Get the goggles on, it’s time to shop.

Consumers in Australia can now shop from department store Myer on marketplace eBay in Australia using virtual reality goggles from eBay Inc. Australia.

Consumers can shop for more than 12,500 Myer products via the VR goggles, called Shopticals, which are a variation of Google Inc.’s cardboard viewer. More than 100 of the products are available to view in 3-D. EBay is giving away 1,000 Shopticals a day until it distributes 20,000, and consumers can request one on www.ebay.au/vr. Demand for the headsets is “incredible,” and eBay will distribute them in other ways soon, an eBay spokeswoman says.

Myer is one of the newest retailers selling on ebay.com.au, and eBay selected it as a VR launch partner because of the retailer’s wide range of products, the eBay spokeswoman says.

“We wanted to make sure that the first time people shop in VR they can see a wide selection of brands and categories, and a department store felt like the best way to showcase breadth and depth of selection,” says the eBay spokeswoman.

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To use the Shopticals, a consumer first must download eBay’s virtual reality app, which is available on iOS and Android. After putting on the headset, the consumer navigates through the department store by looking at products. A consumer sees a small target in front of her that follows her line of sight. When that target hovers over a product for a sustained amount of time, more information about it appears. The consumer does not need to touch any buttons on the headset or her smartphone.

Consumers can put products into their eBay basket—by holding their gaze on the add to basket icon—however they have to purchase in the app and cannot check out via the headset.

The virtual reality app also uses machine learning, which is when computers learn without being explicitly programmed. When a consumer first starts to use it, she selects clusters of products that are available at the store, such as clothing or electronics. From there she keeps narrowing down what she is searching for. The next time she shops, the headset will have begun to learn the types of products she likes and will put those items in front of her immediately.

“It has been really important that we don’t just replicate the existing e-commerce experience in a virtual world,” the eBay spokeswoman says. “When we first started we imagined a virtual world that looked a lot like a real, traditional department store, with a concierge greeting you and guiding you through a grand glass lobby and showing you through all of the different sections. But then we thought, hang on, why? Why are we limiting ourselves to what we know? What would it be like if we didn’t need walls, floors, escalators or tabs to move through the experience?”

It took eBay about a year to launch the VR program, which is still in a testing phase. EBay would not comment on the cost, only that it is a new technology and virtual reality costs will come down as the technology becomes more mainstream.

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“It’s the first time any of this code has been written or any of the hand-rendered 3-D models have been created anywhere in the world so that is obviously reflected in the cost,” the spokeswoman says.

The return on the investment is in learning how shoppers interact with virtual reality in a department store, the spokeswoman says. For example, eBay wants to learn if a consumer’s browsing habits change when she uses VR; if products displayed in 3-D have a lower return rate than products displayed in 2-D; and how to expand virtual reality to other sellers on its marketplace.

“This for us is priceless,” the spokeswoman says. “VR is a brand new channel for retail and it is important we are at the forefront of new technologies and how consumers are interacting within them. By observing the reactions of thousands of Aussies who trial the experience, we have the opportunity to take those learnings and lead the world into the next phase of retailing.”

 

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