How Virtual Reality Could Improve the Customer Experience

I wrote recently about the opportunities for Virtual Reality (VR) in retail banking, in particular how branch closures could be mitigated by the use of VR systems that improve on online banking by introducing an element of human service. It sounded like science fiction, I admit that, but then perhaps we are closer than expected to some of these changes becoming a reality.

It was reported recently that Sony has already started sending their new Playstation VR console to the media for review. The console is out in the shops in about two weeks and is fully equipped for use as a VR environment. The new Microsoft Xbox is out early in 2017 and likewise is redesigned to ensure that it can support a VR environment.

Initially it might look as if these consoles are just going to support VR gaming, but I think that we will actually see a quantum leap in the opportunities for VR services, and customer interactions using this technology, just because VR systems will suddenly be available in millions of homes. This is no idle prediction – analysts predict that the new Playstation VR will sell around 1.6m units before Christmas this year. The Playstation alone sold 36m units last year so if you add in the Xbox numbers then 2017 will be seeing around a million homes a week becoming VR-enabled.

I can foresee three immediate areas where this might be important:

  1. Big ticket retail items; looking for a new car, or kitchen, or planning to build a new home? What if the dealer or vendor could show you exactly how it’s going to look by allowing you to virtually experience it before you make a purchase?
  2. Businesses that need to change fast; retail banks are fighting their online and app-based rivals, but as I mentioned in my earlier blog, can they preserve the services of a branch without the costs by using virtual branches?
  3. Entirely new services or personal services that were never online before; imagine a counselling service where you could spend time with a doctor without ever needing to leave your home?

There are some companies already exploring the options that VR offers to them. Travel agents are offering potential customers the ability to virtually experience a destination before booking a trip, demonstrating that if VR can improve the customer experience then companies will use it right now. I believe that the console launches are the real game changer though. A year from now there will be millions of homes across the world that are VR enabled and those customers will start expecting brands to offer a VR experience soon. What will you be able to offer?

What are your thoughts on the use of VR to improve the customer experience? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn.

Beach life

Photo by Morgan Paul licensed under Creative Commons.

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