The growth of online shopping is simply impressive. What did it take for it to catch on? Why are the consumer preferences so different? How can you take advantage of this massive market? And what will be the effects of a consumer preference for virtual products versus physical products, especially if they are distributed over the Internet?

Many Internet merchants have the same basic selling strategy: offering consumers the lowest possible price and creating as many transactions as possible through their website. This is exactly why so many people visit coupon websites like, because that’s where they can find all the offers.

In a traditional retail scenario, these companies would have a salesperson in each store that might be responsible for managing the whole experience. However, today the virtual reality, augmented reality and 3D virtual worlds are so advanced and consumers are comfortable interacting with the technology on their own that they simply do not have someone to manage the experience.

One of the ways that businesses can get around this dilemma is to sell their products for a higher price via a “buy-to-leave” or “buy-to-try” program.

In this program, a consumer gets to try an offering, then purchases the product on the website.

A similar buy-to-leave strategy is being implemented by a company called VR Zone in Chicago. While VR Zone uses an older version of VR technology like Oculus Rift or PlayStation VR, the strategy was recently updated and the company has gone so far as to charge $10 more for every purchase for customers to “try” the VR experience. VR Zone’s president, Sam D’Amore, told me:

“The consumer wants to know they’re getting the same quality experience they would in a movie theaterAnd to do that, we need to show that a VR-capable product delivers what we’ve promised it would deliver and what consumers want.”

These buy-to-leave offerings have been criticized as a way for companies to take advantage of consumers who are still learning about the technology. According to VR Zone’s official website, the company is working with leading researchers and professors, and has partnered with Microsoft and the Chinese military. Some critics argue that VR content isn’t ready for prime time, or that the experience is not as deep or immersive as some have hoped. (D’Amore told me he doesn’t disagree with those critiques.) “We are seeing a growing number of consumers who are becoming comfortable enough with the technology to give it a try,” he said. “They don’t necessarily know what they want. We’re reaching out to them to ask what they would like to see in the next generation of virtual reality.”

A number of the VR companies working on hardware, apps, and content will eventually make their way into the mobile apps market. (This will be particularly true for Samsung’s Gear VR headsets, which will also run Tizen-based apps.) HTC will be one of those companies.

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