Virtual Commerce

The term virtual commerce (also v-commerce) is often used as a synonym for e-commerce. However, Virtual commerce goes far beyond that. In virtual commerce, purchases can take place in virtual rooms that have been specially created for this purpose. Thus, buyers find the purchase offer in a virtual reality (VR). Consumers are provided access to virtual commerce via the internet and particular hardware such as virtual reality goggles. A prerequisite for virtual commerce is a functioning internet connection with sufficient bandwidth.


When the internet developed into a commercial platform, some people referred to it not just as E-Commerce, but virtual commerce. For example, virtual commerce was mentioned in the title of an article in the Harvard Business Review in 1999 [1]. The article lists Amazon as an example of virtual commerce and its consequences.

With the increasing possibilities of the Internet and the associated forms of display, virtual commerce has developed from conventional e-commerce. Purchases no longer took place in a real environment, but could be handled in virtual rooms. A popular example of this development is the “Second Life.” This is a 3D world where users can live through an avatar. Second Life was released in 2003 and experienced great demand. In addition to just living in the virtual world, they were able to buy items or set up their home. Thus, Second Life was one of the first opportunities for virtual commerce. 

Today it is possible in many online-based computer games to make purchases directly in the game. Computer games sch as MMOPRG or app-based games for smartphone and tablet can also be viewed as virtual commerce.

Virtual commerce gained a significant boost through the commercialization of Virtual Reality. Today almost every modern smartphone can be converted into VR glasses with the appropriate accessories. Thus, there is the possibility for users to visit “virtual stores.”

In a broader sense, the term virtual commerce can also be understood for test environments of e-commerce websites where new functions can be implemented and tested before they go live. [2]

Classification into e-commerce[edit]

Virtual commerce can be viewed as part of e-commerce. By connecting to VR devices, V-commerce seems to be developing as part of mobile commerce.

Compared to traditional e-commerce, v-commerce has a lot more options. For example, online shops can present their products much better. The user can “enter” virtual rooms with the corresponding hardware.

In this sense, a shop in an inner city could only consist of 10 VR glasses, which customers put on at a certain place. The virtual reality is then generated at a fixed shopping location. 


In Germany, design students from the Düsseldorf University of Applied Sciences worked on a concept for a completely virtual shopping mall in 2014. A year earlier, Chinese entrepreneur Yihaodian developed an app, which was supposed to spice up the shopping experience virtually.[3] In 2016, a Chinese startup opened up a virtual shop in space to present its new smartphone. [4]

A large Korean retailer already presented a somewhat different form of "virtual commerce" in 2011.[5] The shop did not consist of real products, but only of images of these products. Customers could walk through this shop and click on the desired product. After the purchase, it was delivered to the customer's home. The idea of this virtual commerce was successful, and new "virtual supermarkets" of the Tesco chain were created in many underground stations in South Korea, establishing a new lifestyle trend.[6]

In Germany, the Zalando fashion e-commerce shop has also been experimenting with augmented reality and a printed catalogue since 2015. The aim was to link the print and online worlds via augmented reality.

In 2018 it became known that Amazon had filed a patent for so-called "Virtual Fitting Rooms". In the future, customers of the shopping portal will be able to use devices such as Amazon Echo Show in combination with a special AR mirror for the virtual fitting of clothes.[7]

Benefits for online marketing[edit]

Nevertheless, “virtual stores” are still relatively rare and are hardly used by companies. With the further development of VR devices, however, it is to be expected that it won’t be long before you can try on clothes and pay for it in virtual shops with highly individualized sales processes, which are similar to those in the real world.

The basis for virtual commerce is augmented reality or virtual reality. The big tech organizations Google and Apple have already created the technical requirements for marketers and companies to be able to implement virtual commerce. For example, advertisers can already play 360-degree video ads on YouTube.


  1. Getting Real about Virtual Commerce Accessed on 08/03/2016
  2. virtual commerce Accessed on October 20, 2018
  3. Virtual stores the next generation Accessed on 08/05/2016
  4. This Chinese Startup Set Up a Virtual Reality Store in Space to Sell Its Flagship Smartphone Accessed on 08/05/2016
  5. World's first Virtual Store opens in Korea Accessed on October 20, 2018
  6. Shop on the Go Accessed on October 20, 2018
  7. Amazon patents a mirror that dresses you in virtual clothes Downloaded on October 20, 2018.

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