It can inspire shoppers and fire the imagination – now virtual and augmented reality are moving into mainstream retail
Forget boring things like physical products dragged down by price points. The future of retail is all about the uplifting virtual world. And the saviour has come from an unlikely source, a chase for pixelated characters from Japan. Pokémon Go has stirred consumers’ imagination and now the lines between the real and virtual are blurred forever.
You can now tour the Egyptian pyramids in a Thomas Cook travel agency, zoom through Audi’s virtual car showroom without leaving home or with IKEA you can eye up your kitchen augmented with new furniture. Pop on a headset or download an app and there’s a try-before-you-buy experience out there for everyone.
“These technologies are improving experiences for customers – we know that people don’t like buying products, but they will spend money on experiences, particularly millennials,” says Luke D’Arcy, UK president at Momentum Worldwide, creators of a virtual reality (VR) experience for American Express at this year’s US Open Tennis Championships.
The technology, including augmented reality (AR), which overlays digital information on to the physical world, may have had false dawns in the past, yet many believe the sweet point has now been reached. Now there is scalable computing power and machine-learning, believable visuals, reduced development costs and increasing consumer acceptance, even though only a small proportion of UK shoppers have actually experienced it.
...And the virtual future looks bright as by 2025 the market is expected to be worth $80 billion, roughly the size of the desktop PC market today, according to Goldman Sachs, $45 billion from hardware and $35 billion from software.
...Google recently launched Project Tango in the United States allowing retail shoppers to navigate to products in-store, while getting rewarded in a revolutionary way, so expect this in the UK soon. “In addition to cameras and sensors found in smartphones, Tango devices are equipped with motion, depth sensors and vision software to create augmented reality experiences that wouldn’t otherwise be possible on a smartphone,” says Mr D’Arcy.