The potential for implementing virtual reality systems is constantly evolving, carried by advancements in technology. Many household names are getting involved, introducing this technology into their marketing strategies to stay relevant and ahead of competition. As the UK’s high street dies, many brands are fighting back, with the help of technology.
Mixed reality solutions are providing a new dimension to many industries. First in this series, we will explore how they are enhancing areas of the retail industry, with an insight into future trends.
Why VR has emerged in retail
A number of brands are pushing back at the death of the high street with innovative marketing strategies, clawing for customers in a saturated market. There’s also another pressing factor which has pushed retailers across all subsectors to innovate — 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.
Providing a 360-degree experience allows customers to live within a campaign and a brand’s vision, providing an unparalleled experience. 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 customer experiences is key. Mixed reality solutions are adding new layers of customer engagement to the retail sector.
We’ll explore some of the most successful VR moments across industries like fashion, automotive, and food and drink.
As mentioned, the fashion industry has been hit with the death of the high street, causing huge numbers of stores to close. With the physical nature of the high street being a key element in its overall downfall, the digital space has superseded traditional shopping, triggering an ecommerce boom.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.
Flagship stores have been merged with technology, improved through virtual and augmented reality. 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.
An important part of the UK economy, the automotive industry is valued at roughly £82 billion in turnover, which translates to £18.6 billion to the economy. 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.
Dealerships have transformed into a digital marvel due to VR, allowing customers to immerse into the shopping experience. For example, simultaneous localisation 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, the company at the forefront of innovation, has introduced a VR/AR approach boosting accuracy throughout the manufacturing process. Everything from manufacturing methods to safety and performance of vehicles sold is being supported by VR, while also making tasks simpler.
Food and drinks
There’s a huge number of detail and planning needed when it comes to factory operations for food and drink. With multiple prolific examples of cross contamination, food poisoning, and allergy labelling hitting headlines, manufacturers have a duty of care and responsibility to consumers. 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.
Coca-Cola is also involved in augmented reality. The project fuses AR with simple storytelling and 3D animations, accessed by the camera on a smart device. Coca-Cola demonstrate 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.
These exciting innovations in technology are going to change the whole shopping experience, improving both the production line and the purchasing!