TECHNOLOGY

Consumers embracing AR, VR

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Customers increasingly want to shop with retailers that offer augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).

This was according to the “2018 Digital Commerce Study” from Incisiv, and sponsored by Boston Retail Partners (BRP) and Windstream Enterprise. The study reported that 48% of customers would be more likely to shop at a retailer that utilizes augmented or virtual reality. Many retailers have already introduced AR apps and testing and deployment of VR apps is increasing. And 32% of retailers plan to use AR and VR within three years, respectively.

AR and VR offer new and enhanced ways for customers to experience merchandise, like visualizing how a product would look in their home or even on their body. Both technologies offer interesting applications and opportunities, as the ability to mix virtual and real elements can be game changing – especially for furniture, home décor and apparel retailers.

Macy’s is currently rolling out a new VR experience across 70 locations, combined with an AR app for home use. Both offer an immersive furniture shopping experience that allows browsing and visualization of a much larger assortment of furniture than a typical store.

Other applications of the technology include Sephora’s “Virtual Artist” app that enables customers to use AR to scan their face, and try different looks directly through their smartphone. Meanwhile, Foot Locker’s “The Hunt” AR scavenger hunt inspires smartphone-toting sneakerheads to venture across Los Angeles to unlock geo-targeted AR clues to earn the chance to be among the first to acquire new limited-edition LeBron 16 King “Court Purple” sneakers.

“Immersive technology like VR and AR is redefining the way consumers can experience and buy products, leveraging the advantages of physical space, like the store or the customer’s home, without being constrained by the space,” said Brian Brunk, principal, BRP. “Traditional retail lines continue to blur as retail realities are rapidly evolving and the stage where the theater of retail takes place can be dictated by the customer.”

Mobility will further spur consumer access to AR and VR, a factor that should encourage retailers to step up their mobile game. In fact, consumers said they use mobile devices for 46% of their shopping experiences.

These digital tools are also helping retailers create more personalized digital experiences. For example, 51% of consumers feel it is important to have personalized experience across all of a brand’s digital channels. Where efforts lag however, is at store level where only 18% of retailers currently utilize customer identifying technology.

This is putting retailers at a disadvantage as consumers said that digital influences 75% of in-store visits. The good news is that within three years, 78% of companies will utilize these details to personalize the experience.

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