It is unmistakable that the lockdown has affected all spheres of life. ‘Life will not be the same as it was before COVID-19’ – that’s the verdict of most specialists in different areas – and it’s also hard to argue with that. But people’s habits do take some time to change, and shopping is no exception to that.
At the moment when it seems the world has stopped to take some time and see what the future has in store for us, looks like the most demanded feature is the reaction time to the relevant events and readiness to change. There is an urgent need to transform not only oneself, but one’s business as well. ‘If you want to survive, change yourself’ – as sad as it may sound, such slogans have acquired literal meaning.
Certainly, the first wave of change affected companies and businesses which could supply medical professionals and population with means of protection. Having recovered from the first shock, businesses realized that in times of crisis, one should alter the very approach to conducting business and sales, as well as reform their business activities altogether. The fact that people are currently locked up in their own apartments doesn’t mean that they ceased to live and have their needs.
Now that work process moved from offices to living rooms and kitchens, companies started vying for customers’ attention, rather than for their mere physical presence in shops. And if having an online shop used to be relevant only for certain spheres, with the onset of lockdown, there is an urgent need for a virtual platform in one form or another almost for everyone.
Everything is pretty clear with online shops because lockdown hasn’t affected their work in any particular way. However, customers that preferred personal visit to the shop still need the sense of ‘presence’.
People like seeing a chair in a furniture store not just as a museum piece, but as a part of an interior composition, albeit a metaphorical one. A freestanding chair, lonesome and sad, wouldn’t be of particular interest, whereas a chair at a table – fully served with a beautiful cloth, glasses and a unique vase on is a whole different story. Probably, you came to the shop just to buy a chair, but all of a sudden you remembered that your old tablecloth is totally ruined after the latest party and the stains are there to stay. Besides, your birthday is just around the corner and your friends will definitely buy you a bunch of flowers which needs somewhere to be placed. And here you are – a happy customer with a chair, tablecloth, vase and just a couple of other bits and bobs. Why? They will look so good in your dwelling!
For all those who just love roaming through the aisles in shops in search of a perfect piece of furniture or décor against a lifeless white background, businesses have started opening virtual showrooms. A 3D-world offered enormous flexibility: someone took advantage of panoramic shooting of their own shops and expositions, and others went even further giving it a shot with the VR/AR technologies. The shop is right where the potential customer is.
Which is better for the business – real photography or 3D technologies? It is quite debatable. Those who decided to stick with the former have probably benefited from the fact that they were able to launch such showrooms faster because it is easier to take photos than model a virtual world. On the other hand, the virtual realm is more flexible, interactive and more likely to win in the long run. In this case the shop is not restricted in terms of space, the number of items, interior or any other factors peculiar to the physical shop. In addition, customers have a bonus, e.g. changing the colour of the sofa or fabric of the chair in just one click which allows seeing what their kitchen will look like straight away.
What does the future have in store for virtual showrooms when lockdown ends? We will probably find it out only after lockdown ends. But even now we can already see that the potential of such shopping and this kind of presentation are hard to beat. It is very likely that there will be not only separate platforms for each particular manufacturer or business in the future, but also those united in full-scale virtual supermarkets.
It is quite obvious that the virus has affected us all – our behaviour and the way we interact with the world. Can we say that it has had only a harmful impact? Certainly not. As much as any turmoil, coronavirus has become a catalyst for many changes, both positive and negative. We have got an opportunity to take a fresh look at our household and work routine. That is why probably the most important thing now is to try and adapt to new realities as quickly as possible, virtual showroom as an alternative way of shopping being one of them.