Over the past few years, the entire retail landscape changed. Physical stores went virtual, human associates were replaced with chatbots, and customer service, which used to be a call center, was now only available through virtual chat, Ai, and workflow logic software.
While these may seem like small shifts, they completely revolutionized commerce, in some ways for the better and in others for the worse. C19 showed us what isolation did to the human spirit and while it taught us many hard lessons, it also opened the door for newer, more efficient ways to shop.
Enter virtual eCommerce shopping: a revolutionary new way of shopping that is powered by artificial intelligence (AI), AR/VR, and conversational commerce software. With these solutions, shoppers can now see products in their own environment, and benefit from personalized solutions, accurate product recommendations, and streamlined checkout experiences.
Virtual eCommerce shopping is an innovative concept that merges the convenience of online shopping with the immersive experience of in-store shopping.
Imagine blending concepts from retail clienteling with high-tech platforms from the gaming industry. It goes way beyond the standard eCommerce store to create immersive, interactive, 3D environments for shoppers to explore.
Top eCommerce enablement websites like Shopify, Ocavu, Obsess, and Humankind are leading the charge in this field. Harnessing the power of technologies like Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and Concierge Commerce software to create engaging, personalized shopping experiences that are fully integrated into a brand's online store.
These solutions do more than simply streamline the shopping process, they also open up a world of possibilities for shoppers that allow them to experience products in a different way.
With AR/VR and conversational commerce software, shoppers can get real-time product recommendations, interactive shopping tours, and even connect one-on-one with remote concierges to get the answers they need.
At its core, the goal of virtual e-commerce shopping is to provide an in-store experience to the customer from anywhere in the world. This can mean the comfort of their own home or a beautiful sunset on the beach.
These virtual experiences are not limited by location but only by technology and access to an Internet connection. Using AR/ VR, Ai, and SMS technologies to simulate the in-store shopping experience. Shoppers can virtually "walk" through 3D store layouts, "pick up" products to examine them from all angles, and even "try on" clothes or accessories. They can see the items that they want to buy in their environment before they ever make a decision.
This is especially helpful when customers are buying what we call high-consideration products. A high-consideration product is one that involves a lot of research and thought before purchase. It is something that customers often need to "try on" or "experience" themselves. Virtual eCommerce shopping takes the guesswork out of this process by allowing shoppers to see what they are buying in their own environment before making a purchase decision.
Once they've seen the product in their environment, the next step is to engage in real-time help from a personal shopper or concierge. These remote specialists are available to answer questions, provide detailed product information and even customize a shopping experience for the individual customer.
The experience is seamless.
With Humankind, the personal shopper can add items to a beautifully designed custom landing page that the customer can instantly approve to have added to their virtual cart. All of this is done without ever leaving the comfort of their own home.
This is just a glimpse into what virtual eCommerce shopping can do for customers. As technology continues to evolve, so does the way that we shop. Today's virtual eCommerce shopping platforms are the foundation of innovative shopping experiences in the future.
But why would a brand choose to implement these rapidly iterating technologies?
The simple answer is, consumers love it. When OLAPLEX implemented Humankind's conversational commerce software into their virtual store, customer satisfaction (CSAT) went to 4.94 (out of 5). You can read more about their results, here.
The benefits of virtual eCommerce shopping are many:
As you can see, for consumers, virtual eCommerce shopping means shopping on their terms, their way, at their convenience. It simplifies the online shopping process and enhances customer engagement, thereby improving customer satisfaction and loyalty.
They say, "What's good for customers is good for business..." - driving customer engagement and increasing conversion rates, ultimately boosts sales. Plus, it creates the "WOW" factor that offers brands a competitive edge in the rapidly growing digital marketplace.
We all know that the virtual eCommerce shopping market is on an upward trajectory - but how rapidly is it actually growing?
According to Statista, Extended Reality (XR) is estimated to reach more than $100 billion in market size by 2026. XR includes virtual shopping, augmented and virtual reality (AR/ VR) commerce, and the emerging concierge commerce models.
What's more, analysts from Mordor Intelligence forecast that the global market for virtual eCommerce shopping solutions, especially XR, will grow at a CAGR of 34.94%, which means that approximately every 2.5 years the technology will double in efficacy - which makes it one of the fastest growing industries in the world.
This growth is fueled by a combination of advancements in technology, changing consumer behavior, and the ongoing digital transformation of the retail industry.
So where do we go from here?
Well, before we look forward, we need to look back...
100 years ago people walked into a corner store, were greeted by a retail associate, and had their questions answered in person. The concepts of "retail clienteling" were practiced from the streets of Savile Row to the small-town mom-and-pop shops in rural America.
Fast forward to today and the world of eCommerce has changed dramatically. As we previously mentioned, what used to be a physical store is now digital, and the traditional sales associate is most often either workflow logic software, Ai, or LLM.
But there's one exception to this digitization, a hybrid of sorts. Humankind's conversational commerce software serves as the bridge between brands and customers. Humankind’s conversational commerce tools allow personal shoppers to connect 1:1 with customers through text-based conversations in order to provide a personalized and memorable shopping experience.
This means that customers get the human interaction they crave and the convenience of virtual e-commerce shopping.
While traditional eCommerce has revolutionized the way we shop, virtual eCommerce shopping takes it one step further. It offers a more engaging, interactive shopping experience compared to the largely passive experience of traditional eCommerce. A customer's ability to "choose their own adventure" by exploring products in a 3D environment, interacting with sales representatives in real-time, and enjoying a personalized shopping experience sets virtual eCommerce shopping apart.
If you've never been in the metaverse, it may be hard to picture what the true future of virtual e-commerce shopping really looks like.
As visual technologies like AR/VR continue to evolve, so too will the reach of virtual eCommerce shopping. With technologies doubling every 2.5 - 3 years, the future promises even more immersive and personalized shopping experiences, blurring the lines between the digital and physical worlds. Technological advancements will enable more realistic simulations, smarter personalization, and enhanced interactivity between customers and brands.
If we take a step back and survey the last 150 years of retail, it's no surprise that the industry has been in a state of constant transformation and evolution. From traditional retail to virtual e-commerce shopping, each new development has brought with it more convenience and accessibility for customers…
This is why we believe that Virtual eCommerce shopping is more than just a trend—it's the future of retail.
As we navigate this high-tech and potentially exciting future, it's clear that the shopping experience will continue to evolve, driven by new advancements in technology and changing consumer expectations. As businesses and consumers alike embrace virtual eCommerce shopping, we can expect to see a profound transformation of the retail landscape.