Customer-focused companies need to understand the buyer’s journey, from the buyer’s first exposure to a brand all the way through loyal purchases. New technologies are creating more immersive and memorable experiences for shoppers, and companies must adapt their buyer’s journey to grab attention and increase sales.
The building blocks of the journey—awareness, consideration, and decision—remain the same, but how businesses reach customers through each of these steps is different with new technologies at our disposal. I believe 3D, augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR) are poised to completely reshape the consumer journey in a variety of exciting ways, so businesses concerned with customer engagement and loyalty would do well to consider what these new technologies have to offer.
Shop in the Store…From Your Couch
Many people love shopping but hate the crowds, noise, and stresses that shopping in brick-and-mortar stores usually entails. Using VR technology, customers will soon be able to browse physical stores from the comfort and safety of their living rooms, combining VR with AR. Using a VR headset, customers can look around and explore stores. If the customer wants to investigate a specific product, an AR display will appear next to the item providing a product description, price, and any related offers.
Some companies may want to push this technology to the next level and allow customers to complete purchases digitally using VR technology, but many analysts predict that such systems would be used more for purchase planning than for making actual purchases. Most consumers still expect and enjoy the physical interaction of making a purchase, but the added layer of convenience of digital transactions and shipping could draw a great deal more e-commerce for some brands.
Research with VR would be an invaluable tool for customers. Most hesitant buyers worry whether the cost matches the value of a product, and a virtual interaction with a potential purchase could eliminate a great deal of uncertainty. Not only can VR improve sales, but it can also enhance consumer confidence, resulting in happier customers and fewer returns.
Many businesses have been relying on apps for better customer experience, but VR and AR may have the power to replace those completely.
Augmented Dressing Rooms
Shopping for clothes and shoes is stressful for many people, but AR could solve that. Virtual dressing rooms could allow shoppers to see how new clothes look and fit without having to physically try them on, cutting down on time and energy spent in physical stores. With AR technology, a shopper could try on dozens of new outfits in dramatically less time than it would take to do the same in a physical store.
Some companies are taking the marriage of virtual and physical stores a step further and creating digital twin stores. Using real-time physical store data for inventory and product availability and VR technology, stores can construct a virtual recreation of their physical location. Merging the online experience with the physical retail experience in a 3D environment not only improves the customer experience through convenience and immersion, but also helps businesses react more quickly and effectively to customer trends and preferences.
Potential shoppers could tune in from anywhere and shop from the comfort of their own homes. As they browse this virtual store, stock levels update in real time. New products will appear on shelves as they are added to the physical store’s inventory and disappear once they’ve sold out. Customer data gathered from these experiences can help stores redesign their physical locations more easily. Products could be repositioned based on relevance and consumer interest, and shelf layouts in the virtual store can be changed on the fly.
Enhance the Buyer’s Journey
3D, AR, and VR technologies improve every step of the buyer’s journey. In the past, one of the hardest tasks for companies was getting customers’ attention amid a sea of competitors. Then, they needed to establish their value as compared to those competitors. Finally, they had to convince the customer to commit to a purchase. These new technologies not only streamline this process, but they also provide more meaningful experiences for customers who then make purchases with more confidence.
In the awareness phase, customers can have firsthand interactions with products from virtually anywhere. Companies can create more memorable and immersive marketing experiences that leave longer lasting impressions on potential customers. In terms of the consideration phase of the buyer’s journey, customers can now try out a product before committing to a purchase. Finally, these technologies allow consumers to make purchasing decisions more confidently and with added convenience.