Online commerce reaches immersive reality

Published on the 17/11/2020 | Written by Heather Wright

Virtual shopping experience_Accenture report

A/NZ consumers ready and willing to reward retailers…

Adopting immersive digital commerce technologies provides a clear opportunity for local retailers to boost revenue, with local shoppers ready, waiting and willing to reward retailers using the technology well.

It’s no secret that local shoppers have taken to online and in-app purchasing this year, driven largely by Covid-19 lockdowns, with a slew of reports recording big leaps in ecommerce across Australia and New Zealand. And global Accenture research shows more than 80 percent of consumers are planning on maintaining their increased use of in-app ordering and home delivery services.

What might be more surprising is that local consumers are apparently champing at the bit for more immersive experiences – think mobile AR and Web XR, including immersive experiences across virtual, mixed or augmented reality and high fidelity 3D graphics and 360 degree video – and they’re prepared to reward retailers with more purchases and greater spend.

“For local businesses, adoption of immersive technologies provide a clear opportunity to boost revenue.”

Michelle Grujin, Accenture A/NZ retail industry lead, says while the degree to which consumers polled in Accenture’s Try It. Trust It. Buy It. report are ready for immersive technology was something of a surprise, the results are an ‘immediate call to action for brands’.

“Most people are having experiences fuelled by immersive technologies in their daily lives, in everything from using social media filters to watching sports broadcasts,” Grujiin told iStart.

“This gradual familiarisation is rapidly influencing expectations for immersive experiences in digital commerce too.”

She says potentially the most significant bottom-line finding for A/NZ businesses is that 68 percent of Australian consumers expect to buy more from brands that allow them to make use of immersive technology.

“This is a ringing endorsement of the fact immersive technologies are bridging the perceptual divide between physical and digital products, increasing Australians’ confidence that products will meet their expectations by six percent – which is notably higher than the Asia Pacific increase of two percent.”

While New Zealand results weren’t available Grujin says the synergy across markets would suggest immersive technology is adding a valuable dimension that Kiwi consumers are also likely feeling the benefits from.

“Technology is a consistent problem solver, and reducing the perceived pain points of online purchasing, like visualisation, can only increase consumer confidence no matter where you’re based,” she says.

More than half of consumers surveyed said they’re more likely to remember brands that regularly engage them with immersive, and 54 percent of the Australian respondents said they will pay more for products they can customise or personalise using immersive technologies.

Ben Morgan, Accenture New Zealand managing director, says Kiwi retailers need to stop treating their e-commerce platforms as digital platforms.

“Fashion retailers such as Adidas and ASOS are using augmented reality for customers to virtually try on products and visualise how they will look in multiple settings,” he notes. “Kiwi retailers need to reimagine their e-commerce offerings to be successful in the years to come.”

Globally, Accenture says 64 percent of the world’s leading consumer brands are already starting to invest in immersive experiences. Across A/NZ, Grujin says mobile AR enabling product visualisation, navigation, games and entertainment; Web XR and game engine software are leading the charge. Built on the widely available Unity and Unreal platforms, game engine software is behind product configurators that allow consumers to virtually customise, visualise and explore high-fidelity 3D products in real time.

As to practical examples, Emirates is using VR technology to offer 3D models of its cabins, enabling travellers to make informed choices when selecting their seats and to preview the environment to make the most of their time on board. High end beauty retailer Dior is offering a VR store, based on its flagship Paris store, with a 360 degree, 3D experience which makes shopping online less transactional – customers are encouraged to browse and ‘connect’ to the products, and the brand. YouTube’s AR solution has been leveraged by MAC Cosmetics to enable customers to test out MAC lipsticks and shop while watching makeup tutorials. And Toyota’s AR experience helps consumers self-educate, selecting the car model and standard features they want to explore, no app required. The virtual car tour is available through banner ads on social media allowing Toyota to scale its reach.

“Consumers see immersive technologies as foundational for future online shopping experience,” Grujin says.

“On average, a full two-thirds of consumers think that immersive technologies will be important for merchandising and selling electronics over the next five years. And of all the media that influence purchasing, immersive is the only one that consumers see growing in the future.

“With such clear customer indicators of growth, immersive tech is not only enhancing established areas of operations, it’s driving scale in its own right.”

While it might be the big brands such as Adidas currently harnessing the technologies, Grujin says AR, VR, 360 degree video and 3D content no longer novelties and are increasingly affordable and accessible for smaller brands.

“For local businesses, adoption of immersive technologies provide a clear opportunity to boost revenue,” she says.

“When consumers can try, touch and buy products online with confidence they are more satisfied and more likely to become repeat customers and brand promoters. More satisfied customers means fewer returns, and fewer returns reduces restocking expenses, operational and resource strain and environmental impacts. All this value starts with brands investing in immersive experiences.”

But getting the journey underway means making wise investments. Grujin says that means addressing some fundamentals:

Strategy: Secure executive buy-in and alignment with business, marketing and sales strategies

Design: Be authentic with experience-led solutions that align with the brand purpose and needs of target buyers

Technology: Develop a practical plan for shedding the weight of legacy technology investments while exploring new approaches

Operations: Establish a process for 3D asset design, development and optimisation

Trust: Protect customers’ trust by respecting and protecting their personal data

“The pandemic is reinventing buying behaviours. Immersive technologies are maturing and powerful brands and media platform giants are investing. Consumers are energised and the advent of 5G will fuel their enthusiasm with richer digital content,” Grujin says.

“As much as consumers love the convenience of digital commerce, there is no purchasing certainty when they shop online for products they haven’t experienced in person. Brands have tried to solve this inherent issue almost from the dawn of e-commerce, but product videos, influencer partnerships and generous return policies are not enough.

“The perceptual divide between physical and digital could cost sales growth opportunities in product categories that consumers buy online today. Brands are also missing out on expanding sales in categories like automotive and luxury that don’t sell well online because people are wary to buy these products from a distance.

“With consumers more open to buying more categories online in the wake of COVID-19, the pressure is on brands to bridge this divide now, and immersive technologies are presenting the vehicle to do just that.”


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