You walk into a clothing store, but instead of racks of clothing in various sizes, there is only one piece of each product carefully displayed with holographic touchscreens next to each item that allow you to see the shirt, dress, jeans from all angles, in different colors and styles. With a few taps on the screen your selection will be made. Inside the dressing room, you open the wardrobe and your clothing is waiting for you, along with another screen where you can easily change sizes or colors. Again, the clothing you select appears in the closet like magic.
You are looking to redecorate. You make your furniture selections and enter an empty room with virtual reality glasses on that let you see how the pieces you selected work with one another. You can easily move the pieces around until you get just the right fit for the space you have to work with and even test different paint colors on the walls.
As you walk down the sidewalk, you pass an interactive window display that allows you to select fabric swatches and watch the clothing change or appear before you. You order and pay for it from the sidewalk and an associate delivers the items directly to you within minutes. You never step foot inside.
Are these scenarios the future of shopping?
They’re already happening.
Virtual and augmented reality have already hit the retail world as the newest way to create an unforgettable shopping experience for customers. Whether that means interactive window displays like Bloomingdale’s flagship store used for Father’s Day, or Lowe’s Holoroom, or Reformation turning shopping to a futuristic experience, the next major change in retail is already here.
In an interview with Forbes, CEO and Cofounder of Marxent Beck Besecker — the VR/AR tech company that created the Holoroom for Lowes — said, “VR and AR are happening – they're now technologies. Sitting around and waiting for someone else to get it right and then trying to duplicate the effort is going to be the retailer's temptation, but it's a mistake.”
Amazon Go with its no checkout experience is just the beginning of what’s possible moving forward in retail. The traditional boundaries of retail are fading away and expanding beyond the walls of the store. Using mobile POS, beacons, geofencing and data analysis, stores have already begun to explore ways their reach can extend beyond the store — but what’s next? Some are looking toward artificial intelligence to help deliver the enriched shopping experience consumers are looking for.
Customer service is one of the main areas businesses are focused on improving with AI. Increasing customer service costs, coupled with the statistic that 82% of consumers stopped doing business with a company after just one bad customer experience, means stores are feeling the pressure to provide customers with an overall better shopping experience.
How do they plan to do that?
A survey of 100 retailers by Linc found:
- 87% will increase their use of AI in the next 24 months
- 68% will use AI for customer service requests
- 52% will use AI to track packages
- 5% will use AI for product suggestions
- 42% want AI to handle returns and exchanges in the next 2 years
Virtual and augmented reality technology are still being developed, but that hasn’t stopped many businesses from finding ways to incorporate one or both into their stores as they look for new ways to bring foot traffic and stay relevant in consumers’ minds. The rapid succession of changes going through the retail industry means stores need to start planning for the future now.