Virtual reality (VR), which is considered a megatrend (Rutkowski, 2022), aids in blurring the line between actual reality and the virtual world. Specifically, a study from 2020 concluded that 46% of Germans are interested in using VR technologies when shopping online (Bahr, 2020). Hence, utilizing VR in the fashion industry could provide additional opportunities for customers and retailers. It is of particularly great importance for fashion retailers to find a suitable way of linking digitalization and in-person shopping. Indeed, sales forecasts for in-person store shopping are decreasing (KPMG, 2021). The point-of-purchase (e.g., physical store or online store) plays a significant role in the customer journey (Redler, 2018) as is greatly impacts the purchase decision.
Using the example of a fashion store, Lydia Gaus aimed at investigating the influence of VR technologies on the participants‘ general interest in the store, interest in visiting the store, and intended purchase behavior compared to two-dimensional stimuli. Additionally, the study tried to find explanatory aspects for the advantages or disadvantages as well as possible requirements for including VR into the shopping journey of cross-channel shoppers.
Gaus used a mixed methods approach for her research, including two groups, one receiving images on their personal devices, e.g., smartphones, and one looking at 360° images on VR glasses. The images displayed three rooms of a clothing store without customers, whereby the 360° view was utilized in the form of seperate shots for the 2-D group so that the images looked like usual photographs. Participants were then presented a questionnaire and a subsample was chosen to participate in subsequent interviews. In total, 68 participants (with half for each group), who were mainly students (52%), representing 50% female and male respectively as well as an age range of 18 to 61 years (mean=31.5, SD=13.9), took part in the first part of the study. 10 of these respondents subsequently participated in an interview.
- Participants who received the VR input had a significantly higher general interest in the store, interest in visiting the store and purchase intention than the group receiving 2-D stimuli.
- The VR group remembered significantly more objects from the store than the picture group.
- The factor stimuli significantly predicts the experienceability (sense of presence) which predicts the purchase intention as well as interest in and intention to visit the store. For the VR group, experienceability was higher, which in turn was positively related to the purchase intention.
- Throughout the interviews, multiple advantages of VR shopping were repeatedly mentioned, namely the realistic presentation of the store, a comfortable atmosphere as well as resulting positive emotions such as fun, curiosity, and entertainment/ surprising.
- Optimization potentials related to missing music in the store, missing shopping experience (i.e. interaction with staff or other customers), little comfort in wearing the glasses as well as technical limitations related to the virtual scenario, and no option to “move” or navigate through the store.
Using VR technology in the customer journey can offer additional opportunities for retailers, as it increases the purchase intention and general interest in the store as well as visiting intention for the customers, compared to 2-D stimuli. Additionally, the consumers’ ability to remember the store was better with VR than with pictures. Hence, offering VR images can be a useful marketing measure for clothing retailers, as it offers the linkage between online and in-store shopping. This could also spark interest in cross-channel shoppers to visit physical stores. However, VR glasses are still not popular in private homes. Furthermore, the perceived usefulness of VR shopping is limited due to the missing interaction with other people and the physical clothes. Hence, providers should further develop the technical options, such as navigating through the store, updating the VR-data with current product availability, and virtual trying on of the clothes as well as the interaction with other customers (as in the metaverse).
After covering VR as a potential addition to the customer journey, we will dive into VR as a new tool for user research in the next two posts, beginning with a study which explored the acceptance of smart stores via VR. Here, VR was used in order to more vividly display the new store concept.
Bahr, I. (2020). Studie: Virtual Reality im Online-Shopping – 17 % kaufen online mit VR ein, GetApp. Retrieved from: https://www.getapp.de/blog/1748/studie-virtual-reality-im-online-shopping
KPMG. (2021). Front Row: Sehen, was morgen Mode ist. Studie Fashion 2030. Köln. Retrieved from: https://home.kpmg/de/de/home/themen/2021/01/studie-fashion-2030-trend-guide-fuer-die-zukunft-der-mode-branche-in-deutschland.html
Redler, J. (2018). Die Store Brand. Einkaufsstätten als Marken verstehen, aufbauen und steuern. Wiesbaden: Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-09709-7
Rutkowski, M. (2022). Metaverse – wie Unternehmen den Megatrend nutzen können. Handelsblatt. Retrieved from: https://www.handelsblatt.com/adv/soklingtwirtschaft/reale-und-virtuellewirklichkeit-metaverse-wie-unternehmen-den-megatrend-nutzen-koennen/28349842.html