Technology driven innovation, the overarching socio-economic trends and the shifts in consumer behavior are pushing brands to leverage and create more appealing retail experiences for their customers. A new innovative business model to the Retail industry: Virtual Retail or ‘No Stock Retail’ is building up.

With a big leap into buying things, online people seek detailed product descriptions, video reviews, and colorful images when making purchases. Rich and engaging content is what makes a crucial difference between winning and losing. So what news are there on the front of Virtual Reality in retail?

Overall, the industry of virtual reality is in the initial stage so far, with big players like Oculus, Samsung and HTC struggling to fire the customer interest up. On the other hand, VR and AR are trending like never before with thousands of headsets being sold, and the term V-commerce has been already coined for future endeavors. Companies like North face, Alibaba, Lowe’s use VR to boost their brands. The final goal is to create virtual stores where a customer could choose and buy products.

According to Forbes, the future of AR and VR in retail seems to break down into two major use categories. On one hand, AR lends itself well to consumer applications that answer questions such as, “What will it look like in my home? What will it look like on me? Tell me more about how to use this product.” VR, on the other hand, is finding a home in business uses such as store design, shelf assortment and layout, as well as in contextual store walks and real-time store performance, which allow executives to see store data in the context of how the store looks, rather than simply as a chart or list of numbers.

Alibaba, the online retail giant, didn’t hold back with their Single’s Day celebration last year, and showcased Buy+ as a new way for shoppers to browse products in a virtual ‘mall.’ Buy+ is essentially a way for retailers to reach a wide audience and consumers to browse and shop in real-time. The best part? It’s all virtual — just insert your smartphone into a VR headset, strap it in, and start shopping. As for the VR headset, nothing fancy; you can use Google Cardboard or one of the many headsets that cost less than $10.

As soon as you’re inside the ‘mall,’ you’ll come across an array of items marked with blue dots. If you’re interested in an item, stare at it and watch it come to life in a virtual showcase. It’ll pop up, do a few spins, and because Buy+ is integrated with Alipay — Alibaba’s online payment platform — you can actually make a purchase by nodding your head. Easy, simple, and right out of our childhood’s science fiction dreams.

Buy+ by Alibaba

Similar to Alibaba, IKEA took a virtual route (literally if you’re familiar with IKEA’s floorplans) when creating the IKEA Virtual Store. Available to ACT, TAS, QLD and NT residents in Australia, the store lets users ‘walk,’ browse and shop without moving a single foot.

As a consumer, Alibaba and IKEA show us that instead of shopping online and hoping that ‘it’ looks as good in real life as it does in your computer screen, and instead of commuting to a store or mall and hoping that it’ll be in stock, all you have to do is tap a few buttons, strap yourself in, and enter a virtual store. As a retailer, the success and popularity of these virtual reality campaigns show us that pairing your virtual store or mall with virtual advertising can increase your revenue as countless consumers flock to your store.

The gist is that the world is changing, has changed, and will continue to change in a virtual path. So consumer or retailer, be prepared for the virtual reality of shopping.

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