By: Jamie Brown

The Store Of The Future – The World of (VR) & (AR)

What will the Store of the Future look like?  Will we be greeted by a team of personalized robots, ready to assist at the customer’s request?  Perhaps there will be voice-activated personal assistants, downloading the availability and detail of every single item to your smartphone. Three-D printing stations and no checkout counters when you exit? Can you imagine floating, holographic product displays above and on the floor that change when a customer walks by? 

It seems inevitable that point-of-sale machines, scanners and receipt printers will become obsolete as the increased digitization of physical stores eliminates the checkout counter. One single kiosk could run the entire store! The Store of the Future will be self-operated with digital kiosks as the retailer’s primary contact point. This eliminates sales associates from day-to-day checkout tasks.  They can now optimize the guest experience by creating better engagement between retail associates and shoppers. 

What’s most likely to change, is the store’s primary purpose.  E-commerce, brick and mortar or even Omni-Channel sales are becoming a thing of the past. The new retail era is cemented in augmented reality, (AR); a digital and physical blend which allows the customer to comfortably shift between two worlds. Virtual reality (VR), along with its complement technology AR, offers retailers the opportunity to transform how people shop. Keep in mind that one benefit of AR and VR is the ability to personalize an experience.  One customer might try on shirts without having to travel to the store. Another might order furniture on the spot, confident that it’s right for the house. Applications using either technology stand to eliminate customer pain points, elevate customer service, and create a differentiated, personalized customer experience. The successful incorporation of VR and AR into retail models also has the potential to vastly change the way retailers are thinking about Stores of the Future.


 How would this work? A highly anticipated electronics store has a grand opening coming up and you and your friend go shopping for a big screen TV. Seeing one you like, you both sit inside the showroom and watch a UFC fight.  Hold on...there’s something unusual about this scenario: You’re in Texas and your friends in Atlanta -- neither of you are anywhere near the electronics store! 

 In-store technologies are quickly becoming more interactive.  In order to keep up with changing consumer behavior, physical retailers must continue to adopt the latest and greatest digital technologies. This will keep customers engaged and coming back for more.   For instance, imagine a new mapping technology that enables shoppers to complete their entire shopping list in no time!  Customers who choose to shop in store will use their own device of choice to receive a personalized, electronic, guided path to find exactly what they’ve selected online.  This deviates drastically from the old days where a retailer would place the most desirable products at the back of the store.  The thought process then was to keep the customer IN the store so that they would purchase additional items.  Not anymore, customers know what they want and retailers must make the shopping experience as easy and fast as possible.  Another innovative technology gives the customer the option to have their entire shopping cart physically preloaded before they even enter the store.  The dawn of a new day is here! Complete access, availability and transparency will win out because, just as today’s customer expects it...tomorrow’s customer will demand it. 

Retailers must not lag in investing in new in-store technology, as early adoption has its advantages. However the need to provide instant gratification, implementing digital touchpoints in-store must not be rushed. If the technology is not fully optimized, customers may disappear. The good news is...there will be no shortage of customers. Their desire to buy things far in excess of their needs will not disappear. The bad news about the future is...those Retailers who cannot think boldly enough and invest heavily enough in the systems, strategies and practices that their customers will expect…won’t be around in the future. 

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Jamie Brown