Virtual reality (VR) and Augmented reality (AR) have evolved a long way from young technologies to ultimately impacting the world. With more than 8.9 million AR/VR headsets and AR-enabled smartphones sold in 2019, it’s clear that consumers are embracing these technologies. These pioneering technologies are also collectively referred to as augmented reality (XR) due to their similar usage and functionality.
Retail is an example of the most competitive sector of the administration. It is a common experience that no matter how narrow your market is, you have to fight for a spot beneath the sun; you have to win customers. That’s why retail companies are particularly interested in finding new and more sophisticated ways to engage customers and create new brands.
- Lowe’s, a major North American homewares retailer, has come up with an exciting way to use VR in-store. Using an HTC Vive device and a specially made controller, anyone afraid of power tools can put on a VR headset and learn how tools work in a safe virtual space.
- Ikea has come up with the Ikea Place ARKit app, which offers users a 3D preview of selected furniture in the desired location in their home/office. Users can see how the table fits and what their preferences are.
- For example, Topshop worked with AR Door to create a virtual fitting room for customers in its Moscow store using Kinect motion-sensing technology. Customers could see how clothes looked on them in front of a camera without physically trying them on.
The main challenge is developing software that would work with AR/VR projects for these particular use situations. According to a Goldman Sachs statement, AR/VR software resources for retail exacts touch $1.6 billion through 2025.
Retailers can use this technology to radically transform the way customers shop through more profound engagement, increased customer satisfaction, and improved efficiency, which will help increase sales and maximize ROI.
Retailers must also anticipate changes in consumer behavior due to the global spread of the coronavirus pandemic. While consumers rely heavily on manufacturers and consumer goods retailers to ensure a steady supply of essential goods, retailers struggle to meet growing demand while maintaining safety standards and meeting customer expectations. On the other hand, retailers offering durable goods have temporarily closed their physical branches and continue to engage with customers on various online platforms and other initiatives.
More than ever, digital conversion will perform a key role for retailers. The adoption of AR and VR in retail helps retailers and consumers have a better shopping experience while reducing retailers’ operating costs and providing consumers with an engaging, enjoyable, and safe experience.
Although AR and VR fall into the same realm, there is a significant difference in the hardware and software that these technologies enable and the experience they create. While augmented reality integrates digital information into real-world scenarios, virtual reality provides a fully immersive experience.
Many devices such as smartphones, owned by the vast majority of consumers, already support AR, delivering it further affordable, accessible, and easier to use. More than two billion smartphones are capable of displaying high-quality, full-size augmented reality content. On the other hand, VR requires specially configured devices that are relatively expensive and not owned by the average consumer. However, the number of VR devices sold has increased significantly over the years. In the subsequent chapters, we will consequently discuss both technologies separately.
Brands that started using augmented reality technology early on have seen significant sales growth for several years. Conversion rates have increased by 10% to 200%. Returns are down 25%, and purchase decision times have been cut in half. AR has real ROI implications that cannot be ignored, even without the looming fear of coronavirus.
In today’s environment, customers need to have fewer physical encounters in retail. Even running after this change, consumers will be vigilant and especially aware of how they interact with products in brick-and-mortar stores – this is where augmented reality (AR) technology can play a role. Today’s constraints allow retailers to connect emotionally with consumers and influence their shopping experience.
Several ways to do this include prioritizing consumer safety, building trust, and ensuring convenience and ease of use. Using augmented reality to help consumers navigate the store can reduce time spent in-store and interact with the store. You can provide customers with directions to the store from different mall entrances or in-store maps to quickly find items in the store.
Clothing and retail stores depend on customers to try on their products in-store. Consumers will be reluctant to try on clothes that may have come into contact with other people. To overcome this barrier, augmented reality with video walls allows people to try products in stores virtually.
A similar application can be used via mobile phones when consumers shop online at home. It can speed up the decision-making process, increase sales and reduce returns at the same time.
