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Are Virtual Shopping Malls the Future of Retail?

October 10, 2021

Possibilities offered by the Internet to consumers are indeed immense. Everything is possible online: comparison shopping between brands, selection of the range and models one wants before purchasing them at home without having to enter any real store.

In fact, virtual reality stores have been growing in number for quite some time. They are accessible from any point of the planet and allow consumers to compare prices between different brands while remaining at home. The products can be viewed one by one or sorted according to different criteria (price, brand, user reviews …) or even using an interactive map .

Advantages of Virtual Shopping Malls

Virtual shopping malls offer many advantages to consumers. First of all, they eliminate the problem of lack of time and lack of means for those who have demanding schedules and who often do not have enough time to leave their homes in order to go shopping. Moreover, they also provide the opportunity to benefit from a very broad market of products and brands.

For retailers, virtual shopping malls enable them to sell their products without having to open physical stores. This reduces operating costs compared with opening actual shops which is often quite expensive for small merchants. With video selling platforms being so easily integrated to e-commerce stores, they can even have a full staff of sales reps prepared for face-to-face selling virtually! They can thus offer prices that are often lower than those of traditional e-commerce companies.

In addition, they open up a new source of revenue as the retailers can benefit from ad space on their site. In this way, they can support their business and generate additional revenue as well as encouraging users to explore other parts of their catalog. Virtual shopping malls also help reduce counterfeiting and other kinds of fraud.

Challenges For Virtual Shopping Malls

Virtual shopping malls also have some disadvantages from the consumer's point of view. First, since they are not displayed in physical form, consumers often do not know exactly where to find them and how to access them. In addition, they offer a limited range of goods which is often not very diversified. The virtual shopping malls present on the market also differ greatly in presentation and presentation which makes it difficult for consumers who do not know exactly how to find them or access them.

In addition, the price comparison is difficult between different brands due to the existence of various difficulties such as :

  • One product can be sold in various quantities (for example, one can find a washing machine sold in packages of 1, 2 or 3).
  • The prices are often discounted.
  • Shipping costs are not included.

In fact, it is often difficult to have a realistic idea of the price of a product in virtual shopping malls because all these elements do not allow an accurate comparison . For example, with regard to e-shopping sites where shipping costs are included in the total price , users only think about this cost when they reach the payment phase and thus, only after having decided to buy a product. This makes it difficult for them to compare prices between different websites.

Another major criticism of virtual shopping malls is that they often sell counterfeited or second-hand goods as new products. Indeed, this problem is particularly acute with regard to low-cost items sold on the Internet. Many manufacturers develop their own sites to sell directly but this is not always the case with small brands which are sometimes victims of illegal practices in some virtual shopping malls.

Lastly, consumers constantly face broken links and images that do not correspond to what they are trying to find. It often happens that a product has changed its description, brand or even its size. Another major difficulty encountered by consumers is to find out the real price of a product as well as the shipping costs and any other additional fees that may apply.

Conclusion

All in all, virtual shopping malls do have a major advantage which is that they make it possible to offer products from all brands without needing to have several stores available. In the same way, they enable companies and merchants to avoid investing heavily in developing websites of their own. However, if not properly designed, these virtual shopping malls can become more of an obstacle for consumers than a real help to them.