World’s first Virtual Reality Department store launched by eBay and Myer
The online eCommerce market place, eBay and Myer teamed up to open the world’s first “Virtual reality department store” in Australia.
Both the companies will unveil the app on Thursday, which works via a smartphone inside a virtual reality headset to place shoppers inside a virtual world surrounded by products to buy.
The launch is a global first for eBay, which will closely observe how Australian shoppers behave inside virtual reality, in order to develop its broader plans for what it views as an important new retail channel.
The app works with virtual reality headsets like Samsung’s Gear VR, but also with cheaper options like Google Cardboard. eBay and Myer are offering 15,000 customers a free cardboard viewer, which they are calling a shoptical.
Myer chief executive Richard Umbers said:
This exciting collaboration with eBay reaffirms our commitment to omni-channel and building a truly contemporary and innovative retail offer.”
Our customers can now immerse themselves in the experience of shopping inside a Myer store from wherever they may be, with product information updated in real time to ensure everyone can keep up with the latest offers from Myer.”
Rather than walking around a virtual recreation of a Myer store, once wearing the VR headset, customers find themselves surrounded by images of different product categories which they can investigate further by staring at them.
The app allows customers to hop around different types of products, adding them to a shopping cart similar to regular online shopping.
eBay Australia and New Zealand senior director of marketing and retail innovation Steve Brennen said the app had taken 12 months to design, and would provide Australian shoppers with an early glimpse of the future of shopping.
As it will be the first time it has released VR shopping anywhere in the world, he says the company will be closely watching shopper behaviour to learn what they like and reject, in the new environment.
Mr Steve Brennen said:
In a sense this is stage one with the market testing it, so we can learn something. We see technology leaps and platform changes coming in the future.”
We knew Australia was ready to go first with this because we see how much VR equipment is being bought here on eBay … from January through to April we’ve already sold tens of thousands of headsets.”
As customers add items to their shopping cart, algorithms will display other related products that customers may like, and eBay is expecting to learn new virtual equivalents to long-held retail laws that govern where shops display different product categories.
Instead of having hand controllers, users select items using only sight. The company has created “eBay Sight Search,” which allows items to be chosen by holding your gaze on them for a number of seconds.
Items can be added to the basket in the same fashion, but to check out, users have to take off the headset and return to the eBay app to put through the payment.
The development team chose to develop Sight Search so users could move quickly through the virtual store.
Steve Brennen, senior director of marketing and retail innovation at eBay, said:
Your eyes can move so quickly,” he said. “It became pretty obvious. Sight Search in a VR world of retail feels very sensible. How much customers use it, do they love it, is where we’ll get to next.”
Sight Search in a VR world of retail feels very sensible. How much customers use it, do they love it, is where we’ll get to next.”
Myer’s chief digital and data officer Mark Cripsey said its three-month old deal with eBay to sell its products on the marketplace was going well and that it was eager to see which product lines performed best inside VR.
He said lines including Lego and food devices NutriBullet and Nutri Ninja had been strong performers on its eBay store, but that he also expected fashion to perform well in a virtual world where customers could get a 3D view of garments.
Mr Mark Cripsey said:
I think it could actually really lend itself to categories that people don’t always buy online right now, because they feel like they don’t experience the product particularly some types of clothing.”
While customers have long-since embraced the idea of shopping for clothing and other consumer goods online, Mr Brennen said there remained a “trust gap” whereby online shoppers were never totally confident that what they saw was what they got. He expects VR to resolve that.
Mr Brennen added:
We really are glimpsing a future where future versions will see a shopper in Sydney shopping with a friend in New York from a store in London,”
Personalization will also mean in future an individual will have their own virtual reality store that is built up by their past purchases and tastes only showing products in their size and shape. This will make it a serious new retail channel.”
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