager explained that retailers ultimately intend to convince customers to buy their products, “utilising AR and VR does that in a second. What it does is it gives the customer confidence that they’ve made a smart purchase.” With a luxury brand such as Bang and Olufsen, AR and VR have both worked to reduce the amount of time customers take to make decisions.
While the more intrepid travellers are happy to travel off the beaten path, 49% of travellers won’t book a hotel without having read through reviews. More apprehensive holiday-goers can make use of TUI’s VR goggles to familiarise themselves in detail with their holiday destinations before they to book a trip.
Instead of flicking through a 50 page booklet to find a holiday destination, customers can put on a VR headset, choose a continent, a country, a resort and visualise the experience in full 360 for themselves. On their virtual tours, customers can now discover what their room will look like, how far from the beach they’ll be, and many other deciding factors to get a real sense of what they’re paying for.
The buzz around VR has surpassed empty hype. Allowing shoppers to interact and experience a product outside of the standard shopping journey has helped top retailers connect with their customers in compelling ways. In fact, one study from Incisiv reported that 48% of customers would be more likely to shop at a retailer that utilises augmented or virtual reality. But if you’re still not convinced, find out how you could be in with a chance to get your hand on a free VR headset among many other prizes.