The global market for VR and AR in retail will reach USD 1.6 billion by 2025. With such a huge potential market, retail businesses must look forward to adopting these technologies. The demand here will be substantial in the future as the implementation of these technologies enables businesses to grow and increase financial prospects. Implementation of AR and VR in retail helps retailers and consumers alike have a better shopping experience while reducing operating costs for retailers, and offering an immersive, engaging experience to consumers.
Benefits of Using AR and VR in Retail
Augmented reality and virtual reality solutions vastly improve customer engagement and involvement. Augmented reality can help provide customers in-store navigation and help them find the products they are looking for, easily. Virtual reality takes customer engagement to a whole new level by providing customers with virtual tours of the store from the comfort of their homes. Customers can get detailed information by looking at the product as they would in a store using virtual and augmented reality technologies. Augmented reality can be leveraged to project the products in the real world, whereas virtual reality headsets can provide an immersive buying experience. This changes the way we look for, buy, and sell things online entirely. As a result, the e-retail segment will profoundly benefit from virtual and augmented reality technologies.
Create a Personalized Shopping Experience
Retailers already realize the benefits of personalized and targeted marketing. They use personalized marketing strategies for mobile, desktop, and web shopping platforms. AR and VR can capitalize on this marketing strategy to provide a better shopping experience to customers. Retailers can provide 3D graphics-rich content instead of a simple 2D banner. This provides for an immersive experience and increases user engagement. This may increase sales for retailers. Users, too, can design customized products specific to their liking using AR tools. This helps in creating a completely customized shopping experience where every customer has special and unique products, which increases the users' buy-rate from the retail store. Augmented and virtual reality gives a detailed view of the customers' preferences and helps retailers provide curated shopping options to its customers.
Improve Customer Satisfaction and Customer Return Rate
A happy customer is a returning customer. Customers are more likely to return to the retailer in the future if they have a pleasant experience while shopping for the first time with a particular retailer. With the personalized services provided by AR and VR technologies, the chances of the user having a positive experience are very high. The customer is likely to return to the same retailer for shopping in the future. The chances of product returns are also very low. VR and AR in retail will help companies retain their customers and achieve profits even in a highly competitive market. Early implementers will have the edge over other businesses that venture late into the augmented and virtual reality segment.
Augmented reality and virtual reality can prove to be excellent tools for marketing. They provide engaging and intuitive content for digital marketing. Augmented and virtual reality technologies can be used for marketing on social media sites. The current marketing strategies provide only information about products to the user. The ads displayed are non-interactive and don’t always spark a user’s interest. Augmented and virtual reality can provide for an engaging advertisement option that evokes interest in the user, making them more likely to check out the product. The social media marketing landscape is being used extensively by many companies nowadays, and retailers can benefit from it too.
Training employees is a complicated process. This exercise can prove costly if the employee makes some mistakes during the training process resulting in a financial loss for the employer. The use of VR and AR in retail can minimize the risk involved in the training procedure. Using Virtual Reality technology, employees can be trained by simulating real-life environments and situations. Employees can be safely trained while reacting to various situations like helping customers find a particular product or operating a conveyor belt.
Applications of VR and AR in Retail
According to a report, nearly two-thirds (61%) of the 1,000 U.S. adults surveyed said that augmented reality has influenced where they shop. With spatial awareness of augmented reality, furniture retailers can leverage the technology to help customers find the right furniture according to their apartment space. The user can project the exact size of the furniture and get a better idea as to how the furniture will look when placed in a particular place or if it fits at all. Shoppers can easily gauge the color and styles of the furniture selected and decide whether to go ahead with the purchase. Major retailers like IKEA and Amazon have already provided augmented reality-assisted buying options for their consumers. Many other companies are picking up on this technology to provide better service to their consumers.
Augmented Reality provides for a ‘try-before-you-buy' option for consumers. It is common while shopping in the beauty industry for consumers, mostly women, to try a variety of products before deciding on one. With augmented reality, users can ‘try' hundreds of beauty products and decide according to their choice. Consumers can try these products at the comfort of their fingertips. It helps to save time, as they are no longer needed to visit an outlet in person. Retailers, too, can benefit from this and provide users with discounts and cashback as selling products on a digital platform is usually cheaper than from a brick-and-mortar outlet.
Fashion and Footwear
As with the beauty sector, the fashion and footwear sectors also have a ‘try-and-buy’ approach. AR can bring the process of fitting clothes and trying out new styles to homes. It will vastly increase the variety of options available to the consumer. Retailers can also provide the user with a wide variety of options online, but they are usually constrained with space in a physical outlet and offer fewer options for consumers to choose from. The shopping experience for the buyer is also greatly improved as they don’t have to go through the task of changing into different clothes to try them on which may get tiresome after some time. Same as with the beauty sector, retailers can provide discounts to users using digital shopping methods while retaining their profit margins.
The Future of VR and AR in Retail
Augmented and Virtual Reality has already made inroads in the retail sector. Considering the benefits and ease of trade they offer, these technologies are here to stay. Major retailers across various sectors have already begun reaping the benefits of augmented reality and virtual reality technologies. The positive response of the consumers regarding these technologies will only push the industry to adopt them at their organizations more aggressively. The data generated from the technologies will help study customers’ buying patterns and preferences to provide an improved experience to the retailer as well as the consumer.
The implementation of AR and VR in retail offers new methods the industry can operate on. Both these technologies are extending and expanding on traditional services offered by the retail industry. The future of retail deeply involves technology and AR and VR are going to play a huge role in this services industry.
Naveen Joshi is Founder and CEO of Allerin, which develops engineering and technology solutions focused on optimal customer experiences. Naveen works in AI, Big Data, IoT and Blockchain. An influencer with a half a million followers, he is a highly seasoned professional with more than 20 years of comprehensive experience in customizing open source products for cost optimizations of large scale IT deployment.