Technology research and advisory multinational Gartner expects 100-million people to use augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technology to shop online and in-store by next year.
In a statement issued on Monday, the company said AR and VR have the potential to shake up the customer experience by individualising retailers’ offers and enabling customers to visualise products in different settings.
“Retailers are under pressure to explain the purpose of physical stores and take control of the fulfilment and return process for cross-channel execution,” said Gartner principal research analyst Hanna Karki.
“Simultaneously, consumers are progressively defining the value provided by the experiences they receive from retailers. Owing to these pressures, retailers are turning to AR and VR to offer customers a unified retail experience inside and outside retail stores.”
A 2018 Gartner survey indicated that, by 2020, 46% of retailers planned to deploy either AR or VR solutions to meet customer service experience requirements. Additionally, the technologies behind these solutions have moved 15% to 30% further along the Gartner Hype Cycle over the past 12 months [indicating a maturation of these technologies], she added.
“The impact of AR or VR in retail can be transformative. Retailers can use AR as an extension of the brand experience to engage customers in immersive environments and drive revenue. Additionally, AR can be used outside the store after a sale to increase customer satisfaction and improve loyalty.”
Additionally, with immersive VR interfaces, retailers can create task efficiencies or reduce the costs associated with designing new products. They can also enhance the understanding of information through advanced graphical visualisation and simulation technologies.
“Pilots and implementation examples include Alibaba’s full VR shopping experience, VR tours by Tesco, Adidas’ VR video to promote its outdoor clothing collection, and eBay Australia’s partnerships with Myer to create personalised stores. Swedish furniture and appliances company Ikea’s Place application enables customers to virtually ‘place’ Ikea products into their spaces,” said Karki.
Meanwhile, she highlighted that fifth-generation (5G) mobile network technology represents an opportunity to accelerate the adoption of AR and VR in stores.
“Gartner’s recent 5G enterprise survey indicated that AR or VR applications of 5G attract the highest expectations for becoming drivers of new revenue across all use cases and respondents. 5G capabilities can support multiple use cases, such as real-time rendering for immersive video, shorter download and set-up times, and the extension of brands and shopping experiences beyond stores.
“Gartner expects the implementation of 5G and AR or VR in stores will transform not only customer engagement, but also the entire product management cycle of brands,” said Gartner senior research director Sylvain Fabre.
5G can optimise warehouse resources, enhance store traffic analytics and enable beacons that communicate with shoppers’ smartphones, he concluded.