Imagine you are in a do-it-yourself store and looking for a new kitchen countertop. The array of product samples is dazzling; granite, marble, soapstone, quartz, wood. Colours range from pure white to deepest blue and prices range from “hmmm” to “HOW much?” You have no idea how any of these will look in your kitchen. Will this one complement the cabinets? Will that one clash with the floor tiles?
Connected Retail offers a way in which you can “see” what you are getting in advance. Futuristic new technology will show you what your choice of countertop looks like; you will be immersed in the shopping experience as each choice is displayed in your “real” kitchen, virtually. Soaring accordion music will accompany the Italian terracotta Corian, or you might hear ocean waves when you choose the sea green granite.
This experience will be enabled by technologies such as Microsoft’s HoloLens, which will allow customers to augment reality while in-store.
Microsoft’s latest HoloLens clip shows how it could transform a sports viewing experience, with a focus on US football. It shows how you could enjoy the game on a screen larger than your TV, or get a bird’s eye view of the stadium on your coffee table, see hologram of players, and watch key stats float around your living room.
So, how does this impact retailers? If HoloLens customers were watching the FA Cup Final or Super Bowl, for example, a clothing retailer could offer specific ads that allow viewers to “try on” football T-shirts to see how they look. Or a travel company could immerse the viewer in a warm holiday destination, with the ability to scuba dive and see tropical fish.
Using the same kind of immersion, or haptic, technology, retailers can transform the user experience with customizable effects such as vibrations, motion and music. The customer is literally immersed in the experience.
They can try on clothes without taking anything off, while sharing their experiences with friends and family who can comment. And, by using another technology such as iBeacons™, anonymous analytical face detection will enable retailers to interact in real time with customers. They will be able to “see” if the customer likes or hates the dress she is trying on, and then track her behaviour in looking for another style.
One day haptic technology will go even further. When looking for a new kitchen countertop, for example, haptic technology could allow customers to “feel” the surface of the material and even feel if it is smooth or grainy, warm or cold.
It may sound like science fiction, but the technology is rapidly developing; 2016 will be the year we begin to see more retailers experiment with immersive shopping. Their struggle to attract people to brick and mortar stores will motivate the trend.