Immersive commerce: a game-changer for brand executives

Ladies and gentlemen, the hype is real – the retail landscape is evolving. After more than two decades of e-commerce setting the stage as a must-have channel side by side with brick-and-mortar shopping, the way we understand and implement online stores is about to change again, and that is through immersive commerce. 

Today’s consumers demand an end-to-end shopping experience that will give them the convenience of shopping on their mobile devices with the physical engagement and feel of a physical store, and more. Yet classic e-commerce is limited, and achieving this seamless brand journey is extremely challenging for most brands to accomplish. But now, with the onset of immersive commerce, these two worlds – digital and physical, can finally meet. 

If you’ve ever wondered what immersive commerce really is, here’s a breakdown of what it’s all about and why it should be on your brand’s bucket list for 2024. 

Atay Schulberg
Atay Schulberg

What is immersive commerce? 

Immersive commerce utilizes cross-device virtual reality (VR) and other innovative technologies to create 3D interactive and engaging online shopping experiences, elevating traditional e-commerce into a more dynamic and interactive journey. 

With immersive commerce, customers interact with brands on a much deeper and more intuitive level, exploring visually stunning brand environments, dedicatedly designed to reflect the brand’s identity, messaging, and aesthetics. While similar to a customer strolling through a physical shop, the virtual journey can be much more vivid and visceral. Since we are in the digital world, brands can collect real-time insights, constantly optimizing the experience, eventually leading to much higher conversion and loyalty. Immersive commerce can offer many other features you couldn’t do before while shopping online, such as virtually trying on products, product configuration, and richer 3D user interface (UI) environments, leading to more engaging and informed purchase decisions. 

With immersive commerce, customers can walk into an online store like a physical one, explore the shelves, different products, and even talk to AI assistants like real humans.  

Therefore, immersive commerce is a game-changer for customers shopping and interacting with retail brands. Customers get to shop online with greater immersion and presence, leading to better customer engagement and adjusted sales, with a unique buyer’s journey uncommon in traditional e-commerce and physical stores. 

In a traditional e-commerce experience, customers rely primarily on images, product descriptions, and reviews to purchase. Immersive commerce adds more profound meaning to the shopping experience, bridging the gap between the online and physical worlds and creating a better shopping experience.   

The different types of immersive commerce 

There are various types of immersive commerce solutions that you can implement in your retail business. Here are the most popular ones.  

Web-based VR stores 

While most of us (still) do not own a VR headset, nor use it to browse and shop, web-based virtual shopping is one of the best ways to enable customers to experience your brand in the virtual world. Optimized for the hardware we all carry around in our pockets, mobile devices are used as the main device which brings immersive commerce to everyone.   

Virtual reality (VR) 

VR is the cornerstone of most immersive commerce experiences. VR creates a virtual world where customers can walk into your store and navigate various product displays, interacting with products in an almost life-like manner.  

Therefore, VR can be used in various commerce scenarios, including healthcare, gaming, fashion, education, and entertainment. 

For instance, Lancôme built a virtual store to give its global customers a unique immersive commerce experience shopping in their online store. Their immersive VR experience is very engaging, allowing customers to walk around, interact with products, and even ask a virtual assistant questions. 

VR can be handy in selling products that are difficult to visualize or understand unless physically interacting with them. These include cars and furniture. 

Apart from virtual pop-up stores, retailers can use VR for virtual employee training, which can save a lot of money and lower accident or damage risks. It can also be used for virtual customer service to give customers a more life-like customer service experience regardless of their location.   

360-degree product views eCommerce

360-degree product views have been around for a while. Companies such as Virtools, Matterport, Google, and Amazon have pioneered this technology, allowing brands to create 360-degree videos and images of their products quickly. 

Google pushed this technology to be usable in searches, allowing users to view 360-degree products in Google Shopping and Google Search. Like virtual reality, 360-degree product views allow customers to visualize a product from all angles and make informed purchase decisions. According to data, one company saw up to a 25 percent increase in revenue after implementing this technology.   

The benefits of immersive commerce 

There are various advantages to offering an immersive commerce experience for your customers. Here are the top ones.  

Personalized and owned 

Brand-owned immersive experiences are  easy to personalize, with the brands fully controlling their first-party data and access. Consumers can choose what they want to do and share about themselves, including the products they like and personally identifiable information. Since you have control over the data, you can leverage it to offer unique experiences for each customer, creating a sense of urgency and better conversion, leading to improved sales. 

Accessible and open 

Immersive commerce experiences are open to everyone if they have an internet connection. Most experiences can be had over tablets, phones, desktops, and social media feeds as long as they support the technology. 

Moreover, it is easy to integrate immersive commerce into your current buyer journey without overhauling your brand’s online presence. Therefore, customers can still use the same channels to purchase your products but have a new, more engaging experience than the standard one.   

Phygital value 

Immersive commerce allows you to blend the physical and digital experience of shopping in your store, creating enormous phygital value for your brand. All products shown in 3D, including the store, accurately represent the real deal, making the experience more immersive and intuitive. 

Moreover, customers can immediately associate with a product and understand its use, need, and value, making informed buying decisions. These product and store representations also tap into the emotional aspect of shopping, amplifying the brand message, marketing, and persuading customers to purchase.   

Boosted brand loyalty 

Since they mimic the real world and   can be highly personalized, immersive shopping experiences create a deeper connection between the customer and the brand, boosting brand loyalty and making customers brand advocates for your business.Immersive commerce allows you to tell your real brand story, which can connect emotionally with the customer and make them repeat buyers.  

For instance, through your virtual store, you can offer unique items tied to your brand history that the customer can purchase after learning about your brand and its history. These items can be provided for free with another item they buy from the virtual store.  

This way, the customer will form an emotional connection to your brand and become a loyal, repeat customer.  

Begin your immersive commerce journey 

As more brands enter the virtual world, immersive commerce is quickly becoming the future of retail through personalized shopping experiences. By including other aspects of immersive commerce, such as gamification and phygital design, you can capture the attention of a wider audience and give your customers a truly unique online shopping experience through your virtual store. 

By Atay Schulberg

For a list of the sources used in this article, please contact the editor.  

For over 15 years Atay Schulberg has been obsessed with bridging physical and digital brand engagement for global brands. Lecturing about what he loves most, brought him to ByondXR, where he is taking brands by the hand and flying them to the metaverse. 

ByondXR is a retail technology company that offers an immersive commerce platform to help brands, retailers, and wholesalers. ByondXR builds virtual store simulations, creates beautiful dynamic virtual showrooms, three dimensional (3D) visualizer for visual design, product placement, and more.