A JOINT project launched this week by Aussie retail giants eBay and Myer could very well be the milestone that shapes the future of the industry.
In a world first, customers can now browse Myer's expansive range of products through the Virtual Reality (VR) Department Store using only a smartphone, an Android or iOS app and a pair of foldable cardboard VR goggles called 'shopticals.'
Managing Director of eBay Australia Jooman Park says the new technology doesn't seek to directly translate the eCommerce experience for the virtual world.
Instead it aims to provide an enhanced close and personal way to engage with each item in a store, short of actually going to one.
"It's been important to us that we don't just replicate the ecommerce experience in a virtual environment," says Park.
"We are taking the best elements of traditional retail and expanding on them to improve browsing, selection, personalisation and efficiency."
To access the VR Department Store, users simply open the official app and then slip their device into a shopticals box, where they can then view the screen in a way similar to holding a pair of binoculars.
Through eBay's new Sight Search technology, they can then navigate, sort and purchase items by simply holding a gaze on quite literally anything that catches their eye.
The app also saves preference information, with the program able to learn, adapt and personalise the shopping experience for each individual user.
Russell Zimmerman, executive director of the Australian Retailers Association, says the VR online store landmark by eBay and Myer reflects an industry leading approach to retailing and ecommerce.
"This immersive platform blends both digital and physical retail environments, providing a seamless experience for consumers to personalise, explore, research and purchase products," says Zimmerman.
"It's a great initiative that shows department stores are relevant in today's market."
Not since the first online stores hit the web has the retail industry seen such a quantum leap in the way it engages customers.
According to Zimmerman the experience gives the feeling of being in a real store, no matter where the user logs in from.
He says the product could be especially useful for those who are unable to leave their home, or those who don't have the time to spend hours searching around a shopping centre.
"Anybody who has a disability will find this technology useful, also anyone who is time poor and wants to have the full shopping experience will be able to benefit," says Zimmerman.
"We congratulate Myer and eBay on this exciting initiative, and we look to the future of virtual shopping technology for both retailers and customers alike."
The VR Department Store technology is supported by iPhone 5s models and up, as well as the Samsung S5 and equivalent Android devices.
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