Could Virtual Experiences Soon Become The Norm For E-commerce?

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    Interactive experiences in virtual environments can help brands increase customer acquisition and engagement, writes Insider Agency founder Ashi Bart.

    Last week, Ralph Lauren unveiled a virtual showroom called 888 House to celebrate the launch of the RL 888 handbag collection. The brand is preparing to return to New York Fashion Week this September for the first time in four years, leveraging an immersive virtual retail experience to attract younger audiences.

    As a lover of all things immersive, I fell in love with Ralph Lauren’s new virtual experience. Set in a desert landscape, 888 House combines 3D modeling and dynamic lighting to create a surreal virtual experience. I navigated through different rooms decorated with rustic walls, equestrian motifs, and simulations of real products available for purchase. I was able to quickly “favorite” these products or purchase them from the brand’s website.

    As I looked around in awe at the gravity-defying virtual store landscape, I couldn’t help but think: Will immersive, interactive virtual experiences like this eventually become the norm for e-commerce? Could the Metaverse eventually reign supreme in this space?

    Many of these branded experiences are now accessible via browser and mobile, and may become even more popular after the release of the Apple Vision Pro headset next year. These virtual spaces offer a variety of exciting new opportunities. You can now chat with other customers through virtual avatars, making online shopping a more social experience. Integrated AR filters let you try out virtual products. Repeated visits accumulate digital collectibles that unlock access to exclusive branded benefits. And AI-Powered Personal Shopping His assistant may be there to greet us and offer personalized recommendations based on our unique tastes.

    If that sounds like sci-fi, think about this. Over the past year, brands like ALO Yoga, Crocs and Hugo Boss have each launched their own immersive virtual experiences. what is their purpose? Create immersive experiences through storytelling and gamification that resonate with digital native customers.

    Of course, there are also business incentives. Acquiring new customers has become more expensive than ever, with digital advertising spending hitting a record high in 2023. Meanwhile, evolving data regulations are making personalized targeting more difficult. (Last week, the European Union introduced the Digital Services Act (DSA), imposing new rules on content moderation and privacy for big tech). Virtual experiences offer brands a valuable new channel for customer acquisition and engagement. These are especially appealing to his Generation Z, who tend to seek experiences that blend physical and virtual reality.

    In the age of TikTok and out-of-home (OOH) advertising, brands are lucky enough to hold their customers’ attention for six seconds. In contrast, in a 3D virtual retail environment, brand experiences can be created based on active user participation, resulting in a more persistent online presence and greater brand affinity. Combined with ecommerce data tracking, it enables brands to build first-party data-driven strategies. These spaces provide cost-effective access to real-time behavioral data such as key demographics, engagement periods and consumer preferences. Brands can use these metrics to customize products for individual customers, try out new products, and build dynamic product market fit.

    Here are some tips for brands looking to engage younger audiences through immersive virtual experiences.

    Set clear goals. Leveraging new channels to amplify your brand’s unique voice is key to creating virtual brand experiences. Brands need to think about their target audience and understand why they are drawn to this type of experience.

    Experiments and tests: Brands should consider starting with immersive marketing activations to gather feedback on engagement before fully investing in virtual experiences.

    Start early and commit. Brands that start testing and building early may find it easier to adapt to customer behavior and preferences, resulting in a more engaging customer experience.

    For brands looking to adapt to the rapidly changing e-commerce landscape, virtual brand experiences offer a great opportunity to nurture customer relationships beyond the confines of the physical world.

    Ashi Bhat is the co-founder of Insider App, which develops blockchain-powered loyalty programs for consumer brands.

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