An on-demand convenience delivery service and a candy icon teamed up to test a virtual reality experience to explore how and where young consumers shop — while sitting on their living room couch.
In March, goPuff launched a virtual reality shopping experience with The Hershey Company at the Retail Innovation Lounge at SXSW in Austin, Texas. Hershey is experimenting with a variety of nontraditional sales and distribution channels as “last-minute digital purchases and on-demand fulfillment models become more important,” said Brian Kavanagh, Senior Director of Insights Driven Performance and Retail Evolution for The Hershey Company in a statement.
The goPuff service delivers goods typically found in convenience stores, such as snacks, drinks, household items, toiletries and other everyday essentials. Beer, wine and spirits are also available for delivery in select markets. Consumers can shop all types of convenience items on the goPuff app for iOS and Android, or on gopuff.com, and pay a flat $1.95 delivery fee.
The companies collaborated to discover and test new ways for consumers to experience Hershey products and other snacks, according to Daniel Folkman, VP of Business Development at goPuff.
“You know what you’re getting when you buy candy or snacks or a 20-ounce Coca-Cola,” Folkman said in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “There’s not that touch-and-feel effect that may prevent quick adoption of online grocery. We looked at VR as a way that we could create an experience around a product.”
The VR experience enabled attendees to try on a headset and handheld devices to view a virtual apartment decorated to appeal to a younger consumer: minimal furnishings, a basketball hoop and other interactive content. Users could move their head to select specific Hershey items and candies and check prices. Future trials will include an add-to-checkout functionality.
“In the VR experience, you get transported to these different realities,” Folkman said. “There’s an ‘ice cream’ environment with mountains of ice cream and straws and cones. That’s what we liked about VR; it’s a fun jumping off point to test boundaries.”
The SXSW exhibit was designed to replicate a living room, including a couch where people could sit and eat snacks to establish “who the customer is, and what they’re doing when they order goPuff,” according to Folkman. Additionally, the teams set up a TV screen next to the VR demo to show visitors what the VR users were seeing.
“Convenience yesterday at the traditional convenience store is not the same as convenience today, and it won’t be the same as convenience tomorrow,” Folkman said. “Our goal right now is to redefine what convenience is in the convenience world. We’re fortunate to have such a loyal customer base, namely made up of Gen Z and Millennials, who are the fastest adopting demographic when it comes to innovative technology. While VR has experienced slower growth as opposed to other technologies in the past, it’s not unrealistic that this demographic will pick up on this technology and integrate it into their life for more than just fun.”