RBTE 2017: Retailers must make VR and AR implementations meaningful

Virtual reality and augmented reality are attracting the attention of retailers but ahead of committing to investing in such technologies retailers must carefully consider the value it will bring to their organisations.

Craig Crawford, IT strategist at Crawford IT, said: "It's definitely not a fad. But it has to be meaningful because only then will it stick. Companies need to look [to use it] for things that are relevant to their brand and that are meaningful."

This view is also held by Lara Marrero, retail practice area leader at Gensler, who suggested: "You've got to do it for a purpose." This can mean that where it is used in-store with VR headsets, care must be taken so that it does not take over the space. All components must come together otherwise there is no social element to it.

She believed this element is vital: "Don't assume that kids, who use technology all the time, will want to use technology in the store. They can do this at home. What they want in-store is something different, something more social."

Giovanni Flore, digital signage project manager at Benetton agreed: "I don't believe VR is a visual-only experience. Retailers need to let people move around (like in Pokemon Go). You need to involve the bodies of people."

One of the struggles in ensuring such issues are overcome, and that VR and AR projects have sufficient purpose and meaning, is to involve people who have the ability to link together the technology personnel with the business-focused individuals.

Samantha MacLeod, IT innovation manager for customer development at Unilever, said: "You need somebody to bridge the gap between the technology of VR and the business' needs. This will then give companies the best opportunity of integrating VR into their businesses."