Will Virtual Reality Change Online Buying?


Although virtual reality technology is a topic that’s been regularly discussed for more than a decade, it wasn’t until the last year that VR started to make real strides towards becoming a mainstream technology. Virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift are finally starting to hit the market. While it’s safe to say that it’s still going to be a long time before the majority of Internet users are sitting at home with a VR device over their eyes, there’s definitely going to be a lot of interesting developments in this area.

When people think of virtual reality, games are often the first use that comes to mind. Given that most VR developments have been around games, it’s easy to understand that association. However, what initiatives like Google Cardboard are focused on doing is taking virtual reality technology and expanding it to many other areas. One area that’s already generated a lot of interest for both businesses and consumers is online buying.

How VR May Impact the Online Buying Experience

There have already been some technology experiments related to VR and ecommerce. One of the most recent and interesting was done by MasterCard. As evidenced by our previous post on selfie authentication, MasterCard is a company that isn’t afraid to push the envelope with new technology experiments. So it makes sense they would be interested in trying something new with virtual reality.

What MasterCard decided to do was team up with the Arnold Palmer Invitational PGA tour event in Florida to showcase how VR glasses can be used to pay for items. During this demonstration, people could put on VR glasses and then look at golf clips. If they liked any of the apparel or equipment they saw in the clips, MasterCard demonstrated how those items could be purchased on the spot.

In addition to VR, similar demonstrations have shown how augmented reality glasses can power purchases in a similar way. Instead of watching a clip, someone with AR glasses could see an athlete wearing an item in real life and then know right away exactly what the item is, how much it costs and where to purchase it. While these types of demonstrations are mostly proof of concept at this point, it’s not hard to see how they could become a more common method of buying once VR headsets are in more households.

The Bottom Line for Virtual Reality

So, will virtual reality actually change online buying? The answer to that question is yes. But that answer comes with a few caveats. VR still has a long way to go until it’s a technology that’s truly accessible to those who don’t fall into the category of being a tech or gaming enthusiast. Additionally, a lot of progress needs to be made before virtual reality experiences are truly shoppable. What that means for the average small to medium business is even though VR will continue to be an interesting space to watch, it’s not something most businesses will need to focus on during the foreseeable future.