Splendid Thoughts: The future of Virtual Reality

The topic of debate for the latest Splendid Thoughts session was inspired by none other than John Lewis. The department store has become the first UK retailer to trial 360 advertising on Facebook as part of its “Only here” autumn campaign.

Facebook’s 360 Collections ads will let customer view products in a real-life setting from every angle and then with one-click go to the retailer’s website, in this case,, to buy the product.


So what does the future hold for VR in this space?

“In a world where consumers can buy almost everything online, I see VR playing a huge role in helping people make purchase decision online, when it comes to higher investment purchases. We’ve seen retailers (such as John Lewis) start to use it for homewares but imagine if you could see the inside of the hotel you are looking to book the trip of a lifetime to, or help you plot your own furniture into a new home. By its very nature, VR helps bring people closer to the item they are trying to purchase which will mean that consumers will have greater confidence making decisions with those retailers that will allow it.” – Lucinda

“VR will be an essential part of the future retail experience, as online and offline commerce are interconnected, and will need one another in order to survive and thrive. The key opportunity for brands is to increase engagement and sentiment, by re-imagining the customer journey; through streamlined, 360 degree, hyper-convenient, immersive experiences.  

Smart brands have seen success using tools like ‘stories’ and ‘live’ to immerse their customers as much as possible, though VR could be a strong addition (or even a replacement) of other digital platforms like Instagram, because it will make the journey more streamlined and screen-free.” – Laura

“I agree that VR is giving and will continue to give us more access and opportunity to experience things before we buy… I can only imagine what it will do for education (this excites me) BUT I can’t help but feel that the more we come to rely on at-home, constructed forms of reality, our human nature will demand even more real, authentic, bespoke and exclusive engagements with brands.

We’re constantly balancing out our excitement for the new with a need for what we know so although VR will make headway, I don’t think we can forget the importance of maintaining that human touch with consumers/fans.” – Sophie

“I think the interesting thing for me is realising how no-goggles, low-commitment VR is going to take off. Things like Lu seeing her new bathroom come to life, or a pop promo that reveals more of the action when you move your phone, or even just the new way Streetview works on a phone. This kind of 360 is going to be huge because it’s so effortlessly interactive. There’s a tiny reward for moving your phone, so you engage with the content for ages compared with a non-VR version.” – Frank

“For me the most developed area for VR is gaming. Gaming in VR headsets is the most mature version of the tech – it’s in every electronics store, department store and big supermarket in the country. 16 year olds want them to kill other 16 years. Therefore, it is with this audience that we are most likely to see wider adoption. 

 It’s VERY important we do not confuse VR – a virtual world you immerse yourself in – and AR – a layering of the virtual over the real, though I think eventually they will converge more closely together to be fairly similar in experience but different in application.” – Alex

The thing that will dictate whether the masses adopt VR will be how it can integrate into everyday life without demanding a complete change of behaviour for people. This is where VR has struggled in days gone past, but it is looking like the path to VR adoption will be via AR. Barrier of entry is much lower and the hook will be the creativity of the content and enhanced shopping experiences (e.g. John Lewis). Interesting times.