As the COVID-19 pandemic catalyses the move to eCommerce, new technologies are attempting to bridge the gap between offline and online retail by offering rich and immersive experiences that replicate in-person shopping and redefine how people experience online shopping. In brick and mortar stores, consumers are able to try, touch, and fully experience products before purchasing them, something eCommerce has until now, failed to replicate.

But, immersive technologies like augmented reality (AR), 360° video, 3D content and virtual reality (VR) are proving to be the next frontier in eCommerce, providing shoppers with greater purchasing certainty, personalization, and control over the digital shopping experience.

A recent report by Accenture echoes these sentiments, saying immersive experiences provide accessibility and tangibility, translating into confidence that a product will meet expectations.

It also found immersive technology can boost consumer confidence in an online purchase by 4% globally. The same report found 64% of leading consumer brands are starting to invest in immersive experiences.

Derek Cikes, Commercial Director at buy now pay later fintech Payflex, says the pandemic has signalled a tipping point when it comes to consumer expectations, accelerating demand for more personal, sensory, and richer online experiences.

“Immersive digital touchpoints are playing an instrumental role in the modern customer journey and are eliminating one of the biggest barriers to eCommerce adoption – the inability to see, touch and experience products in person. These technologies are enabling retailers to bring the rich, interactive elements associated with in-store shopping to the world of eCommerce, allowing consumers to shop online without sacrificing purchasing confidence.”

Derek says the keys to immersive technologies opening the door to the next wave of eCommerce include:

3D visualisation technology

3D visualisation technology enables a customer to interact with a three-dimensional digital version of a product without them having to walk into a store, providing an accurate portrayal of fit and size.

“3D visualisation is a critical tool for helping shoppers resolve key questions about product size, style, and dimensions. The ability to zoom in and examine products from every angle is especially useful, as it can highlight a product’s finer details like buckles, zips and fabric texture.”

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality can provide significant value for consumers in the digital shopping journey, enabling them to virtually ‘try on’ or test out clothing, furniture, and beauty without physically touching the products.

“Once a nice-to-have feature, AR has fast emerged as an essential technology for retailers in the post-COVID-19 environment. With hygiene and safety a top priority for retailers, they are increasingly turning to AR to help customers digitally try on or test products to assist in buying decisions.”

Digital Assistants

From Amazon’s Alexa to Apple’s Siri and Google Now, digital assistants have become powerful customer service tools, enabling retailers to effectively solve customer concerns and issues without human intervention.

“Shoppers want help, advice, and guidance throughout the decision-making process. The touchless, voice-driven shopping experience offered by digital assistants enables immersive and interactive experiences that brands can then tailor to the consumer’s individual tastes and preferences. Voice technology means typing your pin on a point-of-sale machine or even getting out your smartphone, will no longer be necessary to go shopping in the near future.”

Seamless Payments

As the COVID-19 crisis continues to shape the way consumers spend their money, smart technology is making payment experiences even simpler by allowing consumers to bypass the traditional payment experience altogether with alternative and flexible payment methods.

“If immersive technology is going to successfully replicate physical experiences, the integration of flexible and alternative payments into the process is going to be essential.”

Immersive technology is the future

The face of retail and how consumers shop has arguably changed forever, pushing retailers to fundamentally reimagine their online presences beyond the purely functional.

Derek says as immersive technologies solve some of the persistent pain points associated with online shopping, it is fast expected to become a vital tool to engage consumer confidence and heighten the online customer journey in the post-pandemic retail landscape.

“Immersive technology’s ability to provide storytelling, richer product information and greater interaction, means the next frontier in eCommerce is now possible.”

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