Facebook made headlines when it made a $2 billion purchase of VR pioneer Oculus in 2014. The social media giant’s move signified a huge transformation for gaming and mobile devices. Its Focus 360 technology (thanks to in-house, proprietary Oculus tech) enables users to enjoy a 360-degree panoramic experience without using a headset. Now that we’re closer to VR experiences becoming a day-to-day reality, the question lingers about how virtual reality will improve the online shopping experience.

1. Hardware is Getting Cheaper

While not everyone is clamoring to buy a Samsung Gear VR headset, Google Cardboard is proving there is an appetite for a cheap, essentially disposable viewer. Amazon has been in the hardware business for some time, and it’s not unlikely that they could develop a proprietary headset that works exclusively with their store. Alibaba, the e-commerce giant, successfully launched a VR shopping headset in 2016 for Singles Day in China, the country’s largest online shopping day of the year. Other major e-tailers could easily rush to compete to give shoppers the most in-person like shopping experience from the convenience of their mobile devices.

2. Try it On

If you’ve never purchased clothing from a brand, and aren’t familiar with how its sizing fits you, buying clothing online presents some risk. Major retailers like Zappos and Nordstrom make their online shopping experiences more appealing by offering free shipping for returns, mitigating the risk that a new pair of boots or a coat doesn’t fit quite like you thought it would. Imagine, though, slipping on a pair of goggles and actually trying on a new garment or accessory.

It’s not out of the question to think that consumers would be motivated to use a similar easy-to-deploy tech for trying on everything from lingerie to a pair of jeans. That future isn’t as far away as you may think. In 2015, Underside, a Belgian app developer, created an app that enabled you to try on the Apple Watch. The technology wasn’t difficult to implement: cut out a piece of paper, affix it to your wrist and use the iPhone’s camera (and the AR Watch app) to view the watch on your wrist. The Gap is already letting shoppers play with AR dressing rooms.

3. Looking Around

Physical expansion is costly, and retailers can’t possibly open a location in small markets where a limited customer base doesn’t guarantee the volume they need. So, before Zara or luxury brands expand into a new city, they’re more likely to invest in virtual shopping experiences. Imagine touring a store, touching the merchandise, and enjoying the relaxing and fun experience of looking around. Virtual reality shopping won’t always replace the excitement of the in-person experience, but if the closest Chanel store is hundreds of miles away, this may be your only way to examine a $3,000 purse.

4. Using Virtual Reality Online for Large Purchases

It’s typically very difficult to experience a new sofa, dining table set, or other household goods when you’re looking online. It’s equally challenging to picture a sofa that you do see in person in your house. A future where you can virtually place that large piece of furniture in your home is not far away. VR and AR developers are working hard and the race is on between companies like Oculus and Magic Leap to solve these big problems for big purchases. For instance, the Ikea app already has AR features that shoppers can use on Android and iOS.

5. Booking a Vacation

Photos and videos already do a pretty good job of capturing the essence of sitting beach-side at a five-star resort. Travel agencies, hotels, and travel writers will soon deploy AR and VR to make it even easier for you to book your next vacation. This landscape is shifting constantly, but it’s probably only a matter of time before you can click onto a hotel website or the visitor’s bureau for a country or landmark and feel like you’re literally standing next to a volcano or sipping cocktails on the sand. There are a host of apps right now that are pushing the technology along, albeit with mixed results, but as the hardware improves and gets cheaper, we anticipate that the tourism industry will exploit augmented and virtual reality to improve online browsing for potential guests.

Is your content future proof? Is your team prepared to use virtual reality in your user’s online shopping experience? We’re here to help you plug up any holes in your content quality so you’re ready for anything.

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