Donning a VR headset and getting immersed in a virtual gaming environment is an amazing experience. And until recently, VR was pretty much confined to the world of gaming and just fun.
But now retailers and even educators have discovered the benefits of VR to provide amazing customer/consumer experiences – experiences that will retain customers and boost revenues.
Here are six examples of how augmented and virtual reality are being used right now. Clearly, it will be a “game changer” for companies who want to increase their market share.
1. The automobile industry
Currently, Peugeot, BMW, Jaguar and Ford are using VR in the development of prototypes for new car designs. This has the benefit of allowing designers from remote locations to collaborate and experience these prototypes virtually, rather than go the expense of meeting up and developing expensive physical prototypes which are then discarded. For consumers - that stands for better auto quality.
And it’s only a matter of time before consumers will be online, experiencing the feel and driving experiences for themselves, as they narrow down their new car options.
2. The retail clothing and accessory industry
Chinese consumer retail giant Alibaba is now experimenting with VR shopping for clothing and other consumer goods. Customers can place themselves in a piece of clothing they are considering, or go shopping with a virtual assistant who will present items based upon customer preferences and allow those customers to “experience” the product before purchasing it.
Already, in the U.S., eyeglass retailer America’s Best allows customers to shop for frames before they ever go to a store for their eye exams. The software loads a real-time image of the customer’s face and allows that customer to “try on” various frame designs to pick one in advance. Doing this in the privacy of one’s own space saves time and lets a customer take as long as s/he needs to pick the perfect eyeglass frame.
3. The law
Civil litigation regarding injuries and death as a result of negligence or wrongdoing on the part of others often requires reconstruction of accident scenes. Typically, these have been accomplished through drawings and other “still” visuals.
With VR capability, law firms can now recreate scenes for juries and judges, providing a much more realistic experience, so that better decisions can be made. The law firm of Lamber & Goodnow, a Phoenix Arizona based legal practice, is currently using VR for just this purpose.
4. The travel industry
Consumers looking for amazing vacation experiences can now “travel” to destinations through virtual reality and “experience” hotel accommodations, activities, museums, etc. from their homes, prior to making their vacation destination decisions. This helps to ensure a better travel experience and greater loyalty to travel retailers who offer this option. So far among the early adopters are Marriott Hotel chain, Thomas Cook and Lufthansa.
E-learning has become an increasingly competitive industry, and virtual classrooms are becoming much more commonplace, especial in the vocational/technical areas.
Vermeer Corporation has a need for skilled welders. They have introduced a new welding training program that incorporates VR for pre-assessment of candidates for welding positions. This has resulted in large cost savings, by not having to bring candidates in for physical welding testing.
But beyond just the skilled labor force, consider the benefits of VR for doctors who need to learn new surgical procedures or medical students who must study anatomy through the use of physical cadavers in their programs. Now, this learning can occur in a virtual reality environment.
6. Medical care
Duke University School of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences is using virtual reality to assist patients with PTSD and phobias. By placing patients into virtual environments that create stress and anxiety, these patients can practice responses and develop coping skills to deal with these situations.
No business is too small for augmented and virtual reality customer experiences
Given the tools that continue to improve, it makes sense for e-commerce enterprises of all sizes to consider the use of VR in their marketing campaigns. Today’s consumer is looking for experiences rather than actually seeing a product online and trying to determine if it is valuable. The experience can “seal the deal.” Whether you sell shoes, electronics, travel, or e-learning courses, getting on board with augmented and virtual reality will give your customers the engaging experience that they now demand, and it will gain you loyalty, satisfaction, and the recommendations to others that will spread your brand.
Virtual reality has been slow to come to e-commerce. It has been considered more of an entertaining tool for fun and games. But, as businesses have come to see its value to customer experience, it will become the new differentiator between a company that simply offers products and one that provide experiences with those products. If consumers can put themselves into hotel rooms and spas; if customers can try on clothing and shoes before they buy; if visitors put themselves on a bike and get the feel of the comfort and speed, you will have given them all of the valuable information they need to make purchasing decisions. And the shopping experience itself is amazing. But here’s the bonus. If you have VR capability, those visitors and customers will want to share their VR experiences with their friends.