TECHNOLOGY

Report: VR to have tangible impact in retail

BY Dan Berthiaume

Burgeoning growth of virtual reality (VR) usage among consumers could change retail.

According to “Virtual Reality in Retail: 2019 and Beyond,” a new report from Pymnts, 1.2 million augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) headsets shipped in the first half of 2018, with 100 million AR/VR headset users expected by 2022. As a result, Pymnts says along with AR, VR has the potential to change how consumers think about shopping, how they approach relationships with retailers, and what stores they purchase products from.

In the store, Pymnts predicts a growing number of retailers will use VR to run product simulations, such as some apparel retailers already do with VR-enabled dressing room mirror displays or car dealers do with virtual test drives. Some home décor retailers are also using VR to enable customers to decorate virtual spaces, allowing them to visualize how products would actually look in their homes.

According to the report, statistics show these types of VR offerings can aid the bottom line, as well as loyalty. Profitability for retailers who offer virtual fitting rooms can rise as much as 20%, while the convenience of returning to a retailer where their personal measurements are already stored by VR technology boosts customer loyalty. In addition, 80% of customers say they want to use AR and VR to design a room.

Online, Pymnts says e-commerce retailers are leveraging VR to create blended digital-physical experiences, such as interactive VR kiosks Amazon set up in India for its annual Prime Day sales event. E-commerce retailers are also expected to offer customers “virtual store” experiences in their homes via VR headset apps that let them shop and purchase products in a simulated brick-and-mortar environment without having to actually visit a store.

So far, Pymnts says retailers are using mobile VR technology to enhance or duplicate existing VR experiences, rather than create unique, tailored VR simulations for mobile devices. For example, outdoor apparel retailer Timberland offers a mobile fitting room where customers can use smartphone cameras via the Facebook app to look into a virtual mirror specifically designed to respond to their movements. This is designed to replicate an in-store VR fitting room where Timberland shoppers can use hand gestures to virtually try on clothes.

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