You may have noticed the fun, and sometimes mind-blowing, virtual and augmented reality popping up in entertainment, real estate, gaming and tourism to name a few industries. There is huge potential for retail to embrace new technology too, in several ways, yet it has not widely penetrated into the Australian market.
Commonwealth Bank has made an impression with virtual shopping that they now show at their innovation lab, and Ikea announced earlier this month that it will entice shoppers to visualise their home with their furniture using virtual reality headsets. The virtual fitting room is already implemented overseas and magic leap shows how we might virtually shop in the future when selected products show in 3D without a screen.
The good news is that these new applications are not necessarily only for large retailers with big budgets; wow-effects can be achieved at affordable cost.
To give a crash-course on the techniques out there: with augmented reality, it is possible to add a layer of content to the real world when customers look at a product or flyer with their phone or tablet. With virtual reality, special goggles, like the Oculus Rift, or just simple viewers made out of cardboard, lenses and a rubber band or tape (commonly known as ‘google cardboard’) allow the viewer to enter a new world that looks as if it was real.
Virtual reality can work well for brand activations or campaigns where the viewer can sit down and take the time to explore the virtual world, while augmented reality is usually better suited for retail as the experience is less intrusive and can be used on the go.
Another technology newcomer in the retail sphere is the use of beacons, which are tiny receptors placed in a physical space, sending and tracking information to a nearby shop visitor. It can be used to send a push notification about a sale item, track customer activity, engage with ‘hide & seek’ type searches through the store with prizes, and even help in planning the store visit for large retail stores to lead the customer through the product ranges he wishes to see via the smartphone app.
All of this new technology is not just there to follow a trend; it is meant to engage the audience who love the brand on the one hand, and to track and analyse customer behaviour on the other hand, killing two birds with one stone. And as this new technology is still being tested and formalised, there is still the novelty around it attracting more attention for the early adapters.