The Evolution of the Virtual Shopping Experience

a man wearing a suit and tie
Angelo Coletta is founder and CEO of Zakeke.

There’s no doubt that shopping – both online and in person – is a pastime loved by many. Whether in the market for furniture, clothing, shoes or accessories, retailers are continuously looking for ways to avoid returns and retain their consumer base.With the rise of e-commerce platforms, brick-and-mortar stores have needed to adapt, or risk closing (a recent UBS forecast notes that by 2026, 80,000 more retailers will close their doors). E-commerce has not only grown in popularity but has also evolved quickly at a rate at which physical retailers have needed to pivot to an omnicommerce approach – some shifting their focus to e-commerce while others have adopted new technology at the store level to provide the visual experience needed to keep customers engaged. 

Where we started

Online shopping is fast and easy, but for years hasn’t offered the same kind of experience as in-person shopping. Over time, retailers shifted their focus by leveraging technology to create better user experiences, integrated user interface designs, services, and customer care that has led to the visual shopping experience. Consumers now expect a connected shopping experience – which historically has been difficult to truly offer via online marketplaces (often resulting in higher returns) and why consumers have opted for shopping in store vs. online, especially for bigger purchases and/or personalized items.

Brands have evolved to offer more visualization and customization – whether it’s as simple as monogramming a pair of shoes or customizing the colors and materials of a bag, to offering realistic three-dimensional products with which consumers can interact.  

Where we’re headed

Jewelry, furniture, gaming, gadgets and more – products once thought of as mandatory ‘in-store’ purchases – are all moving online via virtual shopping thanks to visual technology. In order to grow revenue, brands will need this layer of visualization – whether through customization, AR or 3D components. This is even true for high-consideration purchases, like Jewelry and home appliances, which used to necessitate a visit to a brick-and-mortar store, but as technology advances, these purchases can be done seamlessly online, or through in-store kiosks designed to enhance the consumer experience.

Whether it’s online, in store or both, it’s now a necessity for retailers to offer some level of virtual shopping for their customers through virtual try-on technology (like in-store booths or leveraging the power of AR online) or other facets to elevate the visual shopping experience.

How we get there

The simple answer? Technology. 3D, AR and other tools will continue to evolve to allow consumers to try before they buy, even if they aren’t in a store. The visual commerce experience of the future will look something like this: A consumer will be able to walk into a store and interact with a product; they’ll go home to play around with it more – trying it on (if it’s an article of clothing) or seeing how it will look in their own space (if it’s furniture) using AR, VR and try-on technology. They’ll be able to customize it further, and then have the option to get it delivered or pick it up at the store.

[See also: First Look: Inside Diageo’s Tech-Infused Collaboration Center]

We live in a visual world – and the shopping experience should be no different. We’ll continue to see the virtual shopping experience evolve to include better technology to allow consumers – whether online or in store – to become fully immersed in products of all kinds by utilizing virtual features so they feel confident that the product they are getting is what they truly want. E-commerce is going through a revolution that will impact all industries, just like the one we experienced nearly two decades ago, which went from simple websites to complex e-commerce shops. Over the next five years, all retailers will need to implement a layer of visual experience, bridging customization and visualization.


About the Author
In 2017, Angelo Coletta founded Zakeke to create a platform to help brands build engaging customer experiences through customization and personalization using 2D, 3D and AR. As CEO of Zakeke, Angelo leads the team’s global mission to own the visual shopping experience. By helping customers have a positive e-commerce experience, Angelo and his team work behind the scenes to make complex technology easy for any brand to adopt with the goal of increasing engagement and driving sales.