The retail industry has experienced numerous changes in recent decades and is one of the sectors of the economy that has benefited most from digitalization. The physical store is no longer the only sales channel, it has been joined by ecommerce and a whole series of hybrid modalities between physical and online stores.
After examining why and how retail is a fast evolving vertical, we’ll take a look at the opportunities offered by Augmented Reality to upgrade how retail sales are managed.
There are a number of current trends that directly and powerfully impact the world of retail and that are worth analyzing. Many of these have emerged in the last decade, or limited in the last two, also thanks to the contribution of the so-called e-tailers, Amazon in the first place.
These trend include:
● Long Tail: the tendency of large online retailers to generate the majority of revenues from the sale of niche products, rather than from the more popular products. In practice, players like Amazon and Netflix have overturned the Pareto principle. Physical stores, as they are organized today, find it very difficult to follow the long tail model, because of physical and logistical constraints they tend to favor the best selling products, despite an extremely wide proposal in terms of references.
● Mass Customization: a complementary trend compared to the previous one is mass customization, that is the ability of retailers to sell highly personalized products in terms of characteristics (material, color, configuration, etc.), highly appreciated by consumers who are increasingly looking for unique products and fewer and fewer standard products. This trend has also had a strong impact on production systems which have inevitably become more flexible and which carry out less and less series production.
● Showrooming: this trend identifies the behavior of those consumers who use physical stores as product showcases and as places to try the product, finalizing the purchase process online. It is a very common behavior in the clothing sector, as showrooming allows people to try on shoes or clothes in order to identify the right size and evaluate comfort/fit.
● Superior Customer Service: although physical store managers have the advantage of having a direct relationship with their customers, online stores, over time, have come to offer extremely high and flexible levels of service, to which people got used very soon. The areas where online retailers make a difference include flexibility in the management of dissatisfied customers, for example by offering free returns and full refunds even up to 30 days after purchase; offers in all seasons of the year; the order processing times (often in less than 24 hours customers receive the goods at home); loyalty and reward mechanisms; multiple payment methods, from credit card to cryptocurrency wallet; even the “lowest price guaranteed” policy with the possibility of refunding the difference if the same product is available at a lower price on other stores.
The global retail market, online and offline, in 2017 reached a value of 23.460 billion dollars and for the period 2018–2023 an average growth rate of 5.3% per year is expected, up to the value of 31.881 billions of dollars in 2023 (Source: Markets and Markets).
Although in the last ten years eCommerce has grown at an average of +15% per year, it now represents only about 10% of the global retail market, therefore 90% of today’s purchases still take place in physical stores. According to the most recent forecasts, e-commerce will reach 17.5% of the value of the Retail market in 2021 (Source: Statista).
The most competitive categories in offline retail are food, household goods and cosmetics; while the three most competitive categories in online channels are products for entertainment (music, books, films), electronics (computers and smartphones) and products for the home.
Depending on the nature of the product, some categories find a more natural outlet in offline rather than online channels. For example, all food products, especially fresh ones, have, and will have, for a certain period of time still, a more advantageous outlet in the offline channel; while for example products that are easily dematerialized, such as music and films, can be sold more easily through online channels.
Since data and forecasts still see a large share of sales for physical stores in Retail, we will focus on both online and offline Augmented Reality solutions.
After explaining why users expect to experiment a customer-centric shopping experience, focused on customization rather than standardization, we’ll take a look at some of the most interesting Augmented Reality use cases for the Retail industry.
- Augmented Reality Product Presentation
- When a customer is considering buying a physical product online, she may put a lot of emphasis on the product presentation, especially for certain categories including furniture, clothing and technology. The presentation of products through the online channels can be made more engaging and realistic using Augmented Reality techniques like AR product visualization with spatial mapping. In most cases this goal can be achieved by using the customer’s device, typically a smartphone or a tablet.
