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Is there a place for VR in retail?

Mixed reality solutions including virtual and augmented reality have taken the retail industry by storm. Big name brands are now able to give customers unique experiences that show what the brand is all about. In this article we look at how mixed reality solutions have impacted fashion, food and drink and automotive sectors.

Why is there a demand?

Lots of different brands are always changing their marketing strategies in order to compete for customers in an oversaturated market. Plagued by closures, the UK’s goal to difficulty in trying 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 allowing customers to fully immerse themselves in a custom 360 degree world manufactured by brands means that customers can see exactly what the brand’s ideas are for the campaign and product. More and more retailers are aiming to create the best customer experience possible which is essential in today’s market because people’s attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, Generations Z only have an average initial interest for 8 seconds so creating the most memorable experience is key.

Let’s take a look through some of the most prominent VR moments throughout the fashion, automotive, and food and drinks retail sectors.

Fashion Industry

The news is always full of companies shutting down in the fashion retail sector, with thousands of jobs being lost. The physical nature of the high street meaning shoppers can pop in and buy products isn’t practical for a lot of the younger market with online retailers such as ASOS taking over. However, technology such as augmented and virtual reality could be the perfect blend of technology which might just save the high street.

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.

Food and drinks

When it comes to food and drinks, a huge deal of caution and accuracy is needed, because one false stop or one wrong ingredient could mean food poisoning and other allergy outbreaks. Mixed reality solutions are being developed to help with 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.

The automotive industry

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.

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.

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.

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