Earlier this month, Wayfair, the Boston-based e-commerce company specializing in home furnishing and decor, announced the launch of Patio Playground (you can find it here on the Oculus website), its proprietary virtual reality (VR) application.
Of its features, E-commerce Times wrote, “Using Facebook’s Oculus Rift headset, shoppers are introduced to a lakeside scene where they can browse Wayfair’s virtual catalog, selecting outdoor furniture and decor to design a backyard setting.”
And while there are currently no mechanisms in place for consumers to order products directly from the VR app, that doesn’t seem to bother Wayfair all that much.
“For now, we want to use Patio Playground to test the virtual reality experience, look at how consumers are engaging with it, and integrate that feedback into our future applications,” said Mike Festa, Head of Wayfair’s Research and Development Lab in an interview with E-commerce Times.
Since its implementation, Wayfair has tracked the number of downloads, the length of time consumers have spent using it, and how often certain features are being used, such as teleporting, loading products, saving scenes, and more. Presumably, all of this behavior and data will then be used in an effort to enhance the customer experience and understand customer choice.
And that then got us thinking. Surely, Wayfair isn’t the only retailer making strides in VR. Who else is out there?
JCPenney: Creating an Adventure
Last holiday season, JCPenney set up VR experiences at four different malls around the country. Consumers could don Oculus Rift headsets and take a virtual trip to the North Pole, where they could interact with reindeers, elves, and snowmen.
The experience was primarily about branding—consumers were reminded that the store carries popular brands like Nike and KitchenAid—but once customers successfully “returned” from the North Pole, they were rewarded with coupons and gift cards.
Tommy Hilfiger: Offering Exclusive Access
Sitting front row at a fashion show is a privilege afforded to very few. But that’s no longer the case for Tommy Hilfiger fans, who can now experience the thrills of the runway through a Samsung GearVR headset.
“Through virtual reality, we’re now able to bring our one-of-a-kind fashion show to the retail setting,” said Tommy Hilfiger himself. “From the incredible set and music to exclusive backstage moments, consumers will be able to watch the clothes move and see the collection in the original show environment – it’s a compelling and interesting elevation of the traditional shopping experience.”
And unlike JCPenney, Tommy Hilfiger promises zero promotional efforts; just a unique costumer experience.
Lowes: Letting Consumers Try Before They Buy
In 19 stores through the country, Lowe’s lets customers use their “Holoroom” to see 3D mock-ups of their renovation plans. Shoppers input the dimensions of their room and fill it with a variety of Lowe’s products, swapping out paints, furniture, appliances, and more to find the perfect fit.
Then, through VR, they can see how their intended renovations would look in their home. It seems gone are the days of taking home a bunch of paint samples, testing them on the walls, and praying one of them looks decent. And that’s pretty cool.
When it comes down to it, VR is yet another tool that retailers can use to boost engagement, increase customer loyalty, and build into the “store of the future.” Perhaps the biggest advantage for retailers using VR is having another data point. VR is a compelling way to discover what customers are interested in and another way retailers can improve store assortments (what is presented to customers in-store). The big question is, how will retailers take advantage of this new information once VR usage picks up?