- Even if in a store you are able to see the products in person it can be more interactive to provide innovative interfaces to customers, allowing them to discover in-depth features of the product. In terms of hardware, in-store Augmented Reality requires dedicated devices such as big touch screens and/or wearable devices.
- Augmented Reality Configuration
- Enabling Augmented Reality product presentation could not be enough, since the customer that is buying online may want to evaluate different configurations of the product to find the one that satisfies her the most. This process involves picking different colors, materials and sizes.
- The product configuration process can be implemented in stores to allow potential customers to experiment with all the possible product declinations in order to find the most suited one. At this stage customers can use the same devices used at the product presentation stage.
- Augmented Reality Try On
- When the potential customer has narrowed the choice among a handful of products, she may want to try them on, depending on the product category. This is a doable approach for clothes, make-up, jewelry, and watches. The technology today offers the tools to enable Augmented Reality try on by recognizing the users’ body, face and hands, following her movements and adapting accordingly.
- In a in-store context virtual try on can be achieved by using large interactive mirrors, special displays endowed with depth cameras, and by visualizing the customer’s shape on the screen with additional (augmented) digital contents such as clothes.
PSVR Not Compatible With PS5 Camera, New Japanese Bundles Include Adapter for PS4 Camera
Sony has unfortunately confirmed that PlayStation VR on PlayStation 5 won’t be able to use the console’s upgraded camera. Instead an adapter will allow users to plug in the original PS4 camera for use with the headset. New PSVR bundles in Japan will include the adapter to ease the transition to PS5, but so far there’s no word on how existing PSVR owners will get their hands on it.
It’s been confirmed for a while now that Sony’s existing PSVR headset will be compatible with its upcoming PS5 console. But the new PS5 camera can’t be used to track the headset which unfortunately means PSVR will continue to rely on the original PS4 camera and won’t see upgraded tracking like we had hoped.
In order to make the leap to the new console, PSVR owners will need an adapter allowing them to plug the existing PS4 camera into PS5. Less than a month away from the release of the new system, there’s no word yet on how existing owners can get their hands on the adapter.
However today Sony Japan announced two new PSVR bundles, both of which will include the PS4 to PS5 camera adapter so that PlayStation VR will have smoother transition to the new console. In the announcement the company also clearly confirmed a handful of details regarding PSVR and PS5 compatibility:
- You will need the PS4 to PS5 camera adapter to use PSVR with PS5
- The PS4 to PS5 camera adapter will be provided free of charge to existing PSVR owners (details on how to get one are still forthcoming)
- PSVR on PS5 apparently won’t support DualShock 5 controllers. Supported controllers are DualShock 4, PS Move, and PS Aim.
As for the bundles, it’s the usual two-tier approach we’ve seen from Sony: one includes the headset, camera, and PS Move, and the other includes just the headset and the camera. Here’s the breakdown:
PSVR Variety Pack Bundle – ¥40,000 (~$380)
- PSVR headset
- PS4 camera
- PS4 camera adapter
- PS Move controllers
- Astro Bot Rescue Mission (physical disc)
- PlayStation VR Worlds (physical disc)
- Everybody’s Golf VR (physical disc)
- Blood & Truth (physical disc)
PSVR PlayStation VR Worlds Bundle – ¥35,000 (~$330)
- PSVR headset
- PS4 camera
- PS4 camera adapter
- PlayStation VR Worlds (digital download)
There’s no word if these bundles will be released in other territories, but the odds seem high that something similar will crop up in time for the holiday shopping season.
An Unknown HTC Vive Headset Has Appeared in New FCC Filings
New regulatory filings for an unknown HTC Vive headset have appeared at the US Federal Communications Commission.
Since the confused introduction of HTC’s Vive Cosmos headsets earlier this year the company has been laying low on the hardware front while Facebook has stolen much of the spotlight with Quest 2.
But HTC looks to be readying some new headset offering; Road to VR has spotted documentation for a headset not previously seen at the FCC.
