Imagine this scenario:

You see an ad for a tricked-out camping tent while browsing social media on your phone. You slip on your virtual-reality goggles and press the ad’s “Explore Now” button. Instantly, you’re whisked away to a virtual store, where you can walk around the tent and even check out what it looks like inside. An artificial intelligence store associate appears in your VR view, and you pepper him with questions that he answers with aplomb.

Ten minutes later, you’re satisfied and ready to buy the tent. You say to the associate, “Okay, I’ll buy this.” He confirms your order and tells you you’re all set. In a blink of an eye — or, seven minutes to be exact — a drone delivers your new tent straight to your front door.

Now, wouldn’t that be a pretty fun commerce experience? Sure, it’s years away but the concepts aren’t that far-fetched. Check out this conceptual VR experience from ShelfZone:

What’s missing from current e-commerce experiences?

We’ve just painted an idealized portrait of how commerce could be. We’re not there yet, of course, but it shows what we could strive for.

Consider a prediction by AOL’s David Shing: Much like 2016 was big on disruption, 2017 will be big on captivating experiences. Shing argues that it’s not sufficient to just have an online store — all of your competitors have one too. And pricing low is a tough game to win in the age of easy comparison shopping. But creating a dazzling, truly one-of-a-kind customer experience? That’s a major differentiator.

Creating the e-commerce experience

“Experience” can mean many things. But generally speaking, it’s all about how your customer feels while shopping with you. Is your purchase process easy and informative? Does it reassure your customers that they’re making the right decisions? Beyond that, does it excite your customers, wow them, and get them sharing their experiences with friends?

Here’s something that got people talking: The North Face’s AI personal shopper tool. Working basically like a chatbot, the North Face tool asks you questions (When and where will you be using the jacket? Do you expect it to rain or snow?) then returns personalized recommendations based on your answers.

A great commerce experience doesn’t have to be overly tech-heavy, though. A case in point is Warby Parker’s Home Try-On program, which lets you borrow five pairs of glasses to try on for five days. Instead of having to guess if a frame is right for you, or feeling pressured to make a decision right away in a store, you can take your time and see if you absolutely love a frame before committing.

There are lots of other examples of interesting, customer-friendly experiences. Birchbox, for example, offers a fun, low-pressure way for customers to sample new products with a $10-per-month subscription service.

You can also use a mobile device to see how IKEA furniture will look in your home via augmented reality.

And several months ago, Amazon introduced its Interesting Finds section, which is a curated lookbook of novelty products. It’s like window shopping online, and it’s a fantastic way to discover new things to buy.

These are all uncommon experiences with at least one unifying factor: They add value beyond a straightforward transaction. Going forward, that’s exactly the type of creativity customers will seek in e-commerce.

The Curalate Adaptive Commerce Platform helps the world’s leading brands provide frictionless consumer experiences. Want to learn more? Request a demo today.