The art of buying and selling has existed since the dawn of man, but with civilization came a new concept, retail.
From small merchants trying to sell a few common goods to nation-wide corporations with mega stores that let you buy everything from toilet paper to a brand-new sports car. The more they can sell to you, the more profit they can make.
Then walks in virtual and augmented reality. Someone, somewhere then thought it would be a great idea to merge this into the retail business. If it can be used to increase sales and reduce costs, then why not?
Following the same logic, each stage involved in the retail process can be long and exhausting, from awareness to exploration, to selection, purchase, and even post-purchase service and advocacy.
The point here is, if any new technology can help shorten the process, enhance customer experience and increase sales, then there is no reason not to utilize it.
– and that is exactly what retailers are doing right now, combining AR/VR and retail.
Explore what is available
Let’s start with the first leg of the journey, exploration.
AR technology can help in two ways here, first is simply locating the store/place. Some service has AR assisted directional mapping that allows you to locate and get directions to their physical location when you really need to go in. Obviously, this is not a direct intervention of retailers but just a nice fallout or byproducts of the technology itself.
The second, however, is directly attributed to the retailer’s efforts. This is the feature that allows consumers to take a tour, view information or explore what is available, plus add some twist to the shopping experience while instore.
An example of this is Walmart’s sponsorship of Jurassic World’s AR game, which lets users visit the store as a virtual supply depot and if they buy a few physical items along the way, that’s just good for business.
Being more Engaged
This involves direct interaction with the customers to make a sale by interacting with the products. This can be as simple as seeing the item from multiple angles to being able to deconstruct a product to see its added features. (Car manufacturers are already using this to showcase new features of their cars that would not otherwise be possible to see on a physical car)
No better way to evaluate a product for purchase then seeing it, but when there is the added difficulty of going to the physical location to make your selection, especially when multiple locations are involved.
AR and VR retail implementations can prove to be, not just a more practical approach to the purchasing process but also a means by which retailers save money by reducing overhead costs.
Buying within VR space
Go one step further and add the ability to visualize what purchases would look like in its final location. IKEA and Wayfair, for example, were among the first to use AR for furniture and home goods retailing, letting consumers place and manipulate catalog items at scale in consumers’ homes, while Memomi is providing magic mirror experiences for beauty and apparel and accessories to its customers.
But the technology does just stop there, with better VR/AR devices coming to market, the options available to retailers increase exponentially and like any other useful tool, it will be exploited to its very limits.
Better visuals, more interactive experience, faster demos, more immersive content, it’s not hard to see why retail companies are integrating VR/AR into their core business models. Plus it gives them an edge over their competitors.