The FCC is tasked with certifying products with electromagnetic emissions to be safe and compatible with regulations. Products utilizing radio, WiFi, infrared, etc. need certification before they can be distributed for sale. Certification by the FCC marks one step closer to the launch of consumer electronics product.
Documentation for the new headset, which goes by the FCC ID 2Q9R100, was submitted in September but only made public in the last week. Test report filings indicate that HTC sent the product to a lab for testing in August.
Though it’s that clear the filings refer to a Vive headset from HTC, exactly which headset is not clear because the company has requested confidentiality of key filings (as is common). Luckily we’ve been doing this long enough to make some good guesses.
As far as we can tell, this is a “new” Vive headset from HTC, at least as far as the FCC considers a product “new,” which could include outwardly minor changes to existing products—for instance, a version of Vive Focus (HTC’s standalone VR headset) with a new processor.
Indeed, some new version of the Vive Focus is our best guess for now; compared to filings for prior versions of Vive Focus, the latest filings include the use of the same block diagram to indicate the position of the FCC label on the product.
A version of Vive Focus updated with a newer Snapdragon XR2 chip seems like a reasonable bet, and aligns with other evidence spotted last month. Maybe they’ll add some new controllers while they’re at it?
And while the filing could conceivably cover a previously announced but unreleased version of Vive Cosmos—like the Cosmos Play or Cosmos XR—the indicated location of the FCC label doesn’t line up with the label placement on the Cosmos headsets so far.
But there’s another possibility; though less likely than a revision of Vive Focus, it’s possible that the filings refer to HTC’s next-gen standalone headset, Vive Proton, which the company teased earlier this year. We’ve reached out to the company for comment on the new filings.
Quest 2 has been the talk of the town as of late, but hopefully we’ll soon find out what’s up HTC’s sleeve.
From Environmental to Social: XR Tackles Global Issues
As part of the VRFocus Awards – the largest ever survey on the VR/AR market -, VRDays Europe has been chosen to be the ambassador of one of the categories: ‘Global Impact Award’. Even more this year, VRDays tackles the future of XR and how immersive tech shapes the world of tomorrow.
VRFocus introduces the ‘Better-Than-Reality Awards’
Have you always wanted to bring a VR/AR experience to light? VRFocus is giving you the opportunity to speak out! The virtual reality specialist website created the VRFocus Awards, the largest ever survey on the VR/AR market. “No judges, no committees, no bullsh*t”. Users have got the power.
Best game, most promising startups, top influencer, favourite hardware… Altogether, 6 awards will be delivered. VRFocus asks its readers to vote for the best XR content of the year 2020. No industry professionals will be selected for the final vote. It’s up to us! VRFocus has listed nominations, but also offers the possibility to fill in an open entry section. This is the time to promote new projects and companies.
VRDays Europe – ambassador of Global Impact Award
In order to help promote the awards, VRFocus has chosen a selection of industry ambassadors for each category, encouraging “their VR fans to make their voices heard”. VRDays is one of the lucky ones! The XR international event from Amsterdam is the official ambassador of the Global Impact Award.
For six years now, VRDays has been about: Business, Science and Art. But this year is special, and VRDays wants to make a difference. For its 6th edition, VRDays is exploring new horizons and taking up emerging challenges. This year, VRDays is about how immersive technologies are shaping the world of tomorrow. How can they help build a better future?
From environmental to social, XR tackles global issues the society is facing today. More and more, immersive technologies are used for sensibilization. Showing the past, present and future as a way to open people’s minds and find solutions to preserve the beauty and uniqueness of our world. XR is a powerful tool to tell meaningful stories.
Shaping the world of tomorrow
This year, more than ever, VRDays Europe wants to show how much immersive technology can make a difference. From November 4th to 6th, visionary XR experts will discuss how virtual reality has an important impact today and is becoming a valuable tool to build new perspectives for our future. Together, let’s explore new horizons – at the most immersive event of 2020.
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