Do UK shoppers want in-store technology?
Alibaba’s Tmall experiments with online VR
Visitors expect more theme park VR within three years
DataMesh uses Hololens AR to redesign spaces
In-store mobile payments continue to disappoint in the US
Apple camera to be a portal for augmented reality
Sources: imrg; Virtual Reality Summit; Attractions Management; Facebook; RetailDIVE; Business Insider
Summary: With virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) making its way to the mass market, this technology is being revisited for retail application. As shown by the disappointing start to in-store mobile payments in many card markets, without genuine enhancement of the experience new technology won’t catch hold. Although investment is chasing the potential, identifying the genuine benefit is still subject to debate.
Point of View
Barclays Bank recently published research into the technologies that may attract UK consumers into stores. Despite the growth of online, shoppers still want an in-store experience, valuing customer service, diversity and the use of digital services. Payment technologies are seen as ‘useful’, rather than a driver of footfall in the way that engagement technologies such as smart fitting rooms or smartphone integration (perhaps, through beacons) can be. The mobile channel is growing into the preferred engagement channel.
Alibaba sees technology as the future of retail, experimenting with Virtual Reality (VR) through its Tmall experience and investing significantly in Augmented Reality (AR) through the course of 2016. The latest investment is $18m in Israeli start up InfinityAR announced on 29th November. InfinityAR is developing a software-based Augmented Reality engine.
The payment schemes have been experimenting with limited trials. Earlier in the year, Visa ran an AR proof of concept with House of Holland for its menswear launch. And, MasterCard announced it is working with Chinese AR start-up IMG as part of its Start Path Global programme.
There appear to be some genuinely interesting use cases where VR and AR overlap with the shopping experience, initially as part of the marketing approach. Of the two, commentators generally agree with Apple’s Tim Cook that AR is the more compelling over the longer term. This seems to be reflected by the current funding, with AR attracting more investment in 2016.
Until the technology is available in mass market smartphones (and there are plenty of rumours it will be very soon), applications are likely to be particular to specific environments (like high-end retailers) or limited in function (Pokemon or Snapchat AR lenses).