Is Virtual Reality set to Revolutionise Retail?

As I’m ushered through the insane asylum, bound to a wheelchair being pushed by a nurse in a 1940s uniform, nothing could prepare me for the full brunt of madness that I was about to experience.

No I wasn’t on the film set for American Horror Story, I was in fact sat at my desk at work, on a rainy Wednesday, in East Yorkshire, looking rather silly wearing a pair of oversized goggles that brought the terrifying experience to life.

Breath-taking, incredible, spectacular, magnificent … these are just a few words I would use to describe the wonderfully weird world of virtual reality (VR). But one really has to experience it to believe and you may get the chance much sooner than you think, in a place you might least expect it.

This week, eBay and Australian retailer Myer launched what has been dubbed the world’s first virtual reality department store. Yes, that’s right, battling buggies on the high street on a Saturday afternoon could soon be a thing of the past. Once you’re sitting comfortably, all you need to shop til’ you drop is a VR headset, an iOS or Android device and the ‘eBay Virtual Reality Department Store’ app.

Once you’ve picked the departments you’d like to browse a custom virtual store is built to reflect your selections, which you can then navigate and even buy with just your gaze. This technology also allows us to enjoy a shopping experience we might never be able to enjoy in reality … Pick up that Jimmy Choo you could never in month of Sundays afford (and the sales assistant knows it). Walk into Ann Summers without breaking out into a nervous, embarrassed sweat. Yes ladies (and gents), the future of shopping is here!

Experts see virtual-commerce being the fourth channel to the pre-existing physical, e-commerce and mobile-commerce experience. Although the VR industry is still in the early stages, its annual revenue is forecasted to grow from less than $1 billion to $30 billion by 2020, according to advisory firm Digi-Capital. While Piper Jaffray predicts annual sales of headsets could hit half a billion by 2025.

While there’s no denying that virtual reality could well fundamentally transform the human experience of shopping, there could still be a way to go before your trying on Louis Vuitton in your living room. Mark Zuckerberg was recently quoted saying he thinks VR is still ten years away from being mainstream – but hey, a girl can dream can’t she?

(Attributed to Rachel @ Mercury Retail)

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