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Myer gets real with virtual reality shopping

Angela Catterns
Friday, May 20, 2016

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By Angela Catterns

This week the Myer department store announced that it’s built the world’s first virtual reality department store.

The retailer and eBay are giving away what they call ‘Shopticals’ - 15,000 virtual reality headsets made of cardboard. You get them from eBay and from Myer stores.

Once you’ve got hold of your Shoptical, you download the eBay VR Department Store app on your phone and insert your phone into the VR gadget to start virtual shopping.

Inside the virtual store, more than 12,500 products from Myer can be browsed, selected and added to a cart using Sight Search, a way to navigate and make selections and decisions by just looking at an item. Apparently, you just look down at your feet to view your basket – and checkout.

CEO Richard Umbers says the collaboration with eBay creates another dimension to omni-channel marketing.

“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”, he said.

On the demonstration video I watched, Sharyn, from Cedar Creek Qld. says “You could flip the items around so you could see the top bottom and sides!” 

“This is freaky. OMG!” says Simon, from Bondi NSW.  

Jason, from Ferntree Gully Vic. says “This makes it too easy … to spend far too much money!”

That must be music to Myer’s ears!

VR is an acronym I’m hearing on pretty much a daily basis. Virtual Reality is the next big thing.

If you’ve never put on a VR headset, you have to give it a go. It’s mind-bending, as we used to say in the 60’s.

A year or so ago, tech expert and broadcaster Trevor Long came into my radio studio with a preview VR headset from Samsung. When I put it on it fit snugly enough, but felt a bit clunky and slightly heavy, because of course there’s a smart phone inserted at the front of the thing and the whole goggle-like contraption is made of plastic. Google’s goggles, like eBay’s, are made out of cardboard.

I was looking at an underwater scene. In fact I was part of the underwater scene. I WAS underwater. I was a scuba diver! 

It’s awesome, amazing technology, certainly beyond my understanding, but I don’t doubt the VR future is huge.

Everyone’s got skin in the game. Google, Microsoft, Samsung, PlayStation. Facebook’s ‘Oculus Rift’ is the virtual reality headset that started the current VR hysteria. Developed by Palmer Luckey, a 23 year old Californian, it was funded via Kickstarter in 2014 and snapped up by Facebook 2 years later for a whopping $2 billion.

Deloitte Global predicts that VR will have its first billion-dollar year in 2016, with about $700 million in hardware sales, and the remainder from content. VR is likely to have multiple applications; both consumer and enterprise in the longer term, but for now they say the vast majority of commercial activity will focus on video games. 

They don’t expect VR to be used to any great extent in television or movies. Yet.

Mainly because there’s not much VR content around. Yet. 

But the possibilities are endless: VR meetings, conferences, training, real estate inspections, tourism experiences and retail. 

This technology is getting close to being able to teleport us wherever we want to go, just by whacking on a pair of goggles. According to Deloitte Global again, this ambition is enough to keep many companies investing in VR.

On the downside, technologies that require you to wear something on your face have not proven to be mass-market successes. Remember 3D TV and the accompanying glasses? It’s dead. Samsung is not including 3D in any of its new televisions, while LG is only adding 3D to its most expensive models and reducing production of 3D TVs. 

Also on the downside is that you have to change your behaviour to start wearing a VR headset. After a while they wreak havoc with your hair and they can make your face get hot and sweaty.

So 2016 is being seen as a year of VR experimentation, with a number of companies dabbling in VR for sales and marketing purposes. On his website, Trevor Long wonders why you would use the Myer VR Shoptical when you could just as easily use their perfectly good eBay store.

I can answer that. Because just around the corner will surely be the VR app into which you enter your vital statistics - even an image of yourself - and become immersed in trying on piles and racks of clothes. No queuing for a fitting room, no restrictions on the number of items you can take in there, no feeling guilty for taking your time. 

In the VR fitting room, you could check yourself out from every angle for as long as you like and then decide if you want to make the purchase. 

All in the privacy of your own head.

Published: Friday, May 20, 2016

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