3D and AR
Virtual showrooms: the next big thing in shopping
3D and AR

Virtual showrooms: the next big thing in shopping

Written by

Rod Reynolds


October 30, 2023

Table of contents

TOC Example

Virtual showrooms use 3D, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology to create immersive shopping experiences and lifelike product interactions. With more than 60% of shopping journeys beginning online, according to Google, and 80% of consumers feeling more confident in purchases made with the help of AR, virtual showrooms offer brands a powerful way to leverage changing buying habits and broaden their reach among customers and prospects around the world.

Key takeaways:  

  • Virtual showrooms are an emerging trend in retail, satisfying customers’ desires for more engaging and immersive shopping experiences.
  • Virtual showrooms offer many advantages over physical showrooms.
  • Many popular retail and ecommerce brands have already implemented virtual showrooms.

What is a virtual showroom?

A virtual showroom is a digital simulation of a physical showroom created with 3D, AR, and VR technology. Already deployed by brands including BMW, IKEA, and Amazon, virtual showrooms allow users to explore, personalize, and interact with products, view them from all angles, and even visualize them in their own surroundings, bringing online buyers closer to potential purchases than ever before and matching – and in many ways bettering - 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.

Virtual showrooms
Brands including BMW and IKEA use virtual showrooms to elevate customer journeys

What advantages do virtual showrooms offer over physical spaces?

Virtual showrooms are a fast-growing trend, with the market valued at $4.55 billion in 2023 and projected to reach $18.31 billion by 2030. 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.

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 are increasingly coming to expect brands to offer immersive experiences with 3D and AR as part of the customer journey. 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.

Buyers have come to rely on immersive experiences to help make more confident purchasing decisions, and virtual showrooms take that immersion to the next level. But they also offer customers advantages over and above what even physical showrooms can do.

Example of an interactive showrrom created by Enhance XR

Virtual showrooms allow customers to instantly access and trial all the products in a brand's product catalog. For a furniture business, that could mean displaying every piece in its ideal context, allowing users to configure attributes like color and material to their preferences in real time, and then visualize their chosen design in their own space to check for fit and aesthetic match. 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.  

With virtual showrooms, there are no restrictions on product availability, opening times, or space constraints. Shoppers can try any product they want at any time. They also allow buyers to trial products thoroughly before buying, which is especially helpful for businesses with longer buyer journeys and product consideration stages like B2Bs.  

Another bonus is that virtual showrooms can be set up once and live online indefinitely. 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?  

The three main technologies used to create virtual showrooms are 3D, AR and VR. For any of the different build types, it is essential brands have high-quality 3D product models to work with, in order to provide lifelike immersive experiences for customers.

For businesses considering creating a virtual showroom for their products, there are trade-offs to be aware of in the various technology options. 360-degree images of a 3D environment can run on mobile devices, potentially offering a wider audience reach. However, the level of immersion and product visualization is lower than with some of the alternative choices.

Executives should evaluate their objectives before deciding on an approach to virtual showrooms.

Fully virtual environments offer a much greater sense of immersion for customers and high-quality product visualization, but their reach is limited by the fact that users need a headset in order to access them.  

Realistic desktop applications represent a best-of-both-worlds solution, offering broad reach, lifelike 3D brand environments and immersive product visualization functionality, powered by AR. By superimposing digital content on the user’s own surroundings, the customer journey is frictionless and grounded in the real world.

These technologies are not mutually exclusive, and next-generation headsets such as Apple Vision Pro combine elements of all of these to deliver enhanced immersive experiences – making clear the direction of travel. For any business looking to create a virtual showroom, the key is to choose an experienced technology partner who can guide them on the right solution for their specific needs.

Virtual showroom examples

Virtual showrooms have been successfully deployed across a variety of industries and sectors, including furniture, automotive and retail:

IKEA Kreativ offers two different customer experiences. The first is an interactive digital showroom where customers can add IKEA products to an empty virtual room, then arrange and personalize them to their taste, or start with a fully designed room template that the user can then customize. The second experience is the Scan Your Room feature, which allows users to add IKEA products to an image of their own space, where they appear to scale, reflect the true-to-life lighting of the room, and interact with existing real-life objects. IKEA Kreativ is offered via the web or via the IKEA app.  

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. Firms can exponentially broaden their reach amongst both existing customers and prospects, offering a premium showroom experience that is available wherever and whenever they want it. By staking out their own commercial real estate in the cloud, with immersive visualization and configuration options and integrated AI capabilities, companies place themselves at the forefront of a powerful new buying, selling and branding marketplace.  

The technology is ready and leading brands are already reaping the benefits. For businesses looking to secure a competitive advantage by creating their own virtual showroom, the first step is to talk to an experienced technology partner with expertise in creating, managing, and deploying immersive experiences at scale. By identifying objectives, project scope, and specific requirements early in the process, the ideal virtual showroom quickly becomes business reality.

To discuss the ideal virtual showroom for your business, talk to an expert today

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