This post originally appeared on ICMI and is republished here for your convenience.
With the launch of Oculus Rift, HTC and now PlayStation VR, the future of fully immersive entertainment experiences has arrived. Now, you can climb to the summit of Everest, dive to the depths of the deepest oceans and go to moon as Neil Armstrong, all from the comfort of your own home. But VR is about much more than just games.
The world’s largest businesses have invested billions in the technology, and experts expect VR (and augmented reality) to generate about $150 billion in revenue as soon as 2020. While hardware will swallow up the majority of this sum, sales of content and business-based applications should also grow rapidly. VR is prime real-estate for sales and customer service vendors.
Virtual shopping experiences
Despite the rise of mobile and internet shopping, a massive 90 percent of retail sales still take place in brick and mortar stores. If you take the typical buying decision process consumers make when purchasing clothes, it’s not hard to understand why.
When buying clothes, most people want to see how garments look and fit before spending the cash. Generous return policies offered by some online retailers provide a solution of sorts, but VR combined with augmented reality (AR) will revolutionize the way home shoppers ‘try before they buy.’
VR and AR both use computer-generated images and text to create immersive experiences for the persons viewing them. Whereas VR can simulate entire environments digitally, AR can blend virtual reality with contents in the real world. Consequently, AR could allow consumers to try clothes on virtually, or offer them the chance to see big ticket items, such as furniture, staged within their home.
Taking omni-channel to the next level
The innate desire to try before we buy also effects conversion rates of e-commerce sites and their brick and mortar equivalents. In store, sources suggest the percentage of shoppers who become buyers varies between 20 and 40 percent; online that drops to between two and four percent.
In response, many retailers have concentrated on developing omni-channel experiences. This has proven effective for retailers seeking to improve their customer experience, loyalty and ultimately sales. Virtual shopping promises to take the scope for engaging with consumers through an omni-channel approach to another level entirely.
In partnership with Myer, eBay recently launched the world’s first virtual reality department store. Shoppers are now able to download an app on their phone and use a cardboard VR kit to visit the virtual store. The store displays products based on areas of interest nominated by the shopper. Then, via specially produced tech called Sight Search, they are able to select products just by looking at them before making a purchase.
Improved tutorials and customer service
For many industries, providing comprehensive tutorials so that customers know how to use their product is an essential part of the customer service package. Rather than remote troubleshooting offered over the phone or via email, virtual reality will make it easier to give tutorials in a ‘hands-on’ manner.
Virtual reality will allow businesses to show and tell customers how to use products to their maximum potential. And from a customer loyalty perspective, the tech will be able to help brands reach customers through VR experiences that educate and entertain.
Rather than being passive consumers of content, immersive VR experiences will help engage people better. At the same time, customer service will become more interactive, offering businesses the chance to answer questions with demonstrations in real-time and in a manner that is more appealing than a boring support page.
More effective training
It’s not just customers that businesses can better engage through VR. No matter what size, every business needs to train their staff. VR training will allow businesses to deliver tailored information in a manner that is easier to absorb than data delivered by book or video.
From a sales perspective, VR opens up the possibility of more immersive simulation training. Because it encourages participants to theorize, experiment and adjust, simulation training delivers a deeper level of learning. Given that most employees forget what they learn just a few days after traditional training, VR simulations can help businesses develop training that sticks.
No one likes making mistakes, but learning from failure is one of the most effective training techniques around. By providing a low-risk training environment where employees can make decisions without consequences, VR simulations will also allow employees to make mistakes without affecting real customers.
Reducing barriers to globalization
Despite already living in a digital age, the number of business trips taken annually in the US is a staggering 488 million. The reason? Skype, Google Hangouts and other video conferencing software are great, but they still create barriers you don’t get with face-to-face-interaction, which VR could reduce.
A common sales stereotype is the well-travelled ‘road warrior' - a type of rep that constantly travels between sales meetings, across the world, and spends more time sitting in business class than actually talking to people.
VR technology could allow sales reps to travel to meetings the world over, without the need to ever leave their office. Developers are strengthening the experience and the simulation of physical presence will likely continue to advance over the years. This will allow sales reps to detect more subtle body cues and expressions.
How do you think virtual reality technology could impact the world of sales and service? Share your thoughts below.
Find out more about connecting with customers in the digital world by downloading NewVoiceMedia’s whitepaper, ‘Disruptive customer care: how to do it every day.’
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About Ashley Unitt
Ashley founded NewVoiceMedia to exploit the obvious benefits of putting an enterprise-class contact centre in the cloud, and now serves as Chief Scientist, leading the architecture and research teams.
Prior to NewVoiceMedia he spent ten years at Teamphone.com Ltd developing innovative CTI software solutions including voicemail systems, hot-desking products and an open source gate keeper.
Ashley's blog will focus on security, PCI-DSS and general cloud computing issues.
Outside of work he spends most of his time running around after his two young children. You can follow Ashley on Twitter at http://twitter.com/aunitt.