How Virtual Reality Will Revolutionize the Retail Industry

The global virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) market is currently estimated at $27 billion and potentially whopping $209 billion in 2022.  Thus far, such technologies have made a lasting impression in the video game industry, notably with the success of Pokémon GO. Though still in their infancy, such technologies are already helping drive sales and solve customer problems in the retail sector. Now is the time to explore some interesting use cases.
How Virtual Reality Will Revolutionize the Retail Industry



Shopping for Furniture in a More Experiential Way

Ikea is no stranger to innovation, and naturally, the Swedish furniture giant has been experimenting with VR and AR as early as 2013. Last year, the company released an AR app called “IKEA Place” which lets shoppers see how potential purchases would look by holding up their iPhone camera in their home.


Tim Lynch fromPsychsoftpc, a company that specializes in hardware for VR, recently told Furniture Today: “It has always been difficult to picture how a piece would translate from the showroom to the living space… Picturing dimensions and arrangement is problematic because retail space is so large that everything appears smaller than it is. AR solves that by actually allowing consumers to virtually place objects in the home and see how it fits without having the object delivered.”



Ikea is also toying with virtual reality experiences. A few months ago, the company launched “IKEA World” at a suburban Dallas store. 300 visitors put on HTC Vive headsets and explored VR environments in which they can play mini-games such as “toss a virtual pillow into a real coffee table”, “visit pandas inside of a ceiling lamp” and learn about design. This is a portable framework that could potentially be re-used at other stores, attracting customers and keeping them inside.


“Catch the Cat” and Other Fun Things

China-based tech giant Alibaba is mostly known for its e-commerce activities, but over time it has built an integrated ecosystem where online and offline retail environments co-exist and sometimes even intertwine. The company has secured a number of partnerships with well-known Chinese and foreign brands; and as you might guess AR and VR are being put to use.


Maybelline collaborated with Alibaba on “Magic Mirror”. Such a system enables consumers to try on makeup by standing in front of an AR mirror. Shoppers can use a touchscreen and tap through different shades of lipstick to see how they would look without actually trying those on.


Last but not least, the “Catch the Cat” mobile game (which is quite reminiscent of Pokémon Go!) became a national sensation during “Singles Day” (a major annual event for Chinese retailers) as the young and not so young went to catch virtual cats in shopping malls. 65 brands such as Mac, L’Occitane, P&G, Disneyworld, Pizza Hut, and KFC have participated in the campaign to bring foot traffic into their stores. Shoppers get to have fun and receive a coupon or a free product as a reward for catching the cute felines.


VR and AR, if adequately implemented, can contribute towards fun and rewarding shopping experience. One can expect their adoption rate to significantly increase in the retail sector as technologies behind those frameworks improve and become more affordable.