It’s safe to say that the COVID-19 outbreak has been affecting every corner of our lives, personal and professional alike. In the Immersive Content industry, which includes different solutions in the fields of 3D, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR), the major shift in market behavior is hard not to notice. While many retail companies have already embraced these technologies – including H&M, Macy's, Target, Houzz, IKEA, and others – the focus has never been this strong.  

With more than half of shoppers already using their mobile device in the purchasing process, and 33% stating that they actually put AR technology to use in stores, the potential was massive to begin with. Recent reports analyzing the influence of COVID-19 circumstances suggests that this is just the tip of the iceberg. 

For retailers and tech solution providers to reach optimal results, it’s important to understand the specific ways in which the industry is impacted by the crisis. The following paragraphs describe some of the key areas in which the intersection of retail and technology was impacted, and what it means for immersive content professionals and the retailers looking to collaborate with them.  

Forced market education

The shift to online-everything is evident across all industries, with online transactions reaching a volume that is 74% bigger compared to this time period last year. People of all backgrounds and age groups give online shopping a try for the very first time, manage to overcome their anxiety around large item online shopping, and more. 

While this creates an opportunity for retailers, it is also a major responsibility. Retailers must form a user-friendly purchasing process that will keep customers interested in online shopping long after the crisis is over. Instead of treating shoppers as a captivated audience, they must consider it their time of trial. By embracing immersive content technology, retailers are able to close the gap between offline and online shopping, thus minimizing the risk for consumers and overcoming the inability to feel or try a product, which consumers consider one of their biggest concerns regarding shopping online

Getting it right the first time

The surge in online activity can be seen as an opportunity, but for smaller vendors, it creates a major challenge. Dealing with the rising demand vs. their current limited logistic infrastructure, which in many cases is still being established, is not easy. Small vendors must quickly set-up an online purchasing system and the delivery solutions to follow it. 

This means that any mistake causing product returns becomes incredibly painful to vendors, who still have to meet customers’ high standards. Immersive content enables vendors to provide as much information as possible before the purchase is made and prevent mistakes from happening. Using AR, customers can explore how items might fit their current home design, for instance. Preventing mistakes and providing a seamless online experience saves retailers the time and effort they so need to be careful with at the moment while supporting customers’ needs. 

From a verticalized approach to a holistic one

Shopping trends are shifting fast during the crisis, as one minute everyone’s shopping for home improvement equipment and the next they’re all focused on outdoor furniture. This means that immersive content providers who specialize in one specific line of products may find that they need to offer a broader approach in order to stay relevant over time. Retailers offering a variety of product categories would much rather collaborate with vendors that cover all bases, and rightfully so. 

Ask vendors and brands for less

Retailers are overwhelmed right now. The last thing they need is for companies offering 3D solutions to demand more of their time and resources. Both retailers and the immersive content vendors supporting them must focus on solutions that do not require physical shipping of any sort and can be operated remotely and for an affordable price. Hexa3D’s ability to turn 2D images sampled from retailers’ websites into 3D assets becomes invaluable right now, and to further support the retail community we’ve decided to take on the content creation costs. We call on others in the field to follow suit and offer solutions that lighten the burden and simplify the process. 

The Immersive Content industry never wanted to become more relevant following such a devastating situation. It is up to us to support businesses and consumers in their time of need and help elevate the industry when and where it matters most.

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