We are witnessing a huge transformation in the B2B and B2C worlds with new-age experiences coming to the front to accelerate hybrid sales strategies such as the virtual store to ease both selling and buying experiences. A virtual store, in simple terms, is a 3D experience powered by AR-VR technologies that allows customers to interact with the product in the virtual space or personalized surroundings.
Most of the organizations, in my experience, struggle to see a return on investment, although they begin with much fanfare, however, soon the charm wanes out and virtual stores are left to be seen as a decorative piece in the channel strategy’s living room.
To address these challenges and generate sustained value, the points outlined below must be taken into consideration as a part of the organization’s channel strategy to drive better customer experience leading to more sales.
Figure 1 Virtual store considerations for sustained value
Faster e-commerce integration: Generally, rolling out virtual stores is predominantly done to create a new channel on the web portal where customers can explore a product. Thereafter, organizations take lot of time to add newer features like e-commerce integration, however, this should be fixed and within 3-6 months after launching the virtual store, e-commerce integration should be done to allow customers to complete the transaction and have a closed-loop experience.
Dynamic updates with the latest content: Initial web 1.0 had started with static pages where refreshing content was not easy. The information on the websites used to be outdated for long periods of time. On similar lines, though virtual stores are interactive, however, not a lot goes into dynamic updating of the content whether it is the 3D model or the accuracy of the information., This results in the lack of trust and poor customer experience. Companies need to invest in the right technologies and tools to create the mechanism for managing the content on a real-time basis - whether it is the information around the product, latest 3D models, etc.
Rich features: Virtual stores should be capable of supporting rich features beyond 3D interaction of products for delivering a comprehensive experience. These features should include:
Figure 2 Trying on the product
Custom configuration for size, color, measurement, texture, etc., for exploring more options. This should be appropriate and fit as per the customer’s specifications limiting physical visit to the store.
Interactive manuals for helping consumers learn how to use or service a product - how to clean an appliance or a window.
Other integrations such as conversational experiences of chat, audio, video, etc., to further ease the buying experience and make it more contextual.
Measurement and analytics: User interaction with the virtual store creates a lot of data in terms of click stream. We need to develop a mechanism to continuously report on the insights gathered in terms of product interaction that can allow the marketing team to better direct their campaigns and engineering team(s) better design based on what the customers are looking for. Such continuous improvements will help in allowing wider adoption of the virtual store.
Speed: In virtual stores, the essence is to get the user interact with the product in its full view contextualized to user needs in terms of 3D models, 360-degree view, size, color, texture, etc., with multiple, dynamic options. The slowness of the product interaction with a lag and buffering will significantly have a negative impact on the experience and reduce the probability of completing the sales. Speed of user interaction should be at the center of design to enable seamless experience during the usage across all devices.
In conclusion, virtual stores fit into both the B2C and B2B worlds, helping customers and prospects in their buying journeys by enabling better understanding of the product through interaction and personalization. Thus, it is crucial for businesses to consider the aforementioned factors as a part of their virtual store strategy to maximize benefits and provide an incredible user experience.