E-commerce home furnishings retailer Wayfair has announced the launch of its first virtual reality application, called Patio Playground, now available on the Oculus Rift Experiences store.
Patio Playground allows a customer wearing an Oculus Rift headset to virtually navigate a lakeside scene and select different outdoor furniture, decor and other products from Wayfair's catalog to create their ideal backyard setting.
The Patio Playground application was developed by Wayfair Next, the company’s in-house research and development team, using the Oculus Rift platform, which Facebook acquired for $2 billion back in 2014.
Wayfair is joining the ranks of retailers that have started dabbling with virtual reality and augmented reality technologies.
Actually, "dabbling" isn't the right word, as these companies are investing real money in applications and uses of VR/AR technology they are betting customers will want to take advantage of. And though these technologies not long ago seemed like they were made more for games than for business applications, they are starting to look like a pretty good fit for e-commerce.
While e-commerce spending continues to grow, claim a bigger piece of the overall retail pie and change the cultural of retail, it has lagged the in-store experience in at least one important dimension: You can't try clothes on online, you can touch and feel items, and you can't get a true visual sense of how furniture or wall hangings would look in a real room.
Applications like Patio Playground, Ikea's VR Experience, Modiface's augmented reality lipstick try-on application and others are capable of closing the gap, and possibly getting customers to complete sales they might have otherwise waffled about making online.
If we start to see a clear connection between VR/AR apps and increasing revenue, still more retailers will invest in these technologies. Even in these early innings, it already seems like Facebook's $2 billion bet two years ago was a smart one.