In what may be the e-commerce tech launch of the year, Myer and eBay have revealed the world’s first fully functional virtual reality department store.
Myer and eBay Australia have unveiled a world first today — a fully functioning virtual reality (VR) department store.
The VR experience allows customers to shop Myer’s eBay store using eBay Sight Search™. The technology allows shoppers to browse, select and add to cart more than 12,500 Myer products, all through a fully immersive VR experience.
The VR store is fully integrated into eBay Australia’s API, which means Myer’s full product range, pricing and stock information is available and updated in real time.
“The products you see are the live products with the same prices and same promotions that you’ll see on the Myer eBay store,” Mark Cripsey, Chief Digital & Data Officer at Myer, told Power Retail. “So the actual brain and the data that underpins the VR experience is the same as you get on the Myer eBay store.”
Rather than a separate shopping channel, the VR experience represents a different access point to the Myer eBay store.
“We genuinely didn’t want to build something on the side. We wanted to know that we could use this capability in the future. So it is fully integrated through the eBay API and the eBay Myer store. Whatever stock is in the Myer eBay store is available through the virtual store at exactly the same time,” Steve Brennen, Senior Director Marketing & Retail Innovation at eBay, told Power Retail.
Jooman Park, Managing Director eBay Australia and New Zealand said: “Until now we have not had the opportunity to physically experience the transformative effect VR could have on retail. By building the world’s first VR Department Store here in Australia and observing the reactions of thousands of consumers who trial the experience, we have the opportunity to lead the world into the next phase of retailing.
“It’s been important to us that we don’t just replicate the e-commerce experience in a virtual environment. We are taking the best elements of traditional retail and expanding on them to improve browsing, selection, personalisation and efficiency.”
Myer CEO and Managing Director, Richard Umbers said: “This exciting collaboration with eBay reaffirms our commitment to omnichannel and building a truly contemporary and innovative retail offer.
“Our customers can now immerse themselves in the experience of shopping inside a Myer store from wherever they may be, with product information updated in real time to ensure everyone can keep up with the latest offers from Myer.”
From today, eBay and Myer are offering customers the opportunity to receive their own shopticals (specially designed virtual reality viewers) to start their VR shopping experience. 15,000 shopticals will be available free of charge from www.ebay.com.au/VR.
How it works
- Download: the eBay VR Department Store app is available for download from today, with the experience accessible using eBay shopticals or another VR device.
- Personalise: at the beginning of the experience the shopper selects the product categories of most interest to them. As you browse products and categories other products that might be of interest are suggested. As you explore the VR world, your shopping habits are analysed and the experience personalised to your profile.
- Browse: using eBay Sight Search™, the shopper views a product in the store. By holding your gaze on it, the product is selected and automatically floats towards you. Fully rendered 3D product images are available for the top 100 available products. Product departments are easily accessible and browsable.
- Research: Product details and other relevant information — like stock levels, delivery options and returns policies — are easily accessible with just a turn of the head.
- Purchase: shoppers just hold their eyes on the ‘Add to Basket’ icon to complete their purchases via the eBay app.
While the technology has been under development for the past 12 months, the key for Myer and eBay was getting it in front of shoppers and learning from their interactions.
“We could see the potential VR had for retail so we decided to bring it to the Australian consumer,” Brennen told Power Retail. “We really forced ourselves to challenge what VR would look like and how we could differentiate it from the existing shopping experiences.”
Mark Cripsey, Chief Digital & Data Officer at Myer said: “One philosophical point of difference that I think eBay and Myer both share is while other organisations might be doing research in meeting rooms or in labs, we’re taking it to our customers.
“The feedback we’ll be getting over the next few months will come from interviewing our customers. We’ll be seeing analytics behind how long they spend in the experience, what they looking at, what they’re buying. All these data points will help inform what comes next.”
As a world first, the tech and the experience is not without its challenges. Access to VR devices remains limited largely to tech enthusiasts at this stage, although this is changing. Money spent on VR devices on eBay has gone up 444 percent in the past year alone, although that is from a very low base. eBay is also making available 15,000 of its shoptical devices through its site, which will help customers access the experience.
“This is the start of a growth curve,” said Brennen. “The access problem will start to be solved, so brands like us [eBay and Myer] need to keep challenging what the VR experience will look like. That’s as much about us having a point of view as it is about getting customers to shape the next level of evolution.”
Physically building the VR environment has also been challenging. While the majority of the 12,500 available product images have been pulled straight from the Myer eBay store in 2D, the top 100 available products have been fully rendered in 3D, which is particularly complex and time consuming.
Payment integration is another challenge that is yet to be resolved. While you can add items to your cart through the VR experience, when you are ready to purchase, you are pulled out of the VR experience and your cart opens up on the eBay app.
While there will inevitably be some challenges and disconnects with any such new experience, eBay is clear that this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of retail VR potential.
“We do talk about it as a game changer for the consumer space,” said Brennen. “When we look at it with just a commerce lens it has the capability to disrupt. We think this will be the future, but we’re clear that this is a first glimpse.”
Glimpse of the future
With the VR store, both eBay and Myer are testing the potential of this new tech and getting it in front of customers to gather data and refine the offering.
The potential for this technology is massive. From Myer’s point of view, Cripsey talks about interactive digital change rooms where you can visualise your digital avatar trying on different outfits, or see what different furniture or homewares look like in your house.
Social shopping is another huge possibility, being able to digitally shop with friends via virtual reality.
“Imagine shopping a boutique in London from your sofa in Sydney with your sister who lives in New York,” said Brennen.
True personalisation and contextual relevance is another exciting possibility. Brennen talks of a personalised VR store that only shows relevant products and brands in the right size.
“This really is a first step for us and where it goes is unbelievably exciting,” said Brennen.