In the film Ready Player One, much of humanity lives in a dystopian culture and relies heavily on virtual reality (VR) to escape the real world. The year is 2045 and the movie’s protagonist, Wade Watts, uses OASIS VR software to go to school, shop at the mall, play video games with friends and create his virtual world. Sounds crazy, right?

These types of technologies used to feel so far removed from our current state, but not anymore. Smart technologies and the Internet of Things (IoT) are at the forefront of changing everything, and quickly.

The year is 2019: Do you need to adjust the temperature your thermostat, but you are not at home? There’s an app for that. Need help parking your car? Let your vehicle do it for you. It won’t be long until we’re all wearing Google Glass to help us make purchasing decisions or using an Oculus headset to do more than just play video games. Technologies such as AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality) are penetrating in all areas of our lives, but particularly within shopping. A study from MarketsandMarkets reports that VR will be a $34.1 billion market by 2023, while a Worldplay report finds that 65% of consumers believe VR can change the way they shop.

Create Virtual Online Experiences Before They Buy

The consumer online shopping experience is currently one dimensional; a typical journey includes a consumer going to a company’s website (or Amazon) to shop for a particular item, clicking on the purchasable item and thinking, “Wow, this looks nice!” But wouldn’t it be even better if the consumer could view and experience the product in 3D?

Some retailers are already capitalizing on AR and VR technologies, such as Wayfair. When consumers go to the Wayfair website, they can click on an item and view furniture and decor in their homes in 3D before they buy. The company has even ensured the AR technology is mobile friendly, allowing consumers to shop on the go from their iPhone.

Shopping for Packaging in 3D

Consumers are going to want a similar experience while online grocery shopping too, and consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands must work to elevate that experience. Utilizing technologies that enable CPGs to create 2D/3D packaging shots that can be sent straight to a company’s e-commerce website would be nice to have, because it allows the consumer to better visualize the product’s size and shape while comprehending the ingredients, etc.

But VR isn’t just for consumers. Brand leaders can leverage packaging technologies to improve their internal packaging approval processes.

VR Technologies Help Win Executive, Consumer Approvals

By visualizing a package in VR, executives get a 3D preview of what the package will look like in a variety of contexts. VR technology allows executives to see what a product package looks like both early in the value chain and what the package will look like at the end of the value chain (or on the shelf). When you place a product in a VR environment, you can see whether the chosen color makes the package pop on the shelf or if it merely blends into all the surrounding competition. It becomes easier to approve packaging designs while placed in the environment in which it performs. Executives can also easily request changes — like color and shape — without running up material costs.

When the package design concept is finished, brand leaders often commission research studies to see how the package performs with consumers through market testing. This process usually can take 12 weeks or more, but VR technologies can help expedite feedback by leveraging VR with in-house focus groups — getting faster insights from the consumer and saving CPGs both time and money.

For example, companies like L’Oreal have created a virtual reality room called the “Beauty Lab” to increase efficiency during the packaging decision-making process. L’Oreal’s Dermablend brand tested packaging designs in the lab, rendering the packages with 3D modeling and placing the product inside a virtual Ulta store. Amazon is also using AI-powered technology that allows shoppers to virtually try makeup. From there, the brand brought in a focus group and requested feedback on the different branding and packaging.

Packaging Is a Digital, Physical and Virtual Experience

While packaging itself is still physical, it now lives on digital channels and can even be enhanced virtually. Companies must look to evolve product packaging as shopping experiences continue to change. Consumers are already using AR/VR technologies to improve their buying experience online, and packaging should go 3D to help elevate and influence e-commerce purchasing decisions. Creating 2D/3D pack shots is simple when using the appropriate packaging software, and it enables easy sharing to e-commerce or retail websites.

Separately, these same packaging technologies that can be used to elevate shoppers’ e-commerce experience can also be used to revolutionize your brand’s packaging process. Being able to visualize the package in 3D gives your team the agility to make adjustments without incurring costs — and brings consumer research in-house. By expediting executive approvals and consumer feedback on product packaging, you can get your product to market faster.

The Esko product portfolio supports and manages the packaging and print processes for brand owners, retailers, designers, premedia and trade shops, packaging manufacturers and converters. For more information, visit