虛擬商店會否令實體商店消失?

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文章分類 : Blog, Business Tech, Research

雖然實體零售店的數量在不斷下降,不斷出現的新型服務和模式都將擠佔實體店的市場份額,但是實體店具有當前科學技術所無法通過網絡傳遞的內容,那就是「真實」。

Why we can stop worrying (a little) about the death of showrooming

Why we can stop worrying (a little) about the death of showrooming

雖然實體零售店的數量在不斷下降,不斷出現的新型服務和模式都將擠佔實體店的市場份額,但是實體店具有當前科學技術所無法通過網絡傳遞的內容,那就是「真實」。

互聯網給我們帶了無數的希望和愉悅,同時也抹殺了許多曾經的歡樂。我們逐漸忘記了如何與人面對面的交流,如何更專注地去做一件事;我們逐漸淡忘了去商店瘋搶試穿時的喜悅,現在只是去商店跟店員說一句「不用管我,我就轉轉看看」,看好之後,去網店下單購買。

或許人類的未來就是在「加入購物車」、「支付訂單」中度過,無論是米面油,還是書本筆,在快遞送到家之前,都只是電腦上的彩色像素而已。結果人們打開層層包裝,撕開袋子,發現東西並不合自己的口味。然而曾經在商店購物的時候,買到的都是自己稱心如意的東西。

我們一度非常擔心實體店會因網購的興盛而受到巨大的衝擊,然而事實證明,實體店無論如何也是不會因此而消失的。

為了避免網購的「不真實」,不少電子商務企業已經開始選擇為消費者提供更靈活的購物模式,虛擬購物體驗與增強現實技術並用,讓消費者不用碰到實物也能像在用實物一樣。換句話說,這樣的購物體驗比到店面購物更方便。

近視眼鏡和太陽眼鏡是最先使用這種技術的產品。Ditto 和 Glasses 等眼鏡網站就可以把用家的面部構建成 3D 模型,然後用家可以在網頁上隨意選擇不同的眼睛,360 度觀察。唯一的需要就是用家有攝像頭,比去店面還方便。

這樣的購物體驗只需要用家在自己的電腦或者平板電腦上使用一個小小的應用程序即可,但消費者只能體驗「如真實購物般」的體驗,並非真實體驗。但是這種應用程序優勢明顯,它可以在數秒之內就給用家換眼睛、提供建議,速度絕對快過店員從架子上拿眼睛,再放回去。

同樣的虛擬購物體驗還可以擴展到衣服上,如果有企業可以開發出掃瞄人體結構然後生成清晰的 3D 圖片,可以在 3D 圖片上試穿衣物的話,將節省用家大量的網購挑選時間和快遞費。

大件物品可不可以通過相似的方式來完成網購呢?當然可以。一家荷蘭的家具公司就開發了一款 iPad 應用程序,消費者只需要按照要求打印兩張特殊圖案的紙,放在地板上,就可以隨意挑選自己喜歡的家具投影到 iPad 屏幕上,還可以從任何角度來觀看某件家具是否符合整個家居的風格。

雖然虛擬現實和現實增強應用給消費者很好的虛擬購物體驗,但是卻無法給用家真實的物品試用感受。這或許是網購與線下購最大的區別,也是實體店活下去的最大的競爭力所在。

美國連鎖眼鏡店 WarbyParker 原本有很大的機會可以在網購上大展拳腳,然而在網購方面,WarbyParker 沒有多少動靜。本月,WarbyParker 又在美國 6 家城市開了新的店面。這是 WarbyParker 趕不上網購潮流的表現嗎?不是,起碼不算是,而是對實體店的信心。

網購作為整個購物環節的重要一環,其重要性雖然逐漸提高,卻依舊沒有超越實體店、大賣場。用國外網友的話說就是:「很難想想不去試坐一下就在網上買一把椅子。我們這個年代應該還沒有發達到可以通過虛擬訊息來傳遞現實物品可以帶給我們的舒適感和觸摸感。」

Source : arstechnica

For all the light and joy that the Internet brings to our lives, it’s killing things too. We know we’re losing our ability to relate to others like human beings or to focus or to be productive. Some are at least as worried that someday the retail shrines where we flock to gaze idly or prod at consumer products we kind of want, while telling salespeople “no, thanks, I’m just looking,” will finally meet their ends because of an ability to order whatever we need from Amazon.

