We live in a fast-paced world where new technologies emerge every year, making our lives easier and luxurious. The retail industry is also constantly evolving to meet customers’ ever-changing expectations. A more recent trend is the use of Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR and VR) in retailing today. Imagine a scenario where one can experience and interact with a product before it is bought despite being several miles away from where it is sold. Fascinating, isn’t it?
Virtual Reality is an artificial environment that is created with software and presented to the user in such a way that it looks real. It is the use of computer technology to create a simulated environment.
Augmented Reality, on the other hand, is a combination of real and virtual (computer-generated) worlds. It is a type of virtual reality that aims to duplicate the world’s environment on a computer. Its goal is to create a system in which the user cannot tell the difference between the real world and the virtual augmentation of it.
By now it is no news that the retail industry has been subject to an increasingly quick pace of change with waves of new and exciting developments throughout its history. With this new technology, AR and VR, you will expect that its biggest impact will be online shopping, but as we’ll see, it is also changing the in-store experience. Some of the most creative applications of VR have
mixed the real world with the virtual world.
VR can be used to make the in-store experience much more compelling and interesting for the customer and add real, tangible benefits for the retailer. For example, Marks & Spencer, in collaboration with its agency Mindshare created a pop-up virtual-reality showroom that took around key homeware locations in Leeds and London. This pop-up allowed consumers to drag and drop items from its high-end LOFT homeware range to create what the company described as “their ideal living space”.
Online retailing with VR allows customers to create a much more immersive and engaging experience that mimics those of physical retail stores, as well as adding enhancements that are not even possible in the real world. Chinese shopping giant Alibaba.com introduced a system called Buy+. Buy+ is a shopping platform that allows customers to browse, not only a department store but a recreated part of New York City around it – getting a cab from Times Square to a version of Macy’s. That’s an interesting part of VR, those who use it do not have to copy the real world.
Nigeria is not left behind in the adoption of these technologies. There are already a few stores offering various VR services, though still majorly into gaming and other fun activities. It is only a matter of time before stores find a way to embed it into their services.
The thing with retail business is that it doesn’t need VR & AR solutions to be profitable. With VR and AR in retail, it is the customer experience that matters. It is about building brands associated with quality, care, and a wide range of options. Virtual and augmented reality can help to do just that: reshaping the industry to fit the latest trends and stay modern.
The benefits of VR and AR in retailing (some of which have already been stated above) are limitless. We have however outlined some of them for you in this article.
Augmented and Virtual Reality solutions vastly improve customer engagement and involvement, be it in-store or from the comfort of their homes. With the increased ability of customers in-store navigation and easy accessibility to products, customers can find shopping exciting which will ultimately boost sales for the business. Customers can get detailed information by looking at the product as they would in a store, using virtual and augmented reality technologies.
A happy customer is a returning customer. The likelihood of a customer to return to the retailer in the future if they have a pleasant experience while shopping for the first time is very high. It will also boost sales as the customer is equally likely a potential customer. The chances of product returns are also very low. All these help boost sales and keeps the retail shops ahead in the highly competitive market.
AR and VR can prove to be excellent tools for marketing. They provide engaging and intuitive content for digital marketing as they are a good avenue of marketing on social media sites. The current marketing strategies provide only information about products to the user. AR and VR can provide an engaging advertisement option that evokes interest in the user, making them more likely to check out the product.
This is one big hurdle traditional in-store sellers face regularly. AR and VR help cut through the noise of in-store retailing and crowded stores as customers are engaged in trying out products or getting information firsthand using AV and VR.
The most appealing part of the implementation of VR & AR in Retail Business is the fact that these technologies offer an entirely new aspect to work with. Currently, both technologies are barely extending and expanding traditional services in a variety of ways. Yet this is only the beginning. Businesswise predicts that the market for AR and VR technologies will reach $60.55billion and $34.08billion by 2023 respectively.
AR and VR technologies will see to better customer experience, reduced cost and increased efficiencies in retail. The retail industry in Nigeria is a big one given the huge population of the country, and with AV and VR the future of retail is indeed promising.
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