Previously, we were digging into the top 10 startup ideas. Thank you to Samuele Valente, who pointed out that our previous article doesn’t have VR & AR points. This is weird, as Facebook moving forward with VR and this should stimulate the market. Based on this, we would like to dig into AR & VR and how these can be used in eCommerce. So, let’s dig into 🙂
Are you wondering how virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) can be used in the world of eCommerce? This article will take a look at the two technologies and how you can apply VR and AR to your brand-new eCommerce startup.
If you want to be the next big thing in eCommerce, you need to look at how you can do business differently from your competitors. What can you offer that they don’t?
For example, take Amazon when it first launched in the 1990s. Although the online retailer now offers a wide range of products and services, it initially focused on books. Do you remember the time before Amazon came along? At that time, people had to go to their local high street to buy books or borrow them from their nearest library. One-click and they could now buy all their books over the internet.
If you’re looking to launch your eCommerce store in 2023, using VR or AR can potentially give you a unique selling point. These technologies can encourage prospective customers to buy from you and help you stand out from your rivals.
Table of Contents
In this article, we will look at AR and VR. How they differ and how you can use the two technologies to offer a distinctive eCommerce experience to customers.
- What is VR?
- What is AR?
- Are VR and AR the same thing?
- How to use VR in eCommerce?
- Can you use AR in eCommerce?
- How to apply VR and AR to your eCommerce startup
- In conclusion – will you make 2023 the year of augmented and virtual reality?
What is VR?
Virtual reality (VR) is an online 3D experience where users can take part in a virtually simulated world.
A headset display is used to immerse the user in the VR experience. Commonly found brands include Oculus, HTC, and Valve. Even Sony PlayStation has its own headset.
VR was first made available to the general public in the 1990s, although it was invented several decades earlier. While VR is most commonly used for online gaming, it can also be used in other ways. For example, it can help doctors practice surgery, let soldiers prepare for dangerous combat scenarios, and help children learn about ancient civilizations in the classroom.
It’s estimated that the VR market will be worth an incredible $12.9 billion by 2024, an increase of 144% since 2019. The market and demand for virtual reality are growing all of the time.
For a modern-day example of virtual reality and how it can be used, take Horizon Worlds. Formerly known as Facebook Horizon and created in partnership with Oculus, this VR platform lets visitors create their own worlds, as well as explore other people’s creations.
There is even a spin-off app called Horizon Workrooms, launched earlier this year, where businesses can operate virtual meeting rooms.
What is AR?
Augmented reality (AR) is an enhanced version of the world we live in. It uses sound and vision to add elements that might not otherwise be seen in real life.
Users typically view their environment through their mobile phone or tablet to see AR elements, although they may also use other technology like smart glasses.
Like VR, AR has been around longer than you may think. However, the technology became incredibly popular when smartphones and tablets became readily available a decade ago. As a result, it’s estimated that there are currently eight hundred million active AR users worldwide, and this figure is set to double in the next three years.
There are many modern examples of AR, but one of the biggest success stories of this decade is Pokémon Go. Created in 2016, Pokémon Go is an AR mobile game where users can walk around their local environment, capturing Pokémon and fighting other players in nearby gyms. Since it was launched, over 150 million people play every month.
Are VR and AR the same thing?
Some people use the terms ‘VR’ and ‘AR’ interchangeably. While the two have some similarities and both give people a means to escape the real world for a while, they are different technologies.
The key difference between the two is the environment they are used in and the devices they use.
VR takes place in a fictional reality and uses a headset device.
AR takes place in the real world and uses a smartphone or tablet.
An excellent way to remember the differences is that while VR replaces your vision entirely, AR enhances it.
Now you know what VR and AR are, how are they used in the world of eCommerce? Let’s take a look at some examples.
How to use VR in eCommerce?
You may think that VR is not a viable choice for eCommerce, given that the typical Oculus headset costs about €360. However, there are more cost-effective options available too.
For example, Google offers the Google Cardboard app for free. Users can then build their own viewer out of cardboard or buy one for a couple of Euros. The app works by creating a 3D effect that when seen through the viewer’s lenses, lets them see a 360° virtual world.
This makes VR a solid and accessible option for your eCommerce marketing strategy.
If you sell products online but want to showcase your wares in a fun and exciting way, you can use VR to create a virtual showroom. This is something Made.Com did last year, to cheer up people stuck in lockdown.
The homeware brand created a virtual apartment where shoppers would move around, clicking on items if they wanted to find out more. As well as using a VR headset, customers could carry out a walkthrough using their computer too.
