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The world of virtual and augmented reality sometimes seems like a fairytale – something out of a fantastic science-fiction movie. Virtual sword fights on the top of a mountain. Galactic races through a meteor shower.
The sky’s the limit!
But the truth is that VR and AR are not a dream – they are here and now – and they are coming. This was very clear when I attended the International Investment Forum in Virtual, Augmented Reality (IIFVAR) in Zürich. The number of startups exploring the business, scientific, industrial and medical applications of VR/AR as well as the interest from major companies and institutions in the technology only proves that it will soon find its way into the daily lives of people around the world.
One area where it is already on the horizon is eCommerce.
As the bottom continues to fall out of the traditional retail market, more and more merchants – big names and upstarts alike – are turning to online shopping to save their skin.
Of course, this is no accident.
It’s not just as if someone waved a magic wand and decided all of a sudden that traditional brick-and-mortar stores should dry up and online shops should flourish.
There is a reason – and that reason is customer experience.
As the internet has matured and technology has made more and more advancements, the customer experience of buying online has outstripped the experience of shopping in-person.
It’s quicker. It’s easier. And in most cases it’s a lot less stressful.
But as the eCommerce space gets more crowded, merchants are inevitably going to look for ways to differentiate themselves – to “up their game” so to speak – so they can stand out from the competition.
And that’s where VR and AR come in.
They give merchants the ability to showcase their products in a new way. In some cases, customers can “transport” items, such as furniture into their own living room or dining room to see how it matches their current setup.
Clothing merchants are exploring ways to add VR footage to their product pages to better help customers visualise them in use.
And then there is mobile eCommerce.
The idea of shopping on the go is already a big hit with consumers. But add elements of AR to the mix and the whole experience really takes off.
Shoppers could overlay a virtual image of sunglasses to their picture – as they stand on top of Rigi Mountain – before deciding to pull the trigger on their purchase.
Of course, with “augmented” shopping comes the opportunity to more creative and engaging marketing opportunities closely linked to the online shopping experience – especially in the area of mobile eCommerce.
At the recent IIFVAR, Arthur Clay from Virtuale Switzerlandoutlined how he partnered with the city of Basel to build a unique experience for tourists. While walking down the street they could view “floating coins” (meant to reflect the city’s heritage as a historical centre of currency exchange) that then opened up to reveal a video animation created by children.
Imagine that experience combined with marketing and advertising and it’s not hard to see how merchants could get excited about the possibilities.
So what does this have to do with online payments and payment technology?
Ah yes – the $64 million question.
For one thing, the advent of a new and improved shopping “experience” powered by VR and AR reflects the changes in the payments industry – towards a better user experience, less friction and fewer steps in the checkout process.
In other words, merchants who are looking to set themselves apart with an AR-assisted shopping experience are also more likely to look for a payment gateway that also provides a superior experience for their customers.
The two go hand-in-hand, you might say.
And here’s where another question pops up – connected to both payments and VR/AR.How will they affect eCommerce merchants’ conversion rates?
Because behind every advancement and new idea in the world of business, there has to be hard data to back it up. For instance, in the case of payments, our internal data shows that our platform boosts conversion rates by double digits for our clients.
Will the results be the same for AR/VR-powered eCommerce? The jury is still out on that one – obviously. Then there is another – more practical – question to be answered…one that may not have an answer yet.
How do you integrate payments into an advanced (read one using VR/AR) eCommerce store without “killing” the experience?
Let’s face it – if you are enthralled with an “out-of-body” experience, checking yourself out in your phone, all decked out in a Marmot coat – you won’t want to have to come back, type in a bunch of card details, select a size, color and so on before you can actually get your hands on this cool gear.
As the shopping experience advances, payments solutions must do the same.
Here at SecurionPay we understand how important it is to offer a top-notch customer experience – especially when it comes down to the critical moment of paying for something online.
But we also know that “experience” is also important to those who are developing the actual shopping experience – to developers.
And if VR and AR are going to be used more and more in the world of eCommerce, then those writing the code to make it happen need the tools to create truly exceptional experiences for the brands they work for.
Obviously it’s not a very good experience for a developer if he or she has to sit for hours, tinkering with archaic code, pulling your hair out!
That’s why we believe in empowering them with ready-to-go code libraries, a clean API and a Custom Form that is easy to implement in any scenario.
Our own experience in the payments industry and the experience of watching the various speakers at last week’s IIFVAR make it clear that many challenges lie ahead.
Many merchants – even if they have moved into the eCommerce space – still rely on outdated technology to collect payments.
And the forward-thinking startups developing cutting-edge VR and AR technology will ultimately need a way to monetize it.
Looks like there is a lot of work still ahead on both fronts!