VR AR in building retail experiences - Connected Corners

4 factors to consider in building retail VR/AR solutions + key enabling initiatives

This topic briefly explores some of the key considerations in developing VR/AR retail experiences and 4 key enabling initiatives

Continuing from exploring some of the applications of VR/AR tech as well as correlating monetization models within the retail domain; this topic aims to briefly explore some of the key considerations in developing retail VR/AR solutions as well as its correlating enablers

Quick Note: Despite certain similarities inherent to the broader industry; each retail business is unique; defined by a multitude of factors (vision, geography of operation, technological capabilities, industry partnerships, et al.) and as such would have distinct goals in building their VR & AR solutions

Why are we really investing in developing a VR/AR powered retail solution?

Is it because… the underlying tech is cool… /competitors did it so we should… /for the sake of it…
OR
The solution genuinely address an existing pain pointAND… provide material benefits for our shoppers & customers (better CX)AND… the business itself (revenue opportunities, branding, employee experience, et al.)?

Key considerations in building VR/AR solutions

There are a some key considerations – namely; solution feasibility, viability, adoption & engagement – for brands looking to build compelling retail VR/AR solutions that could also be viewed as measures of success across various lifecycle stages

Key considerations in building VR/AR solutions - Connected Corners

Feasibility

Does the VR/AR solution fit within existing brand’s vision & customer goals + could it be developed utilizing existing operational & technological capabilities

The feasibility criteria would help brands assess if their VR/AR solution –

  • Fits seamlessly within their existing vision, ethos, operating strategies & customer goals
  • Can easily be built upon existing strengths (financial, branding, technological, operational, et al.)
  • Addresses existing pain points, adds value to the brand and provides benefits its customers

Viability

Will the VR/AR solution continue to remain relevant at various points in the future + would it deliver valuable benefits for both the business & customers

The viability criteria would help brands assess if their VR/AR solution –

  • Maintains its relevancy with business goals, market trends & customer expectations well into the future state
  • Continues to add value and return net positive ROI for the business
  • Would continue to address pain points &/or provide material benefits for customers using the solution

Adoption & Engagement

Does the VR/AR solution add value, address customer’s pain points & Wiifm needs to have critical mass adoption + will it continue being so to ensure ongoing engagement

The adoption & engagement criteria would help brands assess if their VR/AR solution –

  • Effortlessly enhances consumers’ shopping experience & engagement
  • Genuinely addresses the consumer’s Wiifm needs
  • Will continue to provide sufficient reasons (value add) for consumers keep using the solution

Put another way, a retail VR/AR solution should ideally be feasible to develop, viable in the long term, perceived to add genuine value for critical mass adoption and continue to provide meaningful value for consumers to keep engaging with it

Key enablers of a feasible, viable & engaging VR/AR solution

Focusing on integrating some of the key enablers – namely the solution’s CX & UX, scalability & modularity, equipment & content and value proposition – at the solution design phase could help brands build a feasible, viable & engaging VR/AR powered retail experience

CX & UX

The solution’s CX & UX will have a significant impact on the consumer’s adoption & engagement with the virtual experience and/or the brand themselves thus contributing towards it overall viability as well as ROI and revenue potential

Example for a retailer In developing an in-store mapping & navigation service; which of the 2 virtual solutions would more likely provide a better CX & UX (read: mass adoption + continuous engagement) in the long run?… VR goggles — OR — AR enabled smartphone?

Brands may see lower adoption (& engagement) rates for VR based solutions due to its bulky headset, complex software and higher deployment costs… furthermore; for large sized retailers; subsidizing expensive VR headsets across their store footprint may also be cost prohibitive in the long run

Scalability

Developing a scalable & modular VR/AR ecosystem – platform, equipment, content, support, et al. – right from the onset (as opposed to a once-off standalone solution) will have a significant impact on the solution’s overall feasibility & long term viability

Example… although the retailer may only originally intend to build a VR/AR solution that fulfills a sole purpose (say in-store mapping & navigation)… there are long term benefits in building a scalable & modular ecosystem that can easily be integrated within a variety of use cases (product discovery, personalization, et al.) at some point in the future

Building a scalable & modular solution architecture not only ensures that the original CAPEX ‘goes a long way’ but also ensures experience interoperability… that in turn could mean better overall brand experience

Equipment & Experience

Aptly matching VR/AR experience desired to the right equipment could not only have a material impact on consumer adoption, engagement rates but also ROI

Example… In a scenario where a supermarket retailer is looking to provide a quick in-store product discovery & deals experience for their rush hour shoppers; which one of the two virtual solutions is more likely to see higher adoption & usage rates (read: better CX) in the long run? Ubiquitous smartphone based AR solution or proprietary bulky VR headset based one?

In the above example, the supermarket retailer may also see better ROI by leveraging AR on smartphones as most shoppers may already own one (& likely to use) as opposed to investing in a proprietary VR headsets

In another example; what if the brand were a high end fashion label or an ultra luxury coach builder who are looking to provide an bespoke in-store tailoring experience or comprehensive vehicle personalization service; which VR/AR equipment + experience combinations would be more suitable in these scenarios? More likely than not a proprietary VR/MR based ecosystem

Value Proposition

Equally important for the brand is to construct a value proposition that not only appeals to consumers but is also feasible to build & viable in the long run

Building an apt value proposition could also include exploring various monetization models that best suits the virtual retail solution type, CX goals, ROI desired and other such factors

Example… retailers could offer an entry level smartphone based AR product catalogue experience completely free for their shoppers (by either absorbing the costs or funding, subsidizing &/or offsetting it through alternative revenue sources)

In another example, a luxury brand may choose to package a high-end MR headset (e.g. Microsoft Holo) along with bespoke experiences (say virtual fashion shows, VIP shopping events, et al.) as a premium subscription offering

Brands could initially adopt a step-up VR/AR strategy that relies on BYO smartphone + subsidized VR equipment to create a baseline solution… which; they could then gradually ‘graduate’ to a more premium experience from a tethered & proprietary systems as their situation & needs change

Brands would benefit immensely from integrating these enabling initiatives (or combination thereof) into their VR/AR solution from the onset to achieve its feasibility, viability & customer engagement goals as well as to prevent any potential loss of consumer interest in the future

So…

Whilst VR, AR & MR tech provide brands with virtually limitless potential to grow sales, enhance shopper experience and optimize omni-channel operations (in conjunction with other retail initiatives)

…there are some key factors that brands need to consider namely; the solution’s feasibility, viability, adoption & engagement aspects…

…in ensuring that the correlating virtual retail experiences they develop either matches or exceeds their shopper & customer’s expectations as well as has the potential to lend a net positive ROI in the long run

Additionally; enabling initiatives such as the solution’s CX/UX, scalability/modularity, apt pairing of equipment + experience & overall value proposition play an integral part in building a feasible, viable & engaging virtual retail experience

Importantly, retailers should regard VR/AR enabled solutions as just a part of an overall omni-channel CX & digital strategy that not only enhances every step of their shopper & customer journey experience but also lends to myriad of improvements across their business functions… ideally in a profitable manner

Forthcoming segments will aim to cover some of these enabling factors in further detail as well as take a look at the role NGN (5G), eSIM and telco carriers play in the provisioning of next generation enhanced VR/AR experiences across industry verticals

Stay tuned!

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