Last updated: Spatial commerce: Definition, use cases, strategies

Spatial commerce: Definition, use cases, strategies


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For years, augmented reality and virtual reality have offered brands the possibility of engaging with their audiences in immersive ways. So far, though, the limitations of wearable AR/VR devices and their low adoption among consumers have constrained how brands can use these technologies.

Now, with the release of new immersive wearable technology — Apple’s Vision Pro — we may be at the beginning of a new stage of spatial experiences enabled and expanded by technology that appeals to a wider audience.

Will this lead to a new era of spatial commerce? It will depend on several factors, including consumer interest, the use cases brands identify, and the content they create to interact with shoppers.

What is spatial commerce?

Spatial commerce uses augmented reality and virtual reality technologies to create immersive shopping experiences that merge the physical and digital worlds.

Spatial commerce leverages wearable AR/VR devices like Apple’s Vision Pro headset, contextual data, and other technologies such as IoT and cameras to take omnichannel commerce to a whole new level.

If this seems like a big leap of imagination, keep in mind that when smartphones debuted, most of us didn’t foresee them becoming an always-on extension of our work and social activities.

Although the smartphone can be the platform for compelling commerce experiences, brands and marketers are limited by the smaller format and two-dimensional nature of the screen.

Another factor that could play into the rise of spatial commerce is Gen Z interest in using AR and VR technology for shopping.

Pre-order sales for the Vision Pro were reportedly brisk, signaling that consumers are eager for the advanced tech.

Spatial commerce use cases

One limiting factor for wearable spatial commerce devices is the cost (Vision Pro is priced at $3,500), which limits widespread adoption. However, brands that are willing to invest in this kind of technology can provide premium shopping experiences that build and reward loyalty.

Consider these spatial commerce use cases:

  1. Airlines could provide headsets for first-class passengers so they can enjoy immersive in-flight shopping and entertainment.
  2. Fitness brands could add a tier to their loyalty programs that includes a headset for immersive workouts and virtual try-ons of the latest workout wear.
  3. Event and travel planning could also benefit from using spatial experiences to connect far-flung members of a wedding party or tour group, show them the details of what their real-life experience will be like, and help them make better decisions.
  4. Venues could use spatial commerce wearables to provide premium ticket holders with rich experiences at the event, like pregame virtual interaction with players and performers and on-the-spot merchandise purchases.
  5. For retailers, spatial commerce offers the ability to create a more immersive social shopping experience. More than 80% of Gen Z consumers already say their purchases are influenced by social media. Immersive social commerce with friends and family could be the next iteration of this trend.

Some brands have already launched Vision Pro apps, including home improvement retailer Lowe’s. Lowe’s Style Studio uses spatial computing to give customers an immersive experience where they can visualize and design a kitchen.

Sparking creativity, making new connections

As more consumers have these kinds of experiences, it’s likely that more of them will want their own wearables. That opens the door for brands to develop even more creative and individualized applications.

For example, virtual personal shoppers and stylists can make selections based on the user’s preferences and actual purchase histories, and then walk customers through immersive interactions with new products that meet their needs. This could be a powerful way to meet rising customer expectations for the quality of product search experiences.

When more consumers adopt spatial experience devices, brands can also use those devices as a customer acquisition channel.

A brand might collaborate, for instance, with a device manufacturer to create a branded device design, or to produce in-device content that helps customers assemble the bookcase they bought, apply beauty products for optimal effect, or get the most from a new piece of fitness equipment.

This kind of content also creates opportunities for social sharing to amplify the reach to new potential customers.

Planning for spatial commerce development

The ability to create virtual products to showcase and then analyze data from customer interactions with those virtual products can help brands make better supply chain decisions and optimize their physical store footprint.

For example, a retailer might have smaller stores dedicated to virtual and physical interactions with products. Customers can have those in-store experiences and then make a purchase on the spot or place a custom order.

Guiding consumers toward those experiences will require new marketing strategies that fully leverage spatial commerce’s unique features. One way retailers could do this is by leaning more into location-based offers, as well as collaborative shopping event promotions, to encourage customers in a virtual store to go to the nearest physical store.

Creating the content for these promotions and other marketing campaigns will require cross-platform content development.

Brands will need to carefully plan the adaptations they’ll need to create immersive 3D content that displays and performs correctly across a variety of headsets. Interactive visuals will become more important elements of customer engagements, as well.

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Moving beyond the novelty phase

Right now, the cost and newness of the latest immersive experience technology may make spatial commerce seem like a concept that’s  far down the road.

But if younger consumers who’ve grown up with smartphones in their hands start using and ultimately adopt immersive technology, it’s possible that we’ll see spatial commerce go from being a novelty to an everyday part of our world, as brands find ways to connect more effectively with their customers.

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