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AR and VR to revolutionise how retailers connect with customers

By Vivian Hendriksz


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What will the store of tomorrow look like? Although it is clear that the digital world changing the way consumers shop, new technologies, such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), are rapidly reshaping the retail landscape by enhancing the customer experience in-store and online. Thanks to consumers extensive use of smartphones and the rise of wearable technologies, AR and VR are being widely embraced by consumers and set to disrupt growth in the retail sector, according to research from GlobalData, data, and analytics company.

AR, an interactive experience of a real-world environment with additional elements that are ‘augmented’ using computer-generated perceptual information, can be incorporated into physical stores to further strengthen customers shopping journey. For example, AR can be used to guide customers through stores in an entertaining and informative way by blending in product details and location, according to GlobalData’s Digital Retail Platform. Imagine customers being able to hold their smartphone over a price tag and be able to see immediately how and where a product was made. Overall AR solutions are arguably less disruptive to existing store layouts, formats and processes compared to VR, which completely immerses shoppers in a virtual experience.

VR and AR will rapidly reshape the retail landscape predicts GlobalData

In addition AR can also be useful in supporting staff in stores and warehouses by providing them with practical information without disrupting their view as it can be used with smartglasses, which in turn would keep their hands free since they would not need to hold tablets or devices and can easily carry out tasks such as packing, loading or recording inventory. On the flip side, VR is much more limited in use for in-store and warehouse employees as it more immersive, but it can prove to be useful for training, product demonstrations, and games in certain areas.

“AR and VR have been tested in retail for a while, but have only been implemented in a limited way so far,” said Andreas Olah, Digital Retail Analyst at GlobalData, in a statement. “However, this is expected to change as major supermarkets, department stores, fashion retailers and DIY stores look to roll out them for various purposes, from in-store navigation and virtual apparel trials to product demonstrations, games and interaction with virtual shop assistants.” AR introduction within the fashion industry has been made even easier for companies since Apple launches its ARKit and Google its ARcore, which makes it easier for smartphone integration.

For example, luxury fashion house Gucci recently launched scannable ads for its spring 2018 campaign ‘The Gucci Hallucination’ using both VR and AR. Customers who made a purchase at 52 selected Gucci stores were given artwork from Spanish artist Ignasi Monreal’s in the form of tickets which offered customers access to in-store VR devices that showcased a 360-degree panorama of Monreal’s campaign artwork. At the same time, other scannable ads in the form of window stickers from Monreal were available for customers to discover in AR via the Gucci app.

Fast-fashion giant Zara recently dabbled with AR as well, placing AR displays in 120 stores around the world in April for two weeks. The AR feature offered customers the chance to view its Zara Studio Collection on models which features a sensor in stores or window displays through the Zara AR app and then buy the looks with the click of a button. Burberry also used Apple’s ARKit back in September 2017 to launch its Burberry-inspired paintings by artist Fanny Sangra. Using the camera feeds on smartphones, users could recreate his work using graffiti-like doodles and share the images via social media. However, the fashion industry’s experimentation with VR goes even further back than autumn 2017.

One of the first mainstream brands to try out VR experiences in store was high street retailer Topshop. Topshop offered selected customers the opportunity to watch the Topshop Unique London Fashion Week AW14 Show from the ‘virtual’ front row at its London flagship store. Four customers were invent to watch the show live via bespoke VR headsets as the show was taking place at Tate Modern. Viewers could look all around and experience the show as if they were there in person themselves - with a slightly less sharp resolution of course.

Photos: Zara Studio Collection, via Zara/Gucci Hallucination, via Gucci/via Pexels

Augmented Reality
Virtual Reality