Why Immersive Commerce Is the Next Standard in Customer Experience


Immersive commerce is going mainstream, and the shift to e-commerce has given it a big push. Only 36% of U.S. consumers had experienced augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) experiences at the end of 2019, but Forrester predictedOpens a new window that number would approach 50% by the end of 2021. And that percentage will keep trending upward as more brands and retailers meet consumer demand for immersive experiences in ecommerce. A September 2020 Harris Poll found that two-thirds of U.S. consumers would be more interested in shopping online with stores that offer 3D/AR product images, and 42% would pay more for a product they could experience in an immersive way.

As with many new technologies, there’s been a lot of attention focused on the wow factor in the immersive customer experience (CX). That’s understandable because many of the technologies that enable immersive experiences have their origins in Hollywood’s special effects industry. However, what makes immersive compelling for ecommerce isn’t the technology itself; it’s the fact that consumers expect these types of connected shopping experiences that evoke a sense of emotion.

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Why Customers Prefer Immersive Experiences 

Especially when customers are considering a high-end purchase, they want to see the details up close before they commit to spending. For example, a shopper who’s looking at a $6,000 sofa online is unlikely to feel like they can get enough information about the furniture’s appearance and construction from 2D images on a white background. However, if they can rotate a 3D image of that same sofa, look even closer at the leather grain than they would in a showroom, and even see how the fabric stretches, they can get a fuller sense of how it will look and feel in their home. 

That’s even more true when they can view their customized sofa with augmented reality in their living room. When customers have more information and a clearer sense of how the product will work for them, they’re more comfortable making an online purchase, even for high ticket-value items like premium furniture and fine jewelry. We also see that customers tend to spend more and return less when they have an immersive shopping experience. 

For example, one furniture merchant raised their average basket value by 44% within four weeks of adding immersive experiences to their website. A sporting goods manufacturer who added an immersive tool for customizing a driver doubled their site visits and hit their 90-day sales target in 30 days.

How Immersive Commerce Improves CX and Efficiency

By showing buyers exactly what they’re getting, immersive can reduce buyer dissatisfaction with high-end items and with everyday items like apparel and home goods. For example, a shopper who orders jeans in three sizes because she’s unsure which will fit will likely return at least two of those items. With an immersive experience that shows how the fabric stretches and fits on a 3D avatar in her size, she can confidently order the right size and avoid the need for returns. 

Reducing returns by giving shoppers a fuller experience of products before buying is critical in ecommerce, where return logistics are costly and complex, and margins are often tight. Cutting down on returns saves on customer service interactions — phone calls and emails — and reduces the employee hours and warehouse space dedicated to managing returned products. Considering that roughly 25% of online purchases are returned, immersive product information offers large potential savings for retailers and brands.

What’s Next for Immersive Ecommerce?

When the pandemic began, furniture retailers were among the first to adopt immersive technology to display their products in detail and every customizable option, something that would have been impossible with traditional product photography. Now, athletic wear and denim are adding immersive experiences, as are sporting goods retailers. 

As supply chains remain snarled and many consumers become more eco-aware, immersive commerce is also supporting brands that want to offer certified preowned goods. Retailers in verticals including camping equipment and outdoor gear, sporting goods, office equipment and vintage clothing are turning to immersive tools to show shoppers exactly what the item they’re considering looks like, including nicks, scratches, or other flaws. 

As with high-end items, immersive gives preowned shoppers the confidence that they know what they’ll receive when they place their order. If a scratch or dent on an appliance won’t be visible, they may be happy to save 40% on it as long as they know to expect the imperfections. 

Because immersive has so many applications in ecommerce, and because consumers seek it out and spend more when they experience it, we think immersive experiences will eventually be synonymous with the customer experience. In other words, these experiences will simply become the way we shop. 

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Preparing To Deliver Immersive Experiences

Before starting an immersive program, make sure your site’s fundamentals are solid. That includes website performance, page load speed, mobile usability, payment options, and low-friction checkout. Once those are optimized, start small, with a specific product or line. Immersive can be a challenge to scale, and spending months or years planning a major rollout can put companies behind nimbler competitors. Brands that start with one product line or one particular product roll out the experience quickly and get customer feedback to make improvements fare better than brands that try to deploy immersive across their entire catalog. 

The other side of that is huge online marketplaces, where buyers are price-sensitive and looking to buy quickly, are unlikely to start offering immersive experiences soon. So even one or two initial immersive experiences on a brand’s website can differentiate them from the megaretailers. By beginning the immersive transition sooner rather than later, retailers and brands can meet customers’ expectations for a productive shopping experience, increase their average order value and revenue, reduce returns, and strengthen customer loyalty.

Have you incorporated immersive commerce into your business? What benefits have you seen? Tell us on FacebookOpens a new window , TwitterOpens a new window , and LinkedInOpens a new window .

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