VR can help prospective customers view your products from all angles like they would be able to in real life. Shopify launched an app called Thread Studio where shoppers could upload t-shirt designs and display them on virtual mannequins. That way, shoppers can see if they are happy with how the t-shirts look before they buy.
Businesses can even use VR to train their staff to understand their products and values. For example, KFC uses VR to teach new team members how to prepare fried chicken!
It’s estimated that VR can increase shopping conversion rates by 17%. This is because customers can fully immerse themselves in the shopping experience, without any external distractions.
Can you use AR in eCommerce?
As AR technology can be used on a smartphone or tablet, it means many people can use augmented reality to find out more about the products you sell. It’s one of the most accessible technologies around.
There are a couple of distinct types of AR applications to consider:
- Marker-based AR: A photo or image is uploaded, and then add elements are superimposed on the image. This is the most commonly seen form of AR
- Markerless AR: The application recognizes elements within a frame and adds elements as required
- Location-based AR: The GPS location on your phone or tablet is used to create elements
- Projection-based AR: Images are projected onto a model to create an object
Customers can use AR to see how products will look in their current surroundings. This type of technology is extremely popular with furniture stores. Customers can take a snap of their room (marker-based AR) and see how a table, sofa, or art print will complement their existing home décor.
In fact, it’s estimated that 35% of people have used an AR app to visualize new furniture in their homes.
Swedish furniture manufacturer IKEA has a smartphone app called IKEA Place. The AR app scans the user’s room and lets them drop their favorite products into their living space. Customers can then share their dream furniture set-up on social media, and buy products they like online.
AR is also of enormous benefit to other eCommerce industries, such as the beauty and skincare industry. For example, Maybelline lets you upload a photo and see which shades of lipstick and eyeshadow best suit your skin tone. Once you’re happy with your choices, you can then make a purchase through their eCommerce store.
How to apply VR and AR to your eCommerce startup?
Both AR and VR can be a valuable part of your eCommerce strategy if used correctly.
Here are some of the things you need to consider when thinking about using VR and AR in your eCommerce startup.
- AR or VR? Will you use AR and VR, or both? AR is a more accessible and cost-effective technology, but VR typically provides a more immersive experience. If you go for AR, what type of application will you use?
- Target audience: Who will your target audience be, and will they have an appetite for AR and VR technology? For example, Millennials and Gen-Zers are more likely to use AR than Gen X and Boomers, although older people are using this technology more than they were a few years ago;
- Purpose: What will be the purpose of your AR or VR app? You’ll need to carry out customer research to determine what your customer pain points are and how your app can help. For example, suppose you sell wallpaper online, and your customer wants to try it before they buy. In that case, an AR app can help them visualize the wallpaper they want before committing to a purchase. This increases customer satisfaction, boosts sales, and reduces the risk of returns;
- Costs: Can you factor the costs into your budget? While the costs for creating AR and VR apps have gone down over the years, they’re still not cheap. It’s estimated to cost between $5,000 to $10,000 for a simple AR app, and up to $300,000 for a complex app. If you have your heart set on AR or VR, you’ll need to find the money, either through bootstrapping or investment;
- Creation: Will you develop the AR or VR app yourself, or get a third-party provider to do it? There are a lot of development tools out there (e.g. ARKit) that make it simple to create apps yourself if you have programming skills;
- Marketing: How will you promote your AR or VR app? You’ll need to get the word out there to encourage people to use it. You can promote your app on social media, create a short demo video, put a PR campaign in place, or use a referral scheme;
- Metrics: How will you measure success? For example, the number of app downloads, active vs inactive users, or the value of purchases made directly through your app.
In conclusion – will you make 2023 the year of augmented and virtual reality?
Only 1% of retailers say they currently use AR or VR in their customer buying experience. This means that your eCommerce startup could be at a significant advantage if you choose to adopt AR or VR technologies moving forward.
The critical thing to remember is to look at your customer pain points and how either AR or VR can help resolve them. Implementing AR and VR should add value to your startup, and not be something you do just to tick a box or to show off your technological prowess.
Whether you choose to implement AR and VR or not, we wish you the best of luck in your eCommerce venture for the year ahead!
Looking for a little extra help with your eCommerce startup? You are launched is here to help
Whether you’re planning to use VR or AR in your startup plans, we are here to help turn your dreams into reality.
We have experience working with a wide range of different eCommerce startups, helping them to determine their target audience, validate their idea and get the funding needed to grow.
If you have a big eCommerce idea for 2023, contact us today and see how we can help boost your business.