Simren Deogun

VP Brand Solutions

Virtual Shopping – What’s next for Retail – Simren Deogun, VP, Solutions

Retail looks nothing like it did a year ago. Sadly, the joyful jaunts to the mall on a Saturday have been extinguished as haves the frivolity of window shopping, flea markets, and errand runs that turn into day-long adventures.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the largest disrupters for the retail industry and it continues to face unprecedented challenges as physical stores remain closed or are forced to severely limit their operations.

With many large and small retailers seeing a decrease in customers, retailers have to rethink how they deliver the in-store experience. 

The result: no one is shopping like they used to and that means they are shopping online. And brands need to not only be there but be there with flair. 

What is virtual shopping? 

Let’s break this down a bit. In this pandemic, two types of virtual shopping have emerged: VR/AR which allow customers to shop virtually from the comfort of their own home, and through tech-enabled, interactive shopping experiences. 

Let’s look at the more interactive experience first. 

The great thing about virtual shopping is it brings a human connection to eCommerce and bridges the gap between online and in-store. The result is a true omnichannel experience. 

56% of businesses have implemented some form of mobile AR/VR technology and 35% of businesses are also considering doing so as customers still want to take part in a physical shopping experience – just from the comfort of their own homes.

Many brands have even pivoted to have associates (whether they are working in-store, at home, or in the head office) instantly connect via text, chat, or video with online customers to make the experience easier. This allows shoppers to ask questions, view products, and get recommendations from a product expert, while browsing the entire online catalogue of products in real-time.

An industry-leading example of this is Cadillac Live. Launched in 2019, Cadillac reimagined the buying process and married the convenience of technology with the personalization of first-class luxury service in a digitally enabled experience. One-part personal shopper, one part live interactive digital showroom, Cadillac Live offers customers the ability to conveniently shop Cadillac, from anywhere.

Cadillac example here

At dentsu, we have noticed numerous benefits of customer-assisted virtual shopping for brands. Here are just a few: 

  • Measurement – Brands see increased conversions as customers spend up to 70% more when offered personalized consultations and recommendations while shopping online, resulting in more products being added to the cart.
  • Always Selling – Retailers can provide evolving tools and resources to their remote associates so they can help customers confidently shop online.
  • Personalization – Teams can satisfy the in-store shopping experience some customers crave. They can text and email shoppers to share new product releases and notify customers when a product is back in stock. These interactions build strong customer relationships, as some shoppers are 85% more likely to make a second transaction. 
  • Associates as Brand Ambassadors – Associates can create authentic in-store video content on social platforms engage and remind shoppers who are watching to buy from that brand as they shop online.

Acceleration of immersive tech for virtual shopping

Nielsen says the pandemic was an ‘unexpected catalyst’ for the adoption of VR/AR to assist the shopping experience. As a by-product of this revolution, consumers and retailers have adopted immersive tech as a whole.

Budget cuts and advertising pullbacks have given companies new reasons to explore VR/AR's benefits – especially across retail, accessories, and entertainment industries. Brands are now exploring mobile-based virtual try-on, 3D modelling and 360-degree videos with new enthusiasm.

Consumers in Asia-Pacific (APAC) regions have already shifted towards immersive technology in their online shopping experience, more than anywhere in the world.

More than 70% of consumers in Singapore reported being more likely to buy from a brand that focuses on immersive technology, and nearly 60% said they would better remember such brands. Clearly, consumers still want to connect with their product before making a purchase.

All in all, the way forward for brands involves bringing the joy of shopping back to consumers who have switched to shopping online – whether that is through immersive tech or personalized virtual shopping experiences or the next big trend! At dentsu, our goal for brands is clear: we are here to help you keep your customers digitally engaged through the pandemic and beyond. If you are interested, get in contact with our Solutions team. We can help your brand find its home in the world of digital.