Social shopping is one of the latest trends in retail and e-commerce. It allows people to be together in a purchase in a number of ways.
Social virtual reality platforms allow businesses and brands to create their own personalized environments, showcase products and services and engage their customers in virtual reality via avatars. That means that all the ingredients needed for social shopping are there to allow retailers to combine the best of VR product showcase with 3D products, while empowering social shopping communities to interact via avatar ‘real life’ thus, fueling the sense of ‘social reward’ connected to the sharing of information with the community.
Social shopping brings people with common interests and tastes together to discuss, share and buy. Within social VR stores, people can communicate, engage, provide and get information about products, prices and features. And all while looking at the product itself, as if a group of like-minded people was together on a ‘field trip’ at their favorite store.
VR is already the perfect medium for a realistic evaluation of a product from the comfort of the customer’s home. Instead of going out and looking for a product in a number of stores, people can put on a VR headset, go to their favorite stores (regardless of where the stores are located!), and could see the products in details and in all sorts of combinations.
A “Try-Before-You-Buy” Experience
Virtual reality provides a try-before-you-buy experience, which is particularly effective for clothes, shoes, furniture, cars, just to name a few. VR stores do not look like ads. They offer real experiences, and provide easy entertainment, while being useful and effective at the same time. Also, they provide the emotional gratification and excitement of trying something new. They can be designed as try-before-you-buy experiences as well as incorporate interactive brand stories and gamification activities. This allows customers to rediscover the fun of shopping, view the different options, colors, combinations, with no stress and no hurry.
These activities help build customers’ loyalty by creating an emotional bond between customers and the brand. Traditional communication is less and less effective in creating this emotional bond. People are increasingly busy and have learned how to ignore online advertising, close ads as fast as possible or avoid them altogether.
Social VR is the Best Friend of Aspirational Brands
Social VR revolutionizes the shopping experience. And this is becoming particularly relevant for aspirational brands. These are the brands selling products that attach positive characteristics to the person just by the fact that they own the product itself. Yet those products are difficult to access due to, for instance, limited production and in general high price.
But why is social selling in VR particularly relevant for aspirational brands?
First because aspirational brands want to showcase their products with the highest possible quality available online. They need to differentiate from commodities and they have so far always been struggling with flat web communication. Now, with virtual reality 3D renderings they can truly showcase products at a completely different level.
Engaging the Aspirational Community
Furthermore, aspirational brands not only target the people who can afford these products in a given point in time. They also target the so-called aspirational audience, i.e. those people that at a certain point in the future have the probability to be able to purchase those products too.
Virtual reality brings the brand closer to these people who can see and experience it from home, have easier access to the brand, and can interact with the brand itself. This also helps keep the aspirational community highly engaged over a longer period of time.
Finally, some of the charm surrounding aspirational brands doesn’t reside only in the quality and/or performances of the products. It also resides in the feeling of being part of a community of those who own that particular product. And it also partly leverages the so called ‘invidious consumption’, where showing off to others is part of the pleasure connected to owning the brand. It’s also one of the reasons why people accept to pay higher prices to own a certain product. Social VR allows aspirational brands to empower their customers to leverage the interconnected world to magnify this effect.
Social VR Creates a Dialogue
So, we can say that social virtual reality creates a dialogue in our busy world. It allows brands to create their VR presence to increase customers’ trust and engagement, and build a strong emotional bond with a brand. It also gives a sexier and rounded experience of a product. Providing more insights and information, the purchase also becomes more ‘intellectual’, novel and more memorable.
About the Author
Martina Ori, PhD, is Vice President Business Development & Corporate Strategy at Hyperfair, Inc., a San Francisco-based SaaS company that created the world’s leading platform for enterprise events in virtual reality. Martina leads the strategic and operational vision of Hyperfair’s business development and marketing efforts. Passionate about virtual reality, immersive technologies and innovation, frequently featured as guest blogger and speaker about VR at events such as Augmented World Expo and Mobile World Congress.