Experience matters greatly in life. If you’re buying a high-end automobile, for example, which option would you choose?
Spend several hours going to dealerships to test drive vehicles.
Browse online to see a variety of makes, models, feature sets and color choices.
Shop from anywhere with Extended Reality (XR) using a virtual reality headset or augmented reality app to get “inside” the car, configure the dashboard and choose customized features.
In a world steeped in technology, many people would choose the immersive option C. Retailers, including automotive companies, are betting on it.
BMW created a VR app that taps into the emotion of the driving experience. Delivered on the Oculus Rift headset, the app provides a virtual product presentation and lets people test drive and configure their vehicle.i Similarly, Audi launched a VR experience available in brick-and-mortar dealerships to enhance the pre-sales process, present a wider range of equipment options and reinforce the purchase decision.ii
As these examples show, Extended Reality (XR) is quickly becoming a viable option to transform the customer experience through XR-commerce—connecting fully immersive experiences with direct product interactions and seamless purchase opportunities. Accenture expects XR-commerce to revolutionize not only the shopping experience, but also the future of the retail industry.
Growth driven by new purchase experience
The market opportunity for buying “inside of an experience” is vast. Industry analysts predict that VR and AR technology (delivered through headsets, goggles or smartphone apps) will rapidly improve, with IDC estimating the market for the technologies will grow to as much as $162 billion by 2020.iii Part of the reason for this massive growth potential is XR-commerce solves a core retail problem: making brands, advertising and commerce unobtrusive for customers, so they don’t feel they are being “sold” to directly.
Instead XR-commerce provides an exciting new medium and interactive story to inspire purchases in a variety of retail sectors, including:
Real estate—Showcase homes or property for sale; stage homes virtually.
Travel/hospitality—Preview different locations or experiences; shop for airline tickets, hotel rooms and tours.
Consumer product goods—View virtual store shelves and place groceries or household items into a virtual shopping cart to be delivered to home.
Fashion—Display clothing, accessories, jewelry and makeup in real-world settings and enable immediate purchase transactions.
As just one example, Accenture teamed with Specular Theory to create “Behind the Style"—an interactive VR story of a fashion shoot, which seamlessly blends 360-video, branching narrative and interactive gaze-based elements to enable a relatable purchase experience. The XR-commerce experience authentically integrates brands and deepens customer connections by allowing viewers to make choices that affect the outcome of the photo shoot, such as choosing a hairstyle or outfit for the model. At each stage in the storyline, viewers can interact virtually with the clothing stylists or makeup artists while discovering and completing transactions for products.
Figure 1: Behind the Style, an XR-commerce experience
Another example, discussed in the panel I moderated at VRX 2017, comes from Wayfair, on online home retailer that launched an AR app to help customers see full-scale 3D images of furniture and décor in their homes before they buy.iv Using a certain smartphone, people can view the products from different angles, or be inspired to mix and match furniture to create a custom look.
Where XR-commerce is headed next
As the technology becomes more sophisticated, XR-commerce is set to expand the experiential retail market in profound ways. The first is through introducing touch into the sensory mix through haptic technology. Imagine shopping for a watch and being able to feel and touch it while trying it on virtually. The addition of olfactory sensory experience is not far behind, such as being able to smell the ingredients while taking a virtual cooking class.
The second expansion opportunity is through the convergence of VR and AR experiences layered into a single device. This will provide consumers with an even richer retail experience by transitioning them smoothly between a fully immersive experience and a mixed reality environment without being isolated from the real world. Companies are already pursuing this model. Apple, for example, recently acquired VRvana, a start-up company that pioneered this type of technology.v
Four steps to get started now
Retailers curious about XR-commerce or ready to explore this exciting new territory can start with these core steps:
Learn what’s possible with VR and AR technology and sample existing experiences available for in-store augmented commerce, immersive commerce, 3D product simulation, and product configuration and trial.
Consider existing retail sales channels and customer segments; develop a creative vision, strategy and roadmap to build a proof of concept and pilot.
Work with XR-commerce ecosystem players to piggyback VR and AR technology with existing marketing and advertising production projects, such as using 360-video.
Create, test, iterate and scale the most promising XR-commerce experiences into your digital retail sales toolkit.
How will you kickstart your company’s future in XR-commerce? Leading retailers that get started now will be most likely to lead the reinvention of shopping.
To learn more, visit Accenture Extended Reality on the web or contact Raffaella Camera at firstname.lastname@example.org.