In recent years, e-commerce has become a crucial part of the retail industry. Businesses are constantly looking for ways to deliver a personalised and immersive experience to their consumers - just as if they were in a real store. And that is exactly how this new era has started; powered by artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, virtual showrooms and more advanced technologies. There is no denying that consumers are keeping up with these trends - a study on consumer behaviour revealed that 81% of consumers prefer going to virtual stores before heading to physical stores.
Businesses across industries are using virtual platforms to promote their products and services without having to set up physical stores. This way, they can ensure that they get a wider reach and increase customer engagement. In this blog, we’ll look into what a virtual store is, the benefits of having one and why consumers prefer visiting a virtual store before heading to a physical store.
What is a Virtual Store?
A virtual store is a digital, online store that allows consumers to browse and purchase products or services through the internet. These stores are fueled by virtual and augmented reality technologies to bridge the gap between in-store and digital experiences. Consumers from anywhere around the world can access these stores at any point in time.
Businesses use virtual platforms to provide their consumers with a more personalised and interactive experience. These stores also allow consumers to connect in real-time, get immediate detailed answers on products and services and are cost-effective. When compared to the physical store, there are many differences between the two, which include:
1. Operating Hours
While physical stores have specific operational timings when consumers can visit and shop, virtual platforms do not have any such restrictions and can be accessed by consumers 24/7.
2. Overhead Costs
Virtual experience platforms have lower overhead costs as compared to physical stores, which have higher overhead costs, such as rent, maintenance, labour costs, utilities and more.
3. Customer Experience
Both virtual and physical stores offer an interactive consumer experience, but the difference is that physical stores offer a more tangible shopping experience, while the former offers convenience and accessibility.
4. Product Variety
A virtual store offers a wider variety of products with customisation options as it is not limited by physical space. As for physical stores, they are limited by their physical location and space available to display the products and so, the options are limited.
5. Customer Service
A physical store provides its consumers with face-to-face interactions with employees, while virtual platforms rely heavily upon chatbots and email support for their customer service.
Both virtual and physical stores are essential for businesses to grow, especially in this day and age of technology.
Why Do Businesses Need Virtual Stores?
Having a virtual store complements a physical store and gives a chance to businesses to create a lasting first impression on their consumers. With the aid of interactive 3D models, these stores can offer consumers an engaging shopping experience while providing many benefits to businesses as well, such as:
1. Increase in Conversion Rates
Statistics show that virtual stores that have 3D product demos increase the conversion rate of product interactions by almost 94%, and the interactions with product pages also increase. Businesses can apply 3D product demos to their products rather than going for traditional photos. This way, they empower consumer interaction and increase the chances of buying their products.
2. Increase in Conversion of Online Customers to In-Store Customers
A virtual store is extremely beneficial for businesses seeking to reinvent their marketing and sales strategies to get more traffic in their physical stores. Once the consumers have had a good online interaction with the businesses, they are more likely to visit the physical store to make purchases and even recommend them to others.
3. Reduction in Product Returns
One of the biggest challenges that businesses face is the number of returns they get from consumers. In a virtual store, which integrates virtual and augmented reality, consumers get a virtual assessment of the product, based on which they make informed decisions about the purchase. They can even try the products or see their appearance in a particular setting before making a purchase.
4. Improvement in Customer Engagement
A study reveals that 51% of consumers prefer to assess a product using 3D product demos before purchasing it. This way, the consumer can get an in-depth understanding of the product while seeing it from all angles before making a decision. A virtual platform also allows consumers to connect with their friends and family to make a collective purchase decision about the product.
5. Increase in Sales
A virtual store provides a larger platform for showcasing products. This gives consumers a wider variety to choose from. Moreover, when virtual platforms are combined with 3D product demos and 3D product configurators, consumers get the opportunity to customise and try on the product before making a purchase. This offers more clarity about the products and helps them with better-informed purchase decisions, thus improving sales while also reducing the risk of return.
6. Enhance Customisation
Virtual experience centres, when paired with 3D product configurators, offer a personalised shopping experience to consumers. They do this by providing tailor-made products with a customised shopping experience that leads to improved customer satisfaction, which, in turn, contributes to an increase in sales.
7. Valuable Data Collection
Digital showrooms provide businesses with valuable information about their consumers’ behaviour, including their purchase history, preferences, demographics and more. This data can help businesses to improve the consumer experience and tweak their products and services if needed.
Why Do Consumers Enjoy Virtual Stores?
A new study has found that 70% of consumers who shop from a virtual store have made at least one purchase. This attributes to the fact that they are easily and conveniently accessible and provide multiple options to choose from.
Here are some of the reasons why consumers enjoy a virtual store experience:
Virtual experience platforms offer consumers the opportunity to shop from anywhere, at any time, without having to travel to a physical location. For instance, Gucci Gardens is a virtual store that anyone from anywhere in the world can access. The consumer is not restricted by time or location and can make a purchase at any point.
2. Wider Range of Options
Since a virtual store is not limited by the space constraints of a physical location, it offers consumers a wider range of options to choose from. And when these stores are integrated with 3D product configurators, consumers can customise the products as per their liking.
3. Easy Comparisons
Virtual stores make it easy for consumers to compare products and their prices from different vendors. They also provide access to product information and customer reviews, all of which allow consumers to make well-informed decisions about purchases.
4. Personalised Experience
Combining a virtual store with a 3D product configurator helps create a personalised experience for consumers. Consumers have the liberty to customise almost every aspect of the product, be more involved in the design process, and feel a sense of ownership over the final product.
5. Contactless Shopping
One of the other reasons consumers prefer visiting a virtual platform is because it allows them to avoid crowded physical stores and provides them with a safe shopping experience. It is also beneficial for those who do not have the time to go and make a purchase physically.
A virtual store can be an essential asset for businesses in shaping customer perceptions about the brand and driving them to the physical store. In fact, many companies, such as Dyson, Charlotte Tilbury, Dior, Gucci and Ralph Lauren, are using these online stores to create a lasting impression on consumers worldwide.
Exhibit 360 helps businesses strengthen their digital presence innovatively as a first point of contact with potential customers by leveraging immersive 3D solutions. Contact us to learn how you can improve your virtual presence too!