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Apple May Lead The Charge In Virtual Reality Shopping

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Apple Pay is already impacting the mobile payments industry, and a VR headset from Apple could do the same for the shopping experience

Apple was recently awarded a patent for a device that essentially turns an iPhone into a virtual reality headset, and a new study suggests an interesting idea for what that device could be used for. The technology could have a very real future in online shopping—taking virtual reality beyond the gaming niche in which it currently resides.

Overwhelming interest in VR shopping

The study was conducted by WalkerSands, and it reveals that an incredible 65% of U.S. consumers would be interested in shopping through virtual reality. Also 35% said they would be willing to shop more online if they could try out the product virtually, while 63% said virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift or the one described in Apple’s patent could impact their shopping experience one day. (All graphs in this article are courtesy WalkerSands.)

Clearly there is an opportunity for Apple here that Samsung with its own virtual reality device, the Galaxy Gear, which looks similar to what the Apple patent describes, hasn’t yet tapped into. The question now is whether Apple will get into virtual reality shopping first.

Is Google missing the boat on virtual reality shopping?

Google also has an opportunity in virtual reality shopping, but the company is at risk of missing the boat entirely. Management pulled the Google Glass smartglasses from mass introduction based on what seemed to be relatively little interest and concerns about privacy.

But what if Google had marketed the glasses as a gadget for virtual shopping rather than glasses for extra-geeky folks? The response may have been better, although the company will have to get that price tag down quite a bit in order to convince the average consumer that they need Google Glass so they can be lazy and never even leave home when they need to go shopping.

Indeed, Google may have another chance at this, as the company is said to be planning a new and improved Google Glass that looks less geeky.

Oculus Rift already impacting online shopping

WalkerSands also found that 49% of those who participated in their survey are interested in trying out the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset when it comes out in April. Also 32% said they would be interested in buying a product like it. Facebook purchased Oculus last year, and with all the talk of Facebook potentially being interested in mobile or online payments, it certainly seems fitting that the virtual reality headset it purchased could have uses in online shopping as well.

Researchers also discovered that 66% of participants said they would be interested in virtual shopping, while 22% of consumers said they would be less likely to go to brick and mortar stores if this technology is introduced. Needless to say, this is more bad news for brick and mortar retailers, which have already been staggering as e-commerce takes massive bites out of their sales.

Things looking up for Apple Pay

The study also looked at the way consumers pay for the items they purchase, and apparently Apple is already making a difference in the mobile payments industry. Apple Pay was launched in the fall, and only in the last year alone, 40% of consumers used some type of mobile payments, compared to 8% in 2013.

Only 4% said they have used Apple Pay, but the service is only months old.  Researchers found that 18% of consumers actually used Google Wallet in the past year.


It will be interesting to gauge the growth of Apple Pay over the rest of this year, but the numbers from WalkerSands’ study look promising for Apple, as 18% of participants said Apple Pay makes them more likely to use their phone to make a purchase at some point in the near future.

When looking only at iPhone owners, the percentage jumps to 36%, however, even 16% of Windows Phone users and 8% of Android users say Apple Pay makes them more likely to use their phone to make a payment sometime soon. This clearly indicates that Apple has the potential to spread awareness about mobile payments and make them popular, just as it did for the smartphone by introducing the iPhone.

Nonetheless, consumers still have concerns about privacy and security in connection with using their mobile phones at point-of-sale terminals. Just 20% of consumers aren’t worried at all about using a mobile payment service. Here are the top reasons the other 80% are worried about it.



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