There is a race going on. Having exhausted many worldly means to get to their consumers, the retail heavyweights are devising ways to implement virtual reality into shopping experience. Walmart aims to take the lead; the company has taken concrete steps to rival its digital competitor Amazon, setting up a huge technology incubator. Aptly dubbed the Store No.8, this incubator might have us witnessing the first steps towards a full-fledged Walmart Virtual Reality shopping.
Walmart’s biggest draw is also its biggest trade-off: it is enormous. The very thought of roaming its unwieldy aisles to peruse seemingly endless stands is enough to dissuade some from visiting. But, as we learn, it might soon become a thing of the past. Applying for patents, Walmart is cooking up a virtual showroom that would allow its consumers to transport themselves into a Walmart Virtual Reality space. Their headsets and gloves on, the shoppers would gracefully search and grab whatever item suits them. The rest is up to the delivery services.
This wouldn’t be a retailer’s first foray into virtual technology. In 2016, the Chinese E-commerce giant Alibaba had much success with Buy+, with Amazon following the lead the next year. Walmart dabbled into reality technologies by lunching 3D virtual shopping room, but this is a project fairly local in nature. Pushing their entire brick-and-mortar stock up in virtual realm would surely revolutionize the concept of E-commerce altogether. As the currently managing Store No 8. Katie Finnegan claims, merchandisers are all driven ‘to believe that virtual reality has the potential to reinvent the consumer experience’.
It is not the comfort of consumers only that drives Walmart into Virtual Reality shopping space. As it turns out, this is a highly profitable and marketable area. ABI research calculated that in 5 years’ time, the revenue generated from the retail Virtual Reality will have increased from $181 million in 2017, to $1.8 billion in 2022. Such a trembling increase suggests that VR is the next big thing in retailing, and the likes of Walmart cannot afford to miss out on it.
With a benefit of hindsight, the Walmart’s moderately pricey acquiring of e-commerce site Jet.com and VR developer Spatialand seem all but reasonable. The former has brought much diversification as to the goods Walmart sold online, while the latter presumably digged deep developing the Virtual Reality commerce space. The two combined, with an occasional Bonobos and ModCloth takeover, allows Walmart of boasting that its E-commerce numbers are expected to be at least 40% better when compared to last year’s. Analysts are quoted saying that Walmart’s recent turn towards Web has much to do with these increased numbers.
The old American ‘go west young man’ means little now since there is no west left to go to. ‘Go VR’, seems to be the new mantra; the one retailer heavyweights have recently picked up. There is a huge potential in exploring new retail territory, and Walmart Virtual Reality shopping looks ready to go in a few years. Their biggest retail rival, Amazon, does not sit idle when it comes to reality tech patenting, making the new Sun on the horizon all but visible.