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article imageQ&A: Why VR is the next commerce frontier Special

By Tim Sandle     Nov 16, 2019 in Business
What will a mass adoption of virtual reality mean for commerce, and how can VR can be used to improve customer experience? Expert Harry Chemko, of Elastic Path, weighs in on the discussion.
With the release of the Oculus Quest, Facebook has reignited the conversation around consumer adoption of VR, with many expecting the low-cost, all-in-one portable virtual reality device to usher in a future where VR is found in every home.
Commerce expert and Elastic Path CEO Harry Chemko has spent months with the Oculus Quest and now sees VR as the next commerce frontier, as he explains to Digital Journal. As Chemko explains, with VR — and especially low-cost, highly-portable VR technology — the only limit to the commerce experience is a brand’s imagination.
Digital Journal: What is the current state of the VR market?
Harry Chemko: We’ve seen a resurgence in the excitement around VR this year with the release of the Oculus Quest. VR technology was hyped up just a few years ago when Sony, Oculus and HTC started bringing VR tech into the home, but it didn’t catch on the way the industry had hoped. The tech was expensive and awkward, and overall consumers weren’t in love with it. Then Oculus released the wireless and affordable Quest earlier this year, removing some of the barriers to entry. This is the type of VR product that could spark mass consumer adoption, which is what VR stakeholders ultimately want.
DJ: Are consumers showing a growing interest in VR?
Chemko: Consumer interest in VR is on the rise, thanks in part to the Quest which is significant considering VR has always been a difficult technology to market. You really have to experience it to understand how amazing it can be. The industry has traditionally relied on early adopters and good word-of-mouth to grow adoption of VR, but the first generation of home VR products didn’t lend themselves to a shareable experience. The VR had to be tethered to a PC or gaming console, which kept the VR experience confined to whichever room you were in.
The Quest changes that. I can bring my headset to a family gathering and have say, my Grandma experiencing VR in seconds — while the rest of us can share the experience because the Quest can cast to a TV or mobile device. The shareability of the Quest has created new interest in VR because it’s creating so many opportunities to get people into VR for the first time and create an experience multiple people can engage in if they choose.
DJ: What is the significance of the release of Oculus Quest?
Chemko:The success of the Oculus Quest could be a positive sign for the future of VR. If the Quest catches on like the industry hopes, it will be a big confidence booster and we’ll see more investment and development in VR. This would likely snowball consumer adoption of the technology. And once there is wide consumer adoption, enterprise will follow.
DJ: How important is a low-cost, universal VR solution?
Chemko:Low-cost, easy-to-use VR solutions are critical to the nascent VR industry. The costs need to come down in order for there to be mass adoption, both on the consumer side and for business applications.
DJ: How can Oculus Quest benefit commerce?
Chemko:I think we’re only limited by our imagination in terms of how virtual reality can benefit commerce. The magic of VR is that it can transport you anywhere, imagine what that can do for commerce. Want to visit a beach in VR before you book the trip? You could do that with VR. Want to test drive the latest sports car without visiting a dealership? You could do that in VR. Want to browse the aisles of your favorite retailer without leaving your living room? You could do that in VR, too.
The potential for VR within the commerce experience is very exciting. There was a time when many of the touchpoints that are commonplace today were brand new and we were curious about their level of adoption. There is potential for VR to become much the same and I am looking forward to helping brands use it creatively to drive even more differentiating experiences.
DJ: Which types of businesses will benefit most from VR?
Chemko:There is a clear retail play for VR, but I would argue there is just as much opportunity in B2B as in B2C. While VR tech can be dazzling, it has some very practical commerce use cases, too. For example, imagine an OEM being able to examine an automotive part in 3D space before purchasing a mass quantity for the factory line. VR has the potential to help B2B buyers make more informed decisions by letting them virtually examine and try products before committing to purchase. In this way, sellers can leverage VR to build buyer confidence and where applicable, shorten sales cycles and increase overall purchase size.
More about Virtual reality, Commerce, Ecommerce, augmented reality
 
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