Virtual reality playing increasing role in retail, survey shows

Retail companies have “little room for delay” when adapting to virtual reality, professional services company PwC says. A third of consumers who used virtual reality also shopped in the metaverse, according to a survey it published.

One in three consumers have used virtual reality in the previous six months, the survey from PwC says. Half of those reported using the technology to play games or watch movies and TV shows.

One-third said they went in to experience a virtual retail environment or a concert. 31% of virtual reality users reported buying digital products and NFTs, including avatars and digital artwork, as a result.

But a “surprising” number of consumers – 32% in total – said they had purchased physical products after testing them in virtual reality stores. Significantly, 19% trusted the technology enough to buy luxury goods.

Image by PwC.

The Global Consumer Insights Pulse Survey polled over 9,000 respondents across 25 countries and territories. It found that consumers in China were among the most avid adopters of the technology, with 17% reporting experience with it, compared to 6% globally.

Virtual reality was also popular in markets like India and Qatar but less so in Australia, Ireland, and Japan. Age and work model also factored in the use of the technology. It was more prevalent among Generation Z and young millennials, but also users of any age if they had an option to work remotely.

Age of disruption

With Chinese travelers locked out from many of the world’s most popular shopping destinations due to the “zero-Covid” policy back home, virtual reality may offer retailers and manufacturers another way to reach them.

Beyond China, people across the globe have changed the ways they shop. PwC says that consumer habits developed during the pandemic seem likely to stick – and even increase. 35% of respondents with virtual reality experience said they expected their spending in the medium to grow in the next six months.

“If retail companies had any doubt about the need to reach consumers across all channels, the pandemic, gnarled supply chains, and inflation have made the imperative clear,” PwC said.

It noted the emergence of virtual reality in retail as one of many “waves of disruption” to which companies must adapt. According to PwC, these also include growing consumer expectations regarding environmental and social issues, increasing global polarization, inflation, and possible economic contraction.

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