Augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR), and virtual reality (VR) may feel like concepts and technologies that are too far away. However, researchers expect that VR will be relevant to the elements of retail as soon as 2019.
In fact, AR is already starting to take hold as seen with many popular mobile games. Companies across retail including digital marketing agencies, the home improvement industry, the eyewear industry, and more have already begun offering AR solutions to enhance their customer shopping experience. With the AR/VR market potentially reaching $120B by 2020 (with over two-thirds of that coming from AR alone) retailers must act now to stay ahead of the innovation curve.
In the past decade, we’ve seen innovation move at lightning speeds. Think back to mobile. By 2011, mobile was growing faster than anyone could have expected, with mobile retail and travel spending growing by 80 percent between 2010 and 2011. In a 2012 study by Deloitte, mobile influenced 5.1 percent of all retail sales. By 2016, this number was up to 37 percent, confirming that mobile was not just an opportunity for retailers to connect with their customers, it was a necessity. This exponential growth is what retailers should expect when it comes to digital reality and, in order not to fall behind, retailers should consider investing now.
B2B marketers are already investing in AR/VR to eliminate barriers to success, such as products that are expensive to ship or difficult to visualize. For example, a disrupter in the furniture retailer space offers an AR solution that allows contractors to show their designs to their customers digitally. B2C marketers should start thinking about what AR/VR means for them and how they can control their brand messaging before someone else does. After all, with a blurred line between the physical and digital worlds, competition becomes much tougher since competitive brands can now enter into your physical space!
Speaking of the physical and the digital world, retailers can also start thinking about how AR/VR will complement their brick and mortar stores, which are still important when it comes to customer experience. Think in-store AR experiences, VR showrooms, 360-degree video content, and more. Retailers are no longer limited by the physical world.
With digital reality comes a new set of challenges, but also a new set of opportunities—opportunities to enhance brand storytelling, go global, compete with other brands, and connect with customers in an immersive manner unlike anyone has ever been able to do before. We have reached a point in time where it is simply expected that retailers are in the mobile space—it is likely only a matter of time (think five to seven years from now) before the same is true for digital reality. Retailers should start building their foundations to support digital reality now so that they can remain competitive. So, what are you going to do about it?
If you’re ready to be a leader in digital reality, join Deloitte Digital during NRF’s Big Show, January 14 to 16. Deloitte will be participating in a number of events as part of the conference, as well as hosting open house demos of AR/VR and iOS connected store technology at the New York City Deloitte Digital Studio. Hope to see you there!
Lokesh Ohri leads Deloitte’s Advertising, Marketing, and Commerce offering in the Retail Consulting practice. He advises companies on a wide range of topics, including omni-channel retail, digital, and supply chain. His clients include large, global public and private organizations both within the United States and abroad. He has significant experience developing and executing innovative customer engagement and growth strategies.