Many brands and retailers rely on products’ physical touch and feel to make purchasing decisions. When consumers cannot visit stores to see outcomes, launching new products is a challenge. Consumers can create a digitally enhanced product experience that consumers can interact with from home in such a situation. Consumers who are excited by such experiences increase brand loyalty and act as brand promoters.
OnePlus recently unveiled its new OnePlus 8 series smartphone online via a live stream on YouTube. Shortly later, the brand created an AR version of the unboxing of its new phone. Customers could try out using an AR filter on Instagram and further share their social media channels, driving greater engagement.
Building a customized order used to take a lot of time, depending on the customer’s imagination. AR in retail helps overcome these hurdles by creating virtual versions of the desired product. Nike Makers’ Experience combines augmented reality, object tracking, and projection technology (using AI and IoT), as well as digital signage or video walls that display custom designs on sneakers.
Personalized Marketing and Product Discovery
In-store navigation can be linked-to personalized marketing. As consumers use their smartphones to navigate your shop, you can use augmented reality and artificial intelligence to display personalized product offers based on consumers’ purchase history and preferences. Personalized offers have a higher conversion rate and improve the customer experience.
You can also use AR to promote products to consumers.
How VR is changing the shopping experience:
Creating Virtual Encounters
VR can help eliminate the annoyance of shopping. For example, according to research by McKinsey, the average car buyer visits 1.6 car dealerships today, up from 5 to 10 years ago. According to The Economist, many describe the experience as dull, aggressive, and bureaucratic. But given how complex cars are becoming, customers also want a competent person to explain all the features such as entertainment systems, navigation services, and automatic parking.
On the other hand, because of the global pandemic, customers are reluctant to visit multiple showrooms or interact with many people. VR can bridge the apparent contradiction between customers’ desire for personal service and their reluctance to visit a shop by making experiences virtually possible. In-car buying could mean exploring the cockpit or taking a virtual test drive.
Consumers favor shopping online rather than visiting physical shops, and you need to make your e-commerce channel more powerful and experiential. The potential of using virtual reality in online retail is clear: it enables retailers to produce much more immersive and engaging practices that mimic physical shops and add enhancements that are not possible in the real world.
VR can make the in-store experience much more appealing and engaging for the customer and deliver accurate and physical benefits for the retailer. As the form of retail spaces shifts much more intelligently and focuses on maximizing footfall in the right places at the right time, VR can have a measurable impact on critical metrics. However, it is a moderately new technology that installing VR in-store can increase footfall by creating a buzz around a particular shop area.
As the technology is still relatively new, installing VR in-store can increase visitor numbers by calling around a specific location. The company follows a “one-for-one” donation model, where for every pair of shoes purchased by a customer, a free couple donates to a child in a developing country. To bring this to life, Toms has developed a 360-degree Virtual Giving Trip campaign that lets customers experience first-hand the impact of their purchase.
Facilitate Employee Training
Employee training is a complex process. This exercise can be costly if an employee commits some mistakes during the training process, leading to a financial loss for the employer. The use of VR can minimize the risks associated with the training process. Using virtual reality technology can train workers by simulating real-world environments and situations. Walmart has introduced VR to help identify workers for management positions.
Using Oculus Go VR headsets, employees immerse themselves in real-life situations, such as calming an angry customer or showing new employees around the shop to test their decision-making, leadership, and soft skills in challenging situations.
Retailers who already have AR and VR capabilities are better prepared to adapt to changing customer behavior. Together, AR and VR offer customers a unique shopping experience that helps them make better decisions, saves them time, and ensures their safety by reducing in-store contact or enabling an immersive shopping experience from home.
So it’s an excellent opportunity to think about how you can use AR and VR in your online and physical shops. Customers’ command keeps coming back, not just for the bargain but for the experience your shop provides. If you are looking for an AR / VR developer or software developer, many top software development companies in India may help you develop your dream project.
I’m Olivia Cuthbert, and I am a technical consultant and writer working for PixelCrayons. I am passionate about exploring and writing about innovation & technology and have been in this field for 4+ years.