The future of omnichannel e-commerce: AR & VR?

The future of omnichannel e-commerce: AR & VR?

Few industries are as dynamic and fast-changing in recent years as E-commerce. Inside of a strong competitive environment, e-commerce players adopt strategies that could be used as differentiation factors. From ChannelEngine, we always look for new ways to potentiate our customers, exploring new cutting-edge technology and its possible application for e-commerce. Today we analyse the augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR); and how this technology can be leveraged by e-commerce companies in order to gain a foothold in the market.

Although these innovative concepts were mainly designed for leisure experiences, retailing and marketing industries have started to adopt this technology for their own purpose. Regarding online shopping, it is known that around 77% of shoppers abandon their shopping carts before the purchase step. There are numerous reasons why they do it, but the most frequent is due to extra costs in shipment, taxes, and fees. Non shipment costs are one of the measurements some sellers are considering to increase sales, but it is not the only one. Other influential factors such as discounts, fast delivery and extra products are already implemented by e-commerce companies.

Moreover, the arrival of emerging technologies such as AR and VR could provide customers with new convincing factors to complete their purchases.  Here, we will see the differences between AR and VR, the effect on the customer journey and the possible applications for online and physical shopping.

Augmented reality vs Virtual reality

Augmented reality is used to create composite images through the overlapping of a computer-generated image and the real user’s view. This technology has already been applied to enhance the online shopping experience by important retailers such as IKEA. Using the IKEA app it is possible to place furniture virtually in your room before buying it. This fact can convince customers to purchase the IKEA items, providing the visual feedback of the product.

On the other hand, virtual reality is an interactive computer-generated experience within a simulated environment. This has been applied in the real-estate sector by Matterport, used to map homes and show them to a customer without the need to visit the site.

E-commerce purchase journey with AR and VR

As can be seen, there are some applications for this novel technology in online shopping, as well for in-store shopping. Interestingly, research shows that there is a 50/50 split of shopping preference between buying online and in stores, but  64% of the shopping cash is spent in stores versus 36% online. This leads to a ROPO model of customers (research online, purchase offline). For e-commerce businesses that follow an omnichannel strategy, this breakthrough technology can be leveraged. Integrating online and offline customer experiences, the purchase journey can be improved, reducing the shopping cart abandonment.

During the research step of the customer journey, augmented reality could reinforce the customer touch points with the company. As was mentioned before, AR can provide convincing factors for customers, improving the research experience and product decision-making.

Once customers have decided on their products, we arrive at the most critical part of the journey, the purchase phase. Following the ROPO model, customers go to the physical stores to check the features of the product and then make the purchase. Virtual reality could transform this concept in two ways. The first one, customers could go to virtual shops and check their products using 3D simulations. This fact gives an opportunity to pure online e-commerce companies to change their framework to a “virtual omnichannel” company, satisfying the necessities of ROPO customers.

The second one is referred to as the proper omnichannel e-commerce companies. Here, virtual reality can be used in physical stores as a supplement for customers. The implementation of this technology could improve the customer’s touch point functionality, getting a more sophisticated and modern image of the firm as well as creating another reason to visit their stores. This would all result in additional convincing factors for the purchase decision-making.

New customer touch points to be mapped:

The attractive nature of these new technologies allows retailers to add new touch points to the customer journey using marketing tools such as user-generated content (USG). With this technique, customers can share their shopping experiences on social media, sometimes creating a buzz effect and engaging new customers. But there are not only new digital touch points to be considered. The word of mouth effect is also an efficient channel to attract new visitors that can be potentially converted to customers.

Although it is not clear when these technologies will be massively applied, it is convenient to be the first one making the leap. Start increasing your revenues by selling more and efficiently online. From ChannelEngine we can support you with our knowledge of e-commerce and on European marketplaces. You can reach out us through Adapt your product portfolio and your shopping spaces for adopting new technologies, redefine your competitive position and start the future now. In the end, “the future influences the present” (Friedrich Nietzsche).


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