In this dim view of the future, nothing—from peanut butter to books to an assembly-required bed—will be more than a handful of pixels until it’s at your house. You’ll drown in waves of bubble wrap and cardboard, waiting to find out exactly how much you don’t like it (just like that date from OKCupid). If only you’d really patronized that furniture store instead of just sitting in one of its easy chairs while waiting for your friend to text you back, your newly ordered furniture wouldn’t be a condemned, dark hole facing the street.

We fret about how “showrooming” is forcing physical retail stores out of business, but the practice of showrooming is nowhere ready to die. Several companies are stepping forward with solutions that circumvent the top-heavy model of centrally positioning a big box store in every major town and city. Instead, we’re seeing more flexible models for consumers. Both virtual and augmented reality are coming into play as ways to experience products without having to handle them. In some cases, this can be more convenient than our usual in-person sessions.

Eyeglasses and sunglasses have become the unusual heroes of the Showroom 2.0 movement. Companies that sell glasses like ditto.com and glasses.com have begun offering services that can import 3D models of your face and apply various types of headwear to them, requiring only the front-facing cameras in an iPad or computer.

In the glasses.com version of the process, users hold up an iPad in front of their face (or have a friend do so) while the app guides them through rotating their face from one side to the other. The app captures not only the width and height of a user’s face but its depth and even the shape of their nose as well. Within the app, users can slide 3D renders of glasses up and down their own noses to see what they look like at various degrees of cavalier.

This all happens within an app, so it’s hard for users to get an actual feel for the product. But the app does allow users to see and evaluate many pairs of glasses on their own face within a few seconds, a considerably faster process than trying on racks of glasses one at a time at the optometrist to find the ones that look good.

We could easily see this process extended to trying on clothes. Recall that body scanners have existed to generate clothing measurements for some time. If the ability to read that information from a tablet or smartphone’s camera could be translated, people could easily save themselves many days and many reams of cardboard and plastic shipping from the Internet as they find the constraints of person and garment don’t match.

Objects that go in your house are a bit trickier. Scanning a room to see, say, whether a bed frame or chair fits is harder than scanning a person’s face. One Dutch furniture company, Montis, has taken steps to solving this problem by creating an app that can project certain models of its furniture into 3D space.

The app requires printing out a set of two paper pages to use as a marker. The user lies the pages on the floor and then points an iPad’s camera at that spot. They can then see certain pieces of furniture projected into a room, taking up as much space as the real thing would.

One important caveat, though: a virtual showroom does wonders for a product’s physicality but not a whole lot for its functionality or in-person feel.

Outside of virtual reality try-ons and demos, flipping the approach to online and physical retail implementations has a chance of being viable. Eyewear retailer Warby Parker has odes written to its smashing online success, despite the fact that its brand has never once set foot in a suburban mall.

The company slowly expanded its offerings and then presence, holding events for customers to try on products. Just recently, the company added several stores in New York, Boston, San Francisco, Oklahoma City, Chicago, and Miami as a supplement to its home try-on program. Backwards-sounding? Maybe a little. A shining beacon of hope for all of the storefronts we’re worried will stand empty in five years? Also maybe a little.

Most online retailers are noncommittal IRL. A pop-up shop is do-able, but an extensive leash still seems to make them skittish. For instance BaubleBar, an online retailer of jewelry, opened a full store in New York. But as of a few months ago, the space can only be visited by appointment.

Online retail as a support system for physical stores may never scale to the point of big box stores anchoring every major mall in America. But the importance of a physical retail presence, even a token one, doesn’t appear to have been lost entirely on businesses born without them.

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