There was once a time when it seemed far-fetched to imagine people being able to flip through dozens of items with a quick movement of their fingers.  And then in 1861 the mail order catalogue was invented by Welsh entrepreneur Pryce Jones.  That was followed, of course, over a century later by the invention of the Internet, which allows customers to flip through dozens of items with a quick flick of their fingers on their computer mouse.

And now we are getting a glimpse at what the future may hold next for retail — shopping via virtual reality. According to online magazine Gizmag, Australian mega-retailer Myer is teaming up with eBay to offer the world’s first VR (virtual reality) department store.  “Via the eBay VR Department Store app and a VR headset, shoppers can browse, examine and purchase over 12,000 items in the Myer catalog. Like other VR menu systems, users can scan through options with head and eye movements, and with a process dubbed “eBay Sight Search”, shoppers select items by fixing their gaze on it for a short time. This brings the product up for a closer look, and displays details like its specifications, size, price, availability, and shipping options.”

Gizmag says that 12,000 items will be represented, but only the top 100 will be in 3D. Which brings to mind the big advantage that specialty retailers have over printed catalogues, online shopping sites and even virtual reality: all of our products are 3D.  Shoppers who want to “rotate, zoom in, and examine them in greater detail” need only pick them up to do so.

“Physically holding products can create a sense of psychological ownership, driving must-have purchase decisions,” according to an article in the Harvard Business Review entitled ‘Please Touch the Merchandise.’ “This idea may underlie the push to move inventory from display cases into customers’ hands, a trend seen in many electronics outlets such as the Apple Store and Best Buy.”

When you are helping a customer with a buying decision, remember that customers who have touched an item are much more likely to buy it.  Make sure that all shoppers can easily reach and examine the merchandise throughout your shop, and that your displays provide the details that the virtual reality headset offers customers.  But you won’t need to include availability and shipping options, because shopping in a real store — now and in the future — provides both a rewarding tactile experience and instant gratification.

Happy Retailing,
Carol “Orange” Schroeder