With the extensive usage of smartphones and the advent of wearable technologies, AR and VR are witnessing considerable consumer uptake and are set for disruptive growth in the retail sector, says leading data and analytics company GlobalData.
According to GlobalData's Digital Retail Platform, AR can be used to guide customers around stores in an informative and entertaining way by blending in product details and whereabouts.
AR solutions are relatively less disruptive to existing store layouts, formats and processes compared with VR, which completely immerses shoppers in the experience and can be used for product demonstrations and games in selected areas.
AR can be useful for supporting staff in stores and warehouses by providing them with practical information without disrupting their view and keeping their hands free since they no longer need to hold tablets or ruggedised devices while carrying out tasks such as loading, packing or recording inventory.
In contrast, VR has more limited uses for staff since it is more immersive, but can be useful for training.
Needless to mention AR and VR are transforming the customer experience journey in several innovative ways. IKEA has created a high-definition and interactive showroom that uses the immersive power of VR to offer an innovative 3D product experience.
Similarly, L'Oreal store in Paris features a 'Make Up Genius' bar where women can virtually try on makeup through the 'Make Up Genius' app on mobile devices.
Swarovski launched a VR shopping app in partnership with MasterCard to drive the Atelier Swarovski Home Décor line.
For the past two years, home improvement store Lowe's has been developing visualisation capabilities using AR and VR tools.
Furthermore, in early 2018, Walmart has acquired a small VR startup Spatialand to augment its VR efforts and it hopes to transform the shopping experience across the company's different websites and stores. Other major retailers embracing AR/VR include Tesco, Carrefour and Kroger.
“AR and VR have been tested in retail for a while, but have only been implemented in a limited way so far,” says GlobalData digital retail analyst Andreas Olah.
“However, this is expected to change as major supermarkets, department stores, fashion retailers and DIY stores look to roll out them for various purposes, from in-store navigation and virtual apparel trials to product demonstrations, games and interaction with virtual shop assistants. Furniture retailers are also expected to compete more intensely on AR for projecting furniture into customers' homes to encourage online purchases and reduce the rate of product returns.