Why Virtual Showrooms Are Hot – and Getting Hotter

Not everyone wants to be like Amazon.

While the mighty retailer competes through a vast product selection and a frictionless experience, more businesses are going in the opposite direction. They’re using 3D graphics, sound, and video to immerse their customers with their products online instead of sending them to the check-out cart as quickly as possible.

Welcome to the increasingly popular world of virtual showrooms. 

It’s tempting to assume that virtual showrooms are a byproduct of life during the pandemic, when shoppers’ behavior has shifted online suddenly and quickly. But as with so many other post-pandemic trends, Covid-19 accelerated behaviors that were changing already. 

Even before the pandemic, people were spending more time online doing product research before they made purchases in physical stores. This shift posed a challenge for businesses that sell high-consideration products such as automobiles, which people like to touch and feel before buying, and perhaps get advice from a salesperson on technical specs and pricing. During the pandemic, when the entire customer journey has shifted online, that challenge has become more urgent.

This is where virtual showrooms come into play. Let’s take a closer look at a few examples that provide lessons for businesses adopting them.  

Chevrolet Bolt EV

Buying a car is an emotional experience – and a sensory one. Their sizes, shapes, and colors speak to us in different ways as we explore a dealership’s inventory: a calming blue SUV says comfort and safety on crowded streets, but a red sports car? We’re talking adventures on the open road! So how do the auto brands capture that emotional appeal in the digital world?

In 2020, online car configurators became more immersive and assistive. Recent Developments in 3D technology allowed car brands to offer experiences as real as it gets. We recently built an extended reality showroom that brings the 2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV to life. The showroom gives in-market shoppers the opportunity to learn about key features and explore both the exterior and interior of the Bolt EV through an immersive full-screen experience. The showroom includes a full-screen 3D experience on desktop and mobile, featuring a 3D model of the Bolt EV. Shoppers can also walk around the exterior and view the interior of the All-Electric Bolt EV and customize the vehicle color.

It’s not the first time we’ve built a virtual showroom for Chevrolet. In 2017, we pulled off a similar feat for the Chevrolet Cruze in Asia – and you can read more about that here

Fashion Forward

The fashion industry is also a sensible candidate for virtual showrooms. For example, in June 2020, Diesel launched Hyperoom, an immersive space to experience Diesel’s latest denim fashions and footwear. Diesel designed Hyperoom to resemble its physical showroom in Milan. Visitors are greeted by a virtual concierge, and after that, they can view products through 360-degree displays or flat images. Hyperoom is also a storefront where consumers can click through for purchase. 

 Massimo Piombini, CEO of Diesel, commented in an interview that Diesel launched Hyperoom as a response to the pandemic. “One must look for silver linings whenever and wherever possible,” he said.

 Tommy Hilfiger also relied on its virtual showroom to respond to the pandemic. Tommy Hilfiger had already operated a business-to-business virtual showroom before 2020. When the pandemic hit, the company expanded the showroom’s functionality to permit more customers grounded from travel to visit the showroom, order, and reorder the company’s clothing products.  (For more insight, read this article.) 

 As the fashion examples demonstrate, virtual showrooms provide an alternative for a post-pandemic world. They may also provide longer-term benefits such as making the world more sustainable by cutting down on the need for people to travel to a physical showroom.

What’s Next?

We see these trends shaping virtual showrooms in 2021:

  • Going beyond retail to include fashion, financial services, and business-to-business. 
  • Incorporating more augmented and virtual reality to help shoppers better visualize how a product will look in their homes. As we discussed earlier this year, augmented reality is especially promising because it’s easier to integrate with shoppers’ smartphones, among other reasons. 
  • Use of features such as live streaming to inject more e-commerce into the showroom. For more insight, see our recent post about live commerce.

To learn more about how to create a memorable experience with live commerce and many other digital experiences, contact Asher Wren.

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