eBay Partners with Australian Retailer for Virtual Reality Shopping
It seems that using a website to shop online is outdated now, and virtually wandering around a store is the future. That is, according to eBay at least. The eCommerce giant is taking a new direction, one that sees them moving away from simply a place to buy second-hand T-shirts and vintage knick-knacks, and instead aiming to rival the likes of Amazon and Jet as a genuine and reputable online store. To achieve this, eBay has joined forces with one of Australia’s biggest and longest standing department stores, Myer, to deliver a potentially game-changing virtual reality shopping experience.
To browse in this virtual store, one simply has to download the native app, put on a VR headset (20,000 Google Cardboard headsets nicknamed “Shopticals” have been given away) and they then have the ability to view approximately 12,500 Myer products. Using technology called “Sight Search,” shoppers can zoom in and inspect certain items by holding their gaze upon them for several seconds; likewise to find their way to other areas of the virtual Myer. The VR store is also said to adapt to the shoppers’ item preferences by being personalized to every user. How-to guides and more info on the process is found on the official site.
Currently only available in Australia, eBay will no doubt pray to the eCommerce gods that the VR shopping trial is an unequivocal success so they can take on the next logical step: bring VR shopping to the USA. With eCommerce in general having such huge potential in America, one has to wonder if eBay could partner with the likes of large US chains such as Wal-Mart, Target, or Macy’s, and really take virtual reality shopping to a whole other level if US shoppers get on board.
In an interview with eBay Australia’s Steve Brennan, Senior Director of Marketing and Retail Innovation, it was discussed exactly what potential VR shopping had for the future. “We are excited about the next chapter and can definitely see the potential transformative effects that VR could have on retail,” said Brennan. “We also know that consumers are particularly keen to get their hands on this technology. At eBay we are always challenging ourselves to do new brave things that enhance the shopping experience and as part of this we are always exploring new technologies and new partnerships.”
However, a VR shopping experience perhaps isn’t quite the home run it might think it is. Users can of course browse the store, view items, and add them to a basket, yet actually paying for the products will require the shopper to take off the headset, log in to their eBay account, and simply use conventional online payment methods as normal. Motion sickness is another aspect that may trouble potential shoppers, as the process of your mind thinking it is moving, whilst your body stays still, is unnerving for many.
As well, online shopping is about convenience: the ability to pick up a T-shirt on Amazon whilst on your lunch break is something that many people love about e-shopping. Can we really picture ourselves putting on a VR headset at our office desk or a local park, and wandering around virtual department stores? Many people still choose to shop in a brick and mortar store for the social aspect, so if VR shopping isn’t so convenient or communal, then what exactly is it? For now, perhaps a novelty shopping gimmick is all, but if Australians really get into VR shopping and make it a success, then who knows how big shopping virtually could become.