Everyone knows what it‘s like to go shopping in person or online, but relatively few people have actually visited a virtual shop. This is despite survey evidence showing that 73% of shoppers think they would prefer a virtual shopping experience to traditional online retail. But what is the customer experience actually like?
What’s the difference?
If we compare the virtual shop customer journey to a typical visit to a store then the first difference is on entering the store. A virtual store, of course, can be set up anywhere. The front door is not necessarily on a high street, but instead the shopper might have followed a direct link. They may have found it on a search engine, or seen an ad. Equally, virtual shops can set up their storefronts anywhere they think their customers might be. Whether that’s an Instagram post or a Facebook page.
Once inside, the customer will be presented with a view similar that they would experience in the actual store. The shop will have been scanned to create a 3D model that customers can navigate through. The same way as they can stroll streets in Apple or Google’s mapping products.
For many customers finding products will be easy, since they are familiar with store layouts. Even if they have never visited the store before then the conventions behind layouts are common enough they are likely to be able to find what they are looking for.
What are the benefits?
Of course, one of the benefits of virtual shopping, like real shopping, is being able to browse. While wondering around a virtual shop, even if they know the section they are heading towards, gives shoppers the chance to browse. And just a click will take the shopper to a product or display that has caught their eye.
However, being a digital experience means that virtual shopping brings advantages over a physical shopping experience. Shoppers can switch to an aerial view. This is so they can quickly navigate around the store, or if they hanker after the typical online experience they can use a search query.
It also allows shoppers to easily find out more information about a product, or about an offer by using tags. Just like tags on real-life products the tags in a virtual store provide relevant information. They are not, however, limited by the typically small size of a physical tag. Instead, they feature as much or as little information as the shop wants. And the tag isn’t limited to product information. It could include details of; other colours the product is available in or similar products or offers that that shopper might want to see.
Finally, when it comes time to check out, virtual shopping, like online shopping, offers the superior experience. Checkout is quick and easy, accepting all payment types and, best of all, having no queue.
Virtual shopping is the latest evolution of online shopping and there is huge demand from shoppers for the experience, especially with the Covid-19 pandemic either closing or limiting access to traditional stores. More than just a novelty, though, virtual shopping helps combine the best of both worlds to give shoppers a superior experience.
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