Is VR The Future Of Retail?

November 21st, 2016

Virtual reality (VR) technology has been making major strides in 2016 within the consumer technology sector that offers a variety of different VR experiences. Although a big focus has been on gaming, this revolutionary technology is touching perhaps unexpected areas. Digitalisation of the retail market has led to companies having to adopt new technologies to meet consumer expectations. Up steps virtual reality.

In fact, VR has been utilised by many retailers for marketing, a prime example of this is Thomas Cook providing ‘try before you fly’ virtual reality experiences produced by Visualise. The collection of holiday tasters included a helicopter tour of Manhattan, a visit the Egyptian pyramids, a trip to the pool at a SENTIDO resort in Rhodes - all without leaving the store.  
IKEA uses VR technology to transport customers to a life-size kitchen created in the virtual world, where they have the freedom to interact with the look of different cabinets, surfaces, fixtures and fittings. Audi, in partnership with Samsung, created a virtual showroom with literally no limits, any smartphone user can browse and in some cases virtually drive the vehicles. This is great for consumers as they can access this technology from home or a kiosk at a shopping centre, Audi brings the experience to the shopper – not the other way around. It’s certainly an effective tool however, there is a certain risk when it comes to utilising new technologies because the user experience has to match the overall perception.  
Many retailers have seen the benefits of using VR to improve engagement with their target market and there is supporting evidence that this technology is in demand. A new study by Salesforce has revealed that both consumers and business buyers think VR and AI will play a big part in the future of retail. Almost half of UK consumers believe that companies will be providing experiences with VR technology by 2020.
The study found that 48% of customers and 57% of business buyers have predicted that in the next four years companies will be providing service through virtual reality. Not only this, we’re seeing a convergence of two future technologies as a total of 45% of consumers also believe companies will start using artificial intelligence to recommend products based on customer preference.
Simon Mulcahy, Salesforce chief marketing officer, said: “Increasingly, customers expect every touchpoint to be personalised and proactive. These demands are breeding new business models and upending industries, prompting CEOs to consider the seemingly infinite influences on the marketplace.”
Looking forward; technology, data collection and social media are the driving forces behind retail. According to Salesforce consumers are more open to share their information with companies to have a personalised shopping experience. This differs across the age groups with 63% of millennials worldwide willing to share data but only half of Generation X and 41% of baby boomers would allow companies to collect information for a personalised in-store or online experience. For example, Shop Direct offer a personalised approach for shoppers providing online product recommendations, in real-time based on their historic profile. More than 40% of consumers use social media to share their product experiences and 53% think reading online product reviews is important for potential purchase decisions.
As we edge closer to Christmas expect to see large retailers experimenting with this technology such as the John Lewis’s buster boxer VR experience, bringing their famous seasonal advert to life in the virtual world. VR could well change the world as we know it and who knows where we will be in the next few decades?


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