Innovative Retail Technologies

JAN-FEB 2017

Innovative Retail Technologies (formerly Integrated Solutions For Retailers) is the premier source for innovative yet pragmatic technology solutions in the retail industry.

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VR, AR, And MR: Not Your Grandfather's Retail R etail, as many have observed, hasn't really changed that much in a century. A hundred years ago, Harry Selfridge brought us retail theater, and Piggly Wiggly popularized the self-service model. Since then, we have seen the emergence of department stores, malls, big box, memberships, and the mighty Amazon. But the vast majority of shopping is still goods-on-shelf retail. We pay with plastic — or our phones or watches — and we order some of our stuff online, but in-store retail looks much like it always has. Big changes are on the way. Retailers should expect more change in the next decade than the last century. The future of retail will be very different from its past. Over the next five years, we will see dramatic changes to the shopper journey and to every aspect of retail operations, from merchandizing to marketing to ful- fillment. Shoppers will browse differently, choose differently, and expect to commu- nicate with retailers through a whole new range of channels, some of which don't yet exist. All brands need to understand how continued advances in computer science will combine with ever-plunging technol- ogy prices to provide them with new op- portunities to differentiate and to disrupt their competition. Slow-moving retailers risk becoming the next Mervyn's, Circuit City, or Linens 'n Things. In future columns, we will discuss how retail will be impacted by the Internet of Things, next generation social net- works, chatbots, robots, and autonomous vehicles. In this issue, we'll focus on one of the fastest-moving areas of innovation in computing today: virtual, augmented, and mixed reality. These platforms are already being embraced by major brands and will change the way shoppers inter- act with and experience retail. They will change how shoppers explore, browse, choose, and buy. Most shopper journeys today start online, but roughly 90 percent still end in physical retail. New technol- ogy may shift the entire journey online. Many shopper journeys will soon begin in virtual or augmented reality. If the virtual product discovery experience is compel- ling enough, and buying confidence is boosted as a consequence, shoppers will feel less of a need to make a trip to the store as the closing phase of their deci- sion process. Retailers will need to follow the eyeballs. Every retailer needs to have a VR/AR/MR strategy in place. Now. VR, AR, MR: A Primer Before we explore the implications of VR, AR, and MR to the retail sector, let's quickly define some terms. Some people still aren't quite sure about the difference between these three flavors of technology. All three involve digital content being presented to a viewer via a headset. An easy way to think about this is to imagine a spectrum of realities with varying amounts of digital content. At one end of the spectrum is "physical reality," our unmodified world, and on the other is VR where the viewer is immersed in 100 percent digital content. In the middle of the spectrum are AR and MR, which blend views of the physical and digital world together. Let's look at each one in turn. In virtual reality, as a user looks around, the brain is tricked into feeling immersed in a totally different place, or even a dif- ferent universe. Brands have already been experimenting with VR as a way for cus- tomers to experience them in new ways. A diverse array of companies including Coca- Cola, Top Shop, Volvo, North Face, Lowe's, Patrón, Marriott, and Merrill have created VR experiences that enable consumers to interact with their brand and products in new ways. Many people's first experience of VR will likely be with a gaming platform such as Sony's Playstation VR product, launched back in October of 2016. Other VR platforms include the Oculus Rift (pur- chased by Facebook in 2014 for $2 billion), Virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR) are changing retail as we know it. BY STEVE BROWN I FUTURIST AND CEO BALDFUTURIST.COM Jan-Feb 2017 30 Every retailer needs to have a VR/AR/MR strategy in place. Now. What's Next

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