Virtual Reality - A shot in the arm for Retail Malls?

Shop at Macy’s in New York’s Time Square, then to Australia’s Freedom Foods, and finally take a stroll through Tokyo’s Matsumoto Kiyoshi flagship store, all from the comfort of your living room.

17 Nov 2016

By Letty Lee

VR Retail
Shop at Macy’s in New York’s Time Square, then to Australia’s Freedom Foods, and finally take a stroll through Tokyo’s Matsumoto Kiyoshi flagship store, all from the comfort of your living room. Sounds impossible? In fact that what half a million people did in China during the launch of Alibaba’s Buy+ Virtual Reality platform, as part of their Singles Day (11 November 2016) promotion.

Users simply had to download Alibaba’s Taobao app, slip it in the back of their cardboard VR headsets and they could immediately start their journey visiting partner flagship stores overseas and then make purchases by utilizing Alibaba’s Alipay platform by staring at a pop up “Buy Now” button. This whole process is not only fun, but an engaging new way for consumers to pursue online-shopping.

Does this spell the end for physical retail? Not quite. As much as VR can bridge the gap between online and offline sales channels, the reverse is also true. This is a clear example of how retailers can utilize technology to create an omni-channel experience for their users. With virtual reality, online payment platforms and a thriving e-commerce industry, retailers can buy and sell globally – bringing the physical landscape online and reaching customers overseas.

Imagine the possibilities that this can bring to the retail scene in Singapore – we’re known globally as a shopper’s paradise, so why not bring the shopping experience to those residing outside of our country? Landlords of iconic shopping malls can embrace technology, allowing Singaporeans convenience in the form of online shopping – and at the same time make their products available to shoppers overseas. This allows them to win new domestic/local customers, who otherwise might not have stepped into the malls for various reasons, either because of a lack of awareness or because the store is located at a spot where the customer doesn’t usually patronize/ go to.

The only barrier for consumers to this technology is the high cost of VR headsets – Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR, Samsung Gear VR or HTC Vive are some of the more popular brands that are famous in the Video Game industry can set users back by five to nine hundred dollars. However, with the introduction of Google Cardboard, which can be as affordable as ten dollars, this is a bridge that can easily be built.

On another note, although virtual reality might make it more enticing and convenient for users to shop online, it still cannot replicate the physical shopping experience totally. The ability to touch, smell and interact with products are still impossible through virtual channels, and it will be a long time more until technology will allow users to try on or sample clothing on a virtual platform.

With over $17.7 billion dollars’ worth of goods sold on Singles Day through the Alibaba platforms globally – who says retail is dead?

Disclaimer:

The views and opinions in these articles belong to the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of CBRE. Our employees are obliged not to make any defamatory clauses, infringe or authorize infringement of any legal rights. Therefore, the company will not be responsible for or be liable for any damages or other liabilities arising from such statements included in the articles.