100m shoppers to use AR/VR by 2020

By 2020, 100 million consumers will shop in augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) online and in-store, according to Gartner.

The consultancy’s Unified Retail Survey - conducted online with 97 retail business decision-makers in Europe, the US, Canada and China - indicated that by next year, 46 per cent of retailers plan to deploy either AR or VR solutions to meet customer service experience requirements.

Additionally, the technologies behind these solutions have moved 15 to 30 per cent further along the Gartner Hype Cycle over the past 12 months.

“Retailers are under increasing pressure to explain the purpose of physical stores, and take control of the fulfilment and return process for cross-channel execution,” said Hanna Karki, principal research analyst at Gartner.

“Retailers can use AR as an extension of the brand experience to engage customers in immersive environments and drive revenue,” she continued. “For example, IKEA’s Place app enables customers to virtually ‘place’ IKEA products in their space; additionally, AR can be used outside the store after a sale to increase customer satisfaction and improve loyalty.”

With VR’s immersive interfaces, retailers can create task efficiencies or reduce the costs associated with designing new products, suggested the report, enhancing the understanding of information through advanced graphical visualisation and simulation technologies.

Pilots and implementation examples include Alibaba’s full VR shopping experience, VR tours by Tesco, Adidas’ VR video to promote its outdoor clothing collection, and eBay Australia’s partnerships with Myer to create personalised stores.

Gartner also pointed out that 5G mobile network technology represents an opportunity to accelerate the adoption of AR and VR in stores. Its recent 5G enterprise survey indicated that AR/VR applications of 5G attract the highest expectations for becoming drivers of new revenue, across all use cases and respondents.

5G capabilities can support multiple uses cases, such as real-time rendering for immersive video, shorter download and set-up times, and extension of brands and shopping experiences beyond stores.

“Gartner expects that the implementation of 5G and AR or VR in stores will transform not only customer engagement but also the entire product management cycle of brands,” said Sylvain Fabre, senior research director at Gartner. “5G can optimise warehouse resources, enhance store traffic analytics and enable beacons that communicate with shoppers’ smartphones.”

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