VR, AR, and IoT Tech Proving Invaluable in Retail
Virtual reality and augmented reality are taking ground with the retail sector, according to recent research conducted by ICX Association. The report shows a clear upward trend, with the value of this technology in the retail sector estimated to reach $1.6 billion by 2025.
The IoT market was valued at more than $94 billion by the same report, so it’s no surprise that the retail sector would adopt and benefit from this technology. Walmart and Target are pioneering the field by using and investing in emerging technologies to grow their businesses.
Target implemented AR technology to help back in 2017 when it allowed shoppers to use their smartphone cameras to see how Target furniture would look in their homes. It also experimented with virtual makeup applications online, as well as training employers with the help of VR.
With the COVID-19 pandemic changing the way retail functions, these experiments turned out to be a much-needed trial for such technologies, allowing businesses to better cater to customers.
Walmart took an essential step toward implementing these technologies when it recently acquired Zeekit. This five-year-old virtual fitting room startup allows you to be your own model and see whether an article of clothing fits before purchasing it. Zeekit’s app is already used by Macy’s and many other fashion brands.
By applying and further developing Zeekit’s technology, Walmart has a chance of overcoming the most significant issue customers have with online shopping in times of the pandemic: not being able to try clothes on. According to Yael Vizel, Zeekit’s founder, the benefits are crystal clear: the technology reduces the average return rate from 38% to just 2%.
This is just one example of how retail could benefit from AR/VR and IoT. Gartner estimated in 2019 that nearly 100 million consumers would have a better experience shopping thanks to these implementations. The number was based on a survey Gartner conducted in 2018, which indicated that by 2020, 46% of retailers planned to adopt and deploy such solutions to meet customer requirements.
AI has already been deployed to identify and monitor shoppers’ habits, create software that allows retailers to keep track of their inventories, and implement BOPIS (buy online, pick up in-store) systems. The current challenge technology providers have to overcome is the lack of reliable retail data that could allow them to create suitable solutions.
According to Charu Thomas – the CEO of tech startup Ox, which provides AR-based order fulfillment software – the most significant challenge is inventory accuracy. Accomplishing accurate inventory tracking typically requires heavy infrastructure to be made possible.
Thomas also pointed out that: “The time for testing these emerging technology applications is up,” and that companies looking to compete in the pandemic-changed world should try and leverage these technologies in their business operations to improve performance.