Virtual Reality is a Game-Changer. Are You Ready?

By Stevie Sleeter, Content & Social Media Manager

Published: March 31, 2016

What once was reserved for decades-old science fiction, for the movies – is now a very prominent reality. Virtual reality. This week, Oculus VR, the virtual-reality hardware company Facebook acquired for $2 billion in 2014, released its flagship headset, the Oculus Rift.

And while it’s still too soon to determine the viability of the Oculus Rift (and other virtual reality headsets) in the consumer market, we’re predicting eventually it will prove a game-changer.

Virtual reality refers to an immersive, computer-generated reality that provides the user an artificial sensory experience. And leading brands are already planning for how to leverage it and get a leg up in the market.

Virtual Reality Changing The Way We Shop

It’s easy to dream up the possibilities of virtual reality when it comes to enhancing an entertainment experience. Video games. Movies. TV Shows. What stands as slightly more ambiguous, is how the technology will make waves in the shopping experience.

SXSW 2016 attendees saw it first hand and leading retailers and companies are already playing in the sandbox. McDonald’s gave users headsets and transported them inside a Happy Meal box. Armed with a virtual paintbrush, they decorated the box in wild colors, while surrounded by all the trappings of a Happy Meal.

At Tommy Hilfiger and Dior, shoppers can don VR headsets to watch 360-degree runway shows and even go behind-the-scenes with models.

Both examples offer a unique and fun brand experience. The real opportunity? Leveraging virtual reality and real time experiences digitally. Think about online shopping. It offers convenience, ease, 24/7 access. What’s the major flaw? A lack of tangible, physical interaction – the deep-rooted desire to try before we buy. Not just seeing but holding, wearing and trying out are all key steps in the purchase process. With virtual reality, this turns into a viable opportunity. Try on a shirt before you buy it, strategically place and visualize new furniture in your living room before you invest, imagine if you could walk the virtual aisles of the grocery store, pick out and purchase groceries without ever leaving your couch.

According to Time Magazine (and very well put), “Ultimately, these technologies come together to solve a fundamental challenge in ecommerce: integrating feeling – both physical and emotional – into the buying experience.”