With the never-ending news reports that the UK’s high street is decreasing, retail companies are having to explore different avenues to innovate and stay ahead of the times. VR and AR are at the forefront of new advancements in retail with companies immersing customers in a virtual store which adds to the customer experience.
Mixed reality solutions are helping to add a new and fresh ideas to many sectors. In this article, we will find out how they are increasing different parts of the retail industry, giving an insight into the trends of the future.
Why VR has taken place in retail
A variety of different companies are constantly changing their marketing strategies in order to compete for customers in a congested market. Another big factor which has forced companies in retail across various subsectors to try and save the shrinking UK high street. Plagued by closures, the UK’s plight to save stores and sales is only growing. With the latest consumer fixation over the value of ‘experiences’, the characteristics of VR proved complementary to this demand and those at the helm of the retail industry have noted this.
By including customers with an experience in 360 degrees, in which they can see exactly what the brand’s ideas are for their campaign and product. Virtual reality is also suited to the ever decreasing attention span of a younger audience, with Generation Z having a rapid window of eight seconds — so making an impression matters more than ever. By its very nature, virtual reality is far more impactful for the user, allowing brands to take their customers on a simulated journey. As a result, more and more retailers are innovating their strategies, bringing them in line with an approach where creating experiences is key. Mixed reality solutions are adding new layers of customer engagement to the retail sector.
Let’s take a look through some of the most prominent VR moments throughout the fashion, automotive, and food and drinks retail sectors.
Food and drinks
A great deal of accuracy must take place when it comes to food and drinks in factories. This is because of incidents which have made headlines including cross contamination, food poisoning, and different allergy outbreaks. This can be damaging to the consumer as well as the brand, especially if it is spread in public. However, mixed reality solutions are being developed to meet the sensitivity of these environments, while also adhering to the limiting legislation which surrounds tackling things such as pathogens in the production line. One of the most refined approaches yet has been the TraXR system, pioneered by the Newcastle based mixed reality specialists Luminous Group. TraXR is designed to track and identify the presence of pathogens in food and beverage factories, while also actively preventing outbreaks of anything from listeria to salmonella. The technology functions through a mixed reality headset and utilizes mapped visualizations of the factory environment to record any findings.
Popular soft drink company Coca-Cola is taking a similar approach, as a fascinating experience has been created for users. The project uses AR technology with simple storytelling and 3D animations. This is accessed from a smart device camera. The company demonstrates the effectives of creating these AR simulations, as they were able to target a variety of audience age brackets by tailoring the augmented ‘story’ content accordingly — amalgamating the effectiveness of both traditional and modern marketing approaches in the sector.
As we have mentioned, the fashion retail industry is constantly in danger, with restructuring plans regularly taking place to try and save companies. However, there have been many instances in that stores and companies have completely shut down, with thousands of job losses. With the physical nature of the high street being a key element in its overall downfall, the digital space has superseded traditional shopping, triggering an ecommerce boom. However, technology such as virtual and augmented reality could be the fundamental lifeline for the quintessential British high street. It has the scope to strike up a blend between the physical and digital aspects of offline fashion retailing.
One term in which we regularly hear, ‘flagship store’, has merged with the digital age, informed and advanced by virtual and augmented reality which has pushed brand marketers to equip their customer’s shopping experience with something new. Omnichannel shopping is a key aspect of this, demanding more from customer experience and KPIs. The high street favourite Zara used mixed reality to represent its merger of offline and online marketing, from handheld devices helping stock availability and an augmented feature on its app. With the app, customers can use their phone cameras to capture store displays and windows, which creates motion sequences of models wearing the products in the picture. VR and AR are increasingly adding a new dimension to an activity as simple as a shopping trip, breathing a new lease of life into it with the latest cutting-edge technology.
The automotive industry
The automotive industry is a very important part of UK finances, it is worth about £82 billion in turnover and gives value to the economy by over £18.6 billion. The sector has welcomed a whole host of VR and AR technologies to further advance the everyday automotive market. Plus, consumers are gradually engaging more with these concepts, overhauling the conventional car-buying experience.
Using VR, the typical car dealership in which a potential customer would visit is now a digital showroom. This makes the whole process a more immersive, interactive way for customers when shopping. For example, simultaneous localization and mapping technology (SLAM) can depict 360-degree vehicle visualization, allowing customers to view potential options before making a purchase. Automotive retailers are also enhancing the aftercare incentives of their vehicles, through intelligent systems such as Swedish motoring giant Volkswagens’ VR facility MARTA which enables servicing employees to carry out maintenance checks in a smarter way.
Tesla, one of the most loved car manufacturers, has added a VR/AR approach onto its production line, this will help to boost accuracy during the manufacturing process. This includes different methods including manufacturing, safety and performance of vehicles sold. These methods are being supported by VR, which are also helping to make tasks simpler.
It is most definitely a mixed reality in which we are living in, from an augmented to virtual reality, brands are most certainly embracing these exciting times. Within the retail sector they have proven effective in revolutionising a wide range of activities, from the simple shopping trip to safeguarding the production line.