Customers always want newness, whether in terms of products or experiences, and today with the rise in acceptance of online shopping, e-commerce retailers need to bring innovation to retain the interest of consumers.
Virtual showrooms are an interactive space that either replicate the offline stores or are new digital showrooms created to allow the customers to shop in an offline-like environment. The technology allows the retailers to bridge the gap between offline and online showrooms by delivering the experience of shopping in an offline store and mall. With the reduction in the footfall in stores due to COVID-19, offline retailers – with the use of technology – can maintain a connection with the customers in a digital environment. Also, the pandemic has stayed long enough with us to bring long-term changes in consumer behaviour; people will now fear going back into the stores as freely as before and are rather more comfortable with digital than ever.
3D showrooms allow retailers to display designs and collections of apparels in a 3D environment. Customers can see all the options displayed on the mannequins, models or display hangers – simulating the real-world showroom browsing experience. By clicking on a particular piece, visitors can also access its detailed information, close-up photographs and add it to their carts. Few companies offering such innovative solutions include –
The 3D shopping experience by VirtuLab
Specialising in customer engagement and brand building, VirtuLab, based in Mumbai, India, is one of the solution providers of virtual showroom. “Virtual showroom enables forward thinking for brands to pivot to the next level of online shopping, i.e. experiential commerce or 3D shopping experiences. Virtual showrooms go well beyond e-commerce catalogues, transforming online shopping into a visually engaging, inspiring and life-like experience on the screen. At brand level, it is a great platform to connect and develop relationships with online customers at an emotive level. This is a key differentiator and value-add over the somewhat mundane e-commerce interface,” said Rohit Saraogi, CEO & Co-founder, VirtuLab.
For the installation of the virtual showroom, brands only need to provide product photographs and details and assign online chat agents to attend to the visitors. The main factors a retailer needs to decide on is how many categories of products will be displayed in the showroom and how many apparels need to be displayed at 3D level. Rest of the process is taken care of by the team at VirtuLab that includes designing, programming, deployment and maintenance of the showroom. Also, the aesthetics of the virtual showroom can be inspired from the existing physical showroom or an entirely different concept.
The solutions are browser-based and do not require installation of any apps or additional software. They are supported on all devices and can be accessed on laptop, PCs, tablets and mobile phones. Customers can basically enter the virtual space at their own ease of time and location. The installation takes between 4-8 weeks to go live.
The advanced functions include Add to Cart, Live Chat, Video Calling, Chatbots, Appointment Scheduling, etc. All the features and showroom designs are 100 per cent customisable and can be installed on the brand’s existing website. “Think of the virtual showroom as a marketing and sales support tool for the brand. It acts as an interactive, immersive and exclusive environment to host customers and showcase products in the backdrop of your brand story,” explained Rohit.
The virtual showroom is virtually adaptable for every product category. Apart from the obvious categories like apparel and jewellery, the company also offers solutions for a diverse range of products like electronic equipment, home furnishings, luxury fragrances, organic tea, carpets or even exquisite sweets.
Another extremely interesting phygital solution that the company offers for the offline retailers is Telepresence Robots. These robots, when placed in the retailers’ showrooms, can invite customers to login to the device and become virtually present in the store. “Customers can then self-drive around inside the showroom, use the HD cameras and audio to see the inventory while interacting with the retail staff – a fully enriching yet distanced-shopping experience. This could be very relevant for segments like luxury or brand stores, where personalised shopping is highly prevalent,” said Rohit.
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The VR and AR shopping by Obsess
Obsess, based in USA, is an augment and virtual reality platform for experiential e-commerce that helps online retailers convert their basic user interface into a visual, creative and interactive one. This is done by the creation of virtual stores/showrooms using 3D experience through the company’s proprietary patent pending technology. These virtual stores are created entirely on the web, therefore eliminating the need for any special app or VR headsets. “What we have seen from these virtual stores is increased customer engagement, increased loyalty and increased conversion rates,” said Neha Singh, Founder and CEO, Obsess.
This is done in two ways: first by photographing the real retail store and presenting it digitally to reach wider audience and second is by creating an entirely new virtual showroom using CGI (computer-generated imagery). Both the types use high-resolution rendering that allows buyers to see merchandise in detail.
The company offers two solutions – VR Shopping and AR shopping. VR shopping enables brands and retailers to deeply engage customers in an interactive 360 virtual store on their websites. The customers visiting the brand website can experience the 360 degree shopping environment, while the offline stores or pop-up stores can also be transformed into an interactive 360 virtual tour. This VR showroom is easily available from anywhere, can be accessed from the website any time and does not require any headset or app to download.
Another extension to the solution offering is the Headset VR for retail where customers visiting the stores can be engaged with an interactive brand experience through a mobile VR headset. This allows retailers to use less of the physical state and display more of the merchandise digitally, while saving the cost associated with the physical product displays.
The other solution is the AR Shopping platform that allows customers to view the 3D products in real world in front of them to have a better idea of how the product would actually look. The technology even allows customers to compare multiple products side by side in their room to make a purchase decision. The other application of the technology is for the offline store shopping and marketing purpose that enables the customers to use the tech through brands’ app and get access to additional content like videos and recommendations that will assist them in making a better decision. It also enables brands and retailers to create an HD-quality mobile AR shopping experience and publish it on the social media sales channels including Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, etc.
The need for transformation
E-commerce presence is now vital for survival. What’s new will be how to be different, and therefore, retailers should start focusing on solutions like these to stand out in the competition and offer something exciting to retain the interest of customers in their brands. One of the obvious ways is that customers can view and/or buy fashion products in a way that resembles going to their store, all from the comfort and safety of their home.
On the other hand, one of the technologies allows brands to connect with their customers on an emotional level. A virtual showroom, unbounded by the physics of the real world, would have the full potential to bring out a brand’s DNA and establish a more powerful connection with its customers. And as the fashion industry is starting to move away from supply manufacturing to demand manufacturing, the virtual showroom would naturally be a process where customers can buy without having to make the garment first.