The future of e-commerce: Virtual reality and highly representative pictures of products

Estimated read time: 3 minutes

“The legroom on this seating chart may not be what it appears.” – all kinds of airlines


That’s being slightly snarky, but you seen those notes. Another favorite example:

Image might not be a completely accurate depiction of what you are spending money on. Check your package.

Sure, I’ll check my order when it arrives and returns are easy enough – especially with Amazon. Throw it in a box – which there are usually plenty of at my house from Amazon orders – declare that you are returning it, print shipping slip, hand to mail lady. ✅

But still, to be truly customer-focused having fantastic, accurate and enticing imagery is the way to go.

One example: Hotels often post these very generic but nice looking photos of sinks:

That’s not helpful. And I see that same image for many hotels I’m looking at booking. So not helpful. And what if I need 3 – not 2 – hand towels? #snark

But what I do find helpful – and is a newer thing from my observation is these floor plan pictures:

Sure, it doesn’t show me exactly the same bed in the room but what is where.

Is there a place to work?

To sit

Is there a balcony?


It’s helpful.

I work way more in hotel rooms than hotel lounges – despite what some experts try to tell you!

Another good example was the NFL and Stubhub.

I was looking to burn some Delta miles and was eyeing Cedar Rapids to Nashville in mostly first class. The Washington Redskins were playing the Tennessee Titans.

I had enough miles. Then I used American Airlines miles to book a night at the downtown Nashville Sheraton. Not the best redemption rate ever but I wanted to go for close to free. So that goal was reached.

Looking for tickets on Stubhub I saw their wonderful 360/virtual reality function.

I was eyeing tickets in a lodge and here’s how I could view the seat location and view:

Related: How I shot the video screen grab above explained here

You can watch that with our without headset. This above is the version for no headset.

That view is awesome. Tickets bought and downloaded.

Now, of course reality has to hold up to the images.

Here’s how it looks in reality:

So it’s different from the VR view. Sure I can lean forward:

But the views are different. The best and most customer-focused VR in the future will be highly accurate.

Of course, it’s an art to stage a location and take photos that make the location look better than it is. Heck, we do the same with pictures. I hardly ever look as put together as in my professional pictures. Dress sweatpants anyone?

But there are ways to easily show real pictures:

Try to be real!

Use customer submitted content. Hotels do this more and more. The Seat Guru Travel app also has user photos so you can see how good or bad that seat in 1H really is.

Use the tools. One that comes to mind is the virtual reality/360 iPhone camera that I’ve used a number of times now.

You can use it to shoot selfie video which works for interviews like this one.

You can also simply put it on an iPhone tripod, walk away and let it shoot some footage of a room. I shot a few talks like that at the ibtm conference in Barcelona.

This specific camera comes with editing software so it’s easy to edit yourself walking out and in out of the video.

That doesn’t mean images or video are perfect. They aren’t and a closeup of a product might not be able to represent how it’ll feel in your possession.

Feeling and touching products in e-commerce is a 2020 project! Maybe! But we are closer than we might think. Some industries are getting closer already.