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EBay taps mobile to introduce first-ever virtual reality department store

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May 20, 2016

EBay's "shoptical" VR viewer

EBay’s “shoptical” VR viewer

EBay Australia is teaming up with retail brand Myer to bring a forward-thinking way of shopping to consumers in the form of a virtual reality department store, enabling consumers to use a special viewer to inspect products before completing their purchase via the eBay application.

EBay’s self-described virtual department store was designed to allow individuals to immerse themselves inside a Myer store without having to be in the physical location. Using the “shopticals,” or specially-designed VR viewers, shoppers can look at an item, lock eyes on information icons to receive more details about price and shipping and shift their gaze to the “Add to Basket” button to complete the ordering process.

“The eBay virtual department store could definitely encourage other major retailers to roll out their own elevated shopping experiences or at the very least, pay closer attention to all that visually-driven technologies can do for their brand and their consumers,” said Omaid Hiwaizi, president of global marketing at Blippar.

“The eBay application enables consumers to visually browse a range of products that are personalized to them in an experience that is innovative and immersive, which will be successful in attracting and engaging both new and existing consumers.”

The future of shopping
EBay’s decision to introduce the virtual department store could offer major implications for the retail industry – most notably, by pushing VR-enabled marketing strategies to the top of ecommerce brands’ must-have lists.

The peer-to-peer marketplace has joined forces with Australian retailer Myer to enable shoppers to immerse themselves in a new type of experience – one that lets customers browse through more than 12,500 products and add them to a mobile shopping cart via eBay’s Sight Search feature.

Consumers can use a shoptical device, which doubles as a VR viewer, to locate an interesting product. Once they hold their gaze on the item, it will seemingly float toward them.

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EBay’s virtual shopping experience

Shoppers can then lock eyes on the information icons to receive access to additional product details, including shipping, availability and price. If they are ready to purchase the product, they must hold their gaze on the “Add to Basket” button to complete the checkout process within the eBay mobile app.

The virtual department store is linked to eBay Australia’s API, enabling Myer’s entire product range, pricing information and stock details to receive real-time updates.

Individuals can request a shoptical device free of charge by visiting www.ebay.com.au/VR.

Leveraging the best of retail
EBay is aiming to take what it refers to as the best elements of traditional retail and expand on them to enhance efficiency, personalization, browsing and selection, per a blog post published by the online marketplace.

However, it is also likely hoping to boost mobile sales, a strategy that has recently been at the forefront of its initiatives.

An eBay executive at Forrester’s Marketing 2016 Forum claimed that the marketplace continues to optimize its mobile offerings from both transactional and research-oriented standpoints in the hopes of giving more control to its buyers and sellers (see story).

“Any time a consumer’s surroundings, whether physical or virtual, become directly shoppable, the opportunity to drive purchase will always increase,” Mr. Hiwaizi said. “The issue with the eBay shoptical, however, is that consumers may not want to spend most of their time with a VR headset on.

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Consumers can unlock product details with their gaze

“Of course, this is only the first stage on a journey of innovation around a retail experience, but in the end, it will likely be the AR-based solutions that will drive the most mobile sales in particular, prompting a shift from ecommerce to ‘a-commerce.’”

EBay’s virtual department store rollout could also prompt other major retailers to quickly integrate VR solutions into their own offerings – although levels of success will depend on the sector.

“Whether VR becomes a must-have strategy for all retail brands is a function of how well these early tests are executed and adopted – but it is unclear whether it will be relevant for most CPG categories,” Mr. Hiwaizi said. “It’s likely that it will be more useful for luxury or super premium purchases.

“What is certain, however, is that the shopping experience provided by more and more brands will move beyond the traditional, whether that means exploring and incorporating VR, AR, or techniques involving artificial intelligence.”

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Alex Samuely is staff writer on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York. Reach her at alex@mobilemarketer.com.

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