Virtual Reality for Shopping: Overview
ScienceSoft has 17-year experience in software development and consulting for retail, and 24-year experience in 3D modeling.
Market Outline: Virtual Reality in Retail and Marketing
The implementation of virtual reality in retail and marketing is forecasted to bring $1.8 billion to the VR market by 2022. The driving force behind VR adoption in these sectors is an increasing demand for sophisticated and personalized customer experience and the need for new ways of brand differentiation.
How Virtual Reality for Shopping Works
VR system architecture
Customers explore 3D-modeled products in different VR settings, from lifelike stores to fantasy worlds or product-specific scenarios (e.g., furnishing a virtual room or test-driving a car). Such showrooms can be available either remotely for online shopping or at a brick-and-mortar store to enhance conventional shopping with new “try it before you buy it” possibilities.
Brand promotional activities
To engage customers with the brand emotionally and promote loyalty – for example, through VR storytelling (e.g., showing the stages of crafting a product or telling the story behind the brand) or VR “live events” (e.g., a virtual fashion show).
For planning merchandising flows, store layouts and planograms. It saves time and money on physical prototypes of in-store executions and allows creating multiple options to validate the best ones only.
Conducting customer research in a simulated store replica to examine what attracts customers’ attention and what doesn’t. Such research gives objective, data-rich results for tailoring marketing and category management strategies.
With SKU catalogs, store layouts and planogram templates, a user can shape the VR environment starting from the overall navigation of the store to planning a particular shelf. The tool allows changing store lightning, placement of different items, and product metadata.
Advanced customer analytics
With the help of eye-tracking devices, VR software collects valuable data on the in-store customer journey, including their navigation paths, eye tracking heatmaps and gaze plots.
Based on the customer behavior analysis, the system can suggest ideas of product matches or other products a customer may like.
- Metadata check-up. Tapping a product, a customer gets a pop-up with information about it. Metadata can range from purely technical (price, sizes, contents) to “branded” (e.g., food recipes or stylist tips for clothing items).
- Customization. A customer can change available configurations of the product (color/pattern, additional features, etc.).
Integration with payment services
A customer can authenticate their bank account details to order products right in the VR store.
Examples of VR Apps for Shopping
Amazon installed VR kiosks across India’s shopping malls dedicated to promoting their Prime membership before the Prime Day sales event. Visitors could take a virtual hot air balloon flight to an imaginary Amazon city and explore Prime Day products featured in different thematic spaces (e.g., a futuristic fashion shop with clothing, a kid’s room with toys, a refrigerator with groceries).
Ikea launched the VR app Immerse in several of their German stores that allows customers to design a kitchen or a living room to their liking: choose materials and colors of the furniture, add interior details, and explore the room in different lighting settings. These custom designs can be saved and shared across social media, which helps natively increase the brand’s outreach.
General Technology Stack
Note: The cloud-based infrastructure is a suggested choice as it provides scalability and enhanced performance capacity for data-intensive VR.
Headsets with eye-tracking capabilities
Challenges of Virtual Reality for Shopping and Solutions
A retailer’s offer contains a large and constantly growing number of products, so “manual” digitalization of all the needed SKUs into 3D models for a VR store would be too time-consuming and costly.
Cutting time and costs for the digitalization process with automation software driven by computer vision algorithms that extract the shape, volume and texture of a product from a series of its 2D images (photos) from different angles to generate a 3D model. What is more, this approach helps achieve the sharp realism of a model.
To make a brain believe a virtual store is “real”, a VR app should reproduce background noises typical for a physical store: piped music, steps, distant chatter, etc. However, stereo systems commonly used in VR only convey whether the sound is on the left or right, whereas it should come from multiple directions.
A spatial audio technology calibrates audio with the movements of a user’s head and their location in a VR store to mimic the way people perceive sound in real life. The sound is locked spatially over 360 degrees, and as a user moves through the store, they feel the dynamics of the sound, which matches vision and hearing for a particularly immersive VR experience.
Cost Drivers of Virtual Reality for Shopping
Core cost drivers
- Content (number of 3D models optimized for VR) and software to render it.
- Complexity of customer experience in VR.
- Number of user roles.
- The depth of VR testing.
Additional cost drivers
- VR hardware.
- Development of a customer data analytics module and its integration with a VR app.
- Implementation of spatial audio technology.
- Integration with Product Information Management (PIM).
- VR store maintenance (updating the content).
- Cloud services (based on the volume of cloud resources demanded).
VR for Shopping: Consulting and Development by ScienceSoft
ScienceSoft knows the particulars of VR development and combines them with 17-year experience in retail IT to create high-end VR experiences for shopping.
VR for shopping: consulting
- Help decide on the VR system’s functionality.
- Choose the right tech stack.
- Design a scalable architecture.
- Define VR development and management roadmap.
- Estimate TCO and ROI of the VR system.
VR for shopping: development
The service covers all the stages of VR system creation:
- Business analysis and research.
- Software architecture design.
- UX and UI design.
- 3D modeling,
- VR development and testing.
- Continuous support and evolution, if requested.