How virtual and augmented reality is poised to shape retail


Virtual reality, or VR, is the use of computer technology to create a simulated environment, like a concert or a holiday destination. Augmented reality, or AR,  inserts artificial objects in a real-time environment. AR involves computers using sensors and algorithms to render 3D graphics as they would appear in front of a front-facing camera, superimposing digital imagery in a user’s viewpoint. VR also employs sensors and algorithms, however, the user’s camera is positioned within a simulated environment. With every movement the user makes, the simulated graphics flow with it, immersing the user completely in an interactive virtual universe.  According to a Goldman Sachs report, AR/VR is expected to make waves in retail, as retailer adopt this technology to shape the way consumers shop, engage with products and ultimately increase sales, efficiency and increase ROI. In what Deloitte coins “vcommerce”, AR/VR and AR in retail are predicted to reach USD 1.6 billion by 2025. AR/VR provides an interactive experience for consumers that might even go beyond traditional brick-and-mortar or online shopping.

Improve Customer Engagement

Augmented reality and virtual reality can transform customer engagement. According to BizReport, 61% of 1000 U.S consumers surveyed reported that augmented reality has influenced their shopping. Using AR, stores can improve in-store navigation to help consumers find what they need, much easier. VR can take this one step further by bridging stores to consumers homes, giving them a virtual tour of brick-and-mortar shops. This would be especially useful for retailers who sell products that are less effective with online shopping, like furniture or jewelry retailers. Retail giants like Ikea and Amazon are already implementing AR/VR buying options for their consumers.

Provides a Personalized Experience

Personalized, targeted consumer experiences can be taken to the next level with AR/VR. Retailers can capitalize on these technologies to provide an even better experience for consumers. For clothing and beauty retailers, AR can present a “virtual try on method” as it is common for customers to sample numerous products before making a purchase. Using AR, companies can allow users to “sample” beauty products like foundation before they buy, providing a much more satisfactory purchase and saving time. In fashion retail, AR can bring the routine of trying on clothes and accessories to home. As buyers do not have to select clothes, stand in line or change outfits, they can have a more streamlined process compared to brick-and-mortar stores.

Social Media Marketing

AR/VR in retail can also be used as a marketing and advertising tool, creating content for social media websites. The digital marketing landscape, while tailored to each consumer using user data, is static and only informs consumers about a product. Instead of online, web-based advertising, retailers can use 3D graphics to immerse the user. Upgrading to interactive, engaging advertising using AR/VR will allow retailers to increase site traffic. Furthermore, the data generated from these mixed reality technology will allow retailers to better track user spending patterns and preferences, thus improving the consumer experience.

Employee Training

Employee training can be a financially risking venture. Like in manufacturing. AR/VR in retail can minimize this risk, through the simulation of real-time environments and situations. Employees can be trained on basic job duties like assisting customers with store codes or how to use a new technology in a factory.

The possibilities for augmented and virtual reality in retail will transform the industry, implementing new methods for the industry to deliver its services and products. AR/VR are expanding on traditional services provided in retail and will play an extensive role in customer services in our increasingly virtual world.