Virtual showrooms use 3D and augmented reality (AR) technology to create immersive shopping experiences. With 63% of shopping journeys beginning online, and 80% of consumers feeling more confident in purchases made with the help of AR, we explore why virtual showrooms are becoming a must-have for ecommerce – and how to get started creating your own.
What is a virtual showroom?
A virtual showroom is a digital simulation of a physical showroom created with 3D and AR technology. It allows users to interact with products, view them from all angles, and even ‘place’ them in their own surroundings, bringing online buyers closer to potential purchases than ever before, mimicking the customer shopping experience in a real-world showroom.
Virtual showrooms offer immersive product buying experiences from the comfort of customers' homes, eliminating the need to travel and offering convenience and immediacy. At the same time, virtual showrooms allow brands to showcase their entire product range, in all configuration options, without space restrictions.
What advantages do virtual showrooms offer over physical spaces? Why does it matter?
Virtual showrooms are taking the retail and ecommerce space by storm by providing potential buyers with on-demand immersive customer experiences. After first appearing in 2016, virtual showrooms exploded in popularity with the onset of the pandemic. With in-store shopping reaching a dramatic low, brands were forced to get creative with marketing and sales efforts. Rapidly, they had to convince shoppers to buy products from the comfort and safety of their homes. Most brands quickly realized they could offer an immersive, seamless, and convenient shopping experience through virtual showrooms.
"Using our cameras to help us with our day-to-day activities makes sense at a fundamental human level. We are visual beings – by some estimates, 30% of the neurons in the cortex of our brain are for vision" - Aparna Chennapragada (VP, Google Lens and Consumer Shopping)
A Shopify survey found that brands offering AR experiences to consumers saw an increase in conversion rates of up to 94%. Furthermore, as proliferation of the technology has increased, shoppers have come to expect brands to offer immersive experiences with 3D and AR as standard. According to a survey by Google, 43% of smartphone shoppers in the US already expect all beauty brands to use AR, while 47% of smartphone shoppers expect all automotive brands to do the same.
Clearly, tech-savvy shoppers want brands to offer virtual showrooms and provide a fuss-free immersive shopping experience. But how exactly do virtual showrooms trump face-to-face showrooms? Let's take a look.
Virtual showrooms allow customers to instantly access and trial all the products in a brand's product catalog. For a clothing retailer, that could mean trialing various sizes of a garment, different patterns, and cuts before choosing a particular option. For a car dealership, a virtual showroom can show the full range of color and build options, as well as custom features and upgrades – all available to be configured by the buyer to their liking, in real time.
With virtual showrooms, there are no restrictions on product availability or space constraints. Shoppers can try any product they want at any time.
Virtual showrooms allow buyers to trial products thoroughly before buying, which is especially helpful for businesses with longer buyer journeys and product consideration stages like B2Bs. Over 80% of shoppers are more confident in their buying decisions after using AR trials.
Another bonus is that virtual showrooms can be set up once, but live online forever. Unlike physical showrooms that have capacity restrictions, businesses can upload unlimited virtual products online to display to their customers. Buyers, in turn, can access virtual showrooms no matter where they are, needing just an internet connection.
Virtual showrooms also allow brands to provide a personalized and highly memorable customer experience. As a result, companies can increase brand awareness and consideration, generate interest, and gain an edge in the ultra-competitive retail and ecommerce space.
When are virtual showrooms used?
Brands deploy virtual showrooms to provide an end-to-end virtual customer experience to shoppers. They not only allow shoppers to view and interact with products from whenever and wherever they choose, but also enable businesses to offer enhanced product listings that present users with all the additional content they might need, such as pricing details, exchange policy information, demo videos, buyer reviews, and catalogs, while also providing shopping assistance when required.
What technologies do virtual showrooms utilize?
Brands use different technologies to build virtual showrooms. Here are the ones you should know about:
3D and AR-based virtual showrooms enable brands to showcase physical products to users wherever they are, without the need for additional hardware. With AR, customers can visualize products in the real world, given that AR technology superimposes a 3D projection of the product on their physical surroundings.
With AR technology, customers can get a perfect feel for a product’s size and visual attributes, and how it fits in its intended space. Users can engage with potential purchases by changing viewing angles, color, material, and more, using just a smartphone or tablet. Removing friction, customers can also make purchases directly on the same device.
VR-based virtual showrooms are typically built by brands that want to provide their customers with an experience based in a fully virtual environment, rather than by enhancing the user’s real world surroundings. Customers can enter VR showrooms by donning a VR headset that places them in a computer-generated environment, where they can interact with virtual products. Automobile makers and SaaS providers, for example, may use VR showrooms.
Some brands also construct virtual showrooms in the Metaverse. Unlike AR and VR, customers can access virtual showrooms in the Metaverse through digital avatars online. The avatars can then try on clothing, shoes, beauty products, and more. Some brands also allow buyers to trial real-world products virtually.
How does it work?
Once shoppers enter a virtual showroom, they can immediately explore the virtual catalog of products. Depending on the type of showroom, they might have an immersive AR experience, an immersive VR experience, or an interactive Metaverse experience. Whichever the technology type, customers can interact with products in real time by changing viewing angles, exploring key features, and configuring product options such as color, material, and finish – all of which help buyers make more confident purchase decisions.
Virtual showroom examples
Virtual showrooms are particularly popular in the automobile and retail spaces. Here are some examples of how these industries are leveraging the technology to gain a competitive edge:
BMW launched its virtual showroom post-pandemic for health and safety reasons. The digital showroom allows buyers to test the features and functionalities of vehicles virtually. Potential buyers can also connect with automobile dealers directly through the virtual showroom and book a test drive if interested.
ORDRE’s online showroom, in contrast, places a focus on streamlining the retail experience for buyers. Users can view all of a garment’s details, including high-quality product videos, AR projections, and more. Furthermore, the luxury wholesale fashion seller uses patented AR technology that automates the garment digitization process.
How to get started on a virtual showroom for your business
Virtual showrooms offer a wide array of advantages to brands and their customers. At Enhance, we can set you up with all the tools you need to build an immersive virtual showroom that brings your products to life for online buyers like never before. Our experienced team of content creators, developers and industry experts will help you create effective 3D and AR content, guiding you through the process from start to finish. Head over to our website to build an immersive AR experience today.