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#RetailEXPO19: Amazon’s Michael Hines on virtual reality’s shortcomings

Michael Hines, developer evangelist at Amazon, is unconvinced about pitches he receives about virtual reality because they often fail to answer true customer needs.

He said at RetailEXPO in London: “Getting a high fidelity, accurate representation in virtual reality that someone will buy a headset for is so remote.

“Yes [viewing a product] is a customer need, but what is the solution? Going to a store and trying it on, the solution is going to a brick and mortar store, not spending hundreds of dollars on a VR headset.”

Speaking at the same panel on innovation, eBay Europe head of mobile engagement Thomas Elkins said ticket resale site StubHub was an example of a company that has put virtual reality to good use.

StubHub uses virtual reality to allow people to experience the view they would receive from their seats through the use of affordable VR solution Google Cardboard.

Pizza Hut Digital Ventures chief ecommerce officer Angela Cearns believes there are a lot of “shiny objects” that can distract retailers from innovating around the basics.

Elkins said eBay is focused around innovating around the “nuts and bolts” such as load speeds for its web pages.

Ebay is also exploring the best times to send people push notifications based on their individual circumstances such as them being night owls or having young children who wake up early.

Hines concluded: “I don’t like the term disruption as much as evolution. Disruption sets the mindset that something stable is being upset. When was your business ever stable or static?”

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