Conquering the bittersweet threat of online shopping has been a challenge for some brick and mortar retail enterprises. In an article written by Sarah Halzack of the Washington Post in early May called, “Ever wanted to base jump? North Face wants you to try it – in its stores,” Halzack discusses how the growing technology industry has produced multiple virtual reality solutions that are innovating the in-store experience. Virtual technologies have been around for a while, but have never quite hit the consumer market in an astounding way as they are now. As these innovations slowly creep into our every day world, our brains are being tricked into thinking what we’re seeing is real.
Being part of the ‘selfie’ generation (begrudgingly I might add – no one needs to know what you had for breakfast, lunch and dinner - everyday), I have noticed a shift from one-dimensional experiences to personalized, interactive experiences; and I am definitely attracted to it. It brings a layer of intimacy you just can’t get from online shopping. Focusing on the aspect of in-store experiences is pioneering innovative and creative ways to combat the threat of ecommerce in retail.
North Face has inspired their in-store customers by giving them a headset that allows them to virtualize outdoor activities such as:
- Remote hiking
Customers are able to experience adventures they might otherwise never get to have or even have the bravery to attempt. “I’m flying” is the response one customer remarked as he wore the new virtual-reality headset that transformed his view from in-store Manhattan to Moab, Utah. North Face is hoping that by allowing these customers to visualize the possibilities, they will in turn crave the outdoors and conveniently use their products to aid them in their adventures. Customers who have not been in store in over five years are coming in just to try the headset – and possibly buy some new gear.
Smart Dressing Room Mirrors
Have you ever found yourself trying on an item and wish you could find out what other colors the shirt comes in and if it’s available? Well now retail companies such as Bloomingdales and Rebecca Minkoff have installed “smart” dressing room mirrors that does exactly that. In-store customers can wave their hand to change the color of the item they have 'on' viewing the product as a virtual fitting room. These mirrors are capable of:
- 360 degree views
- Color options
- Size availability
- Outfit recommendations
Retail locations are hoping to widen the distribution of these “smart” mirrors so customers can benefit from accessing a store that has all the information you need, in one reflection. See it for yourself.
The Virtual Tourist
Outside of the retail industry, Marriott hotels have taken advantage of Virtual Reality (VR) technologies by giving guests a headset and headphones that portrays distant lands for an up-close tour. Want to know if that destination wedding is really worth all the trouble? Marriott helps you plan while you see it right in front of you. Don’t miss a single detail without wasting any money spent on travel; and get organized for your next adventure. Last fall, Marriott traveled (physically) to eight cities where newlywed couples could be transported from the top of Big Ben in London to the black sand beaches of Maui, Hawaii. Marriott did not leave out a single detail, from the wind in their hair, to the smells of the surroundings, to the wet ocean spray, guests felt like it was real. The way the technology of VR takes over your brain is truly amazing. Get teleported.
Lowes has taken one step further and personalized the experience for do-it-yourself home renovators. Using an iPad, shoppers can visualize and customize a virtual version of their bathroom at home with the exact measurements. Customers enjoy being able to see how their area would look before actually doing the work to get it done. Lowes has seen a large amount of general contractors bringing their clients in to show them what exactly their plans will look like. Envisioning renovations and changes before they are completed is huge. No two people have an identical idea or image, even if the same products are presented before them. Now renovators can have the same vision and no one is surprised when the work is finished. The need for an imagination is now only used for picking out products! Watch it in action.
The Value of VR Technologies
These businesses are learning about the value of technology and its ever-changing trends. Keeping up with technology in-store and the significance of attracting customers to the store is changing with technology. As long as companies are sufficiently supported, there is no reason interactive solutions should not power and connect their businesses - leaving customers ecstatic and eager to return.
VR technologies are easing their way into many different use cases in our everyday lives. Adding to the omnichannel experience, in-store interactive experiences are just what every retailer needs to implement to have an edge on their competition. The link between devices, customers, and stores are are growing more crucial. As digital interactions become more advanced, so will the data collection to personalize a one-to-one in-store digital brand experience. To be agile, retailers should leverage wireless solutions for connectivity so they can deploy quickly and move experiences with the seasons or events. Wireless connectivity should be at the top of every distributed retailer's priority list because the future is here - and it’s morphing your senses.