At the last F8, the annual Facebook developers Conference, Mark Zuckerberg has outlined his vision for the future of digital media, a future that features virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) prominently. Besides Facebook, also Google, Alibaba and eBay have been investing heavily in these new technologies, the direction the tech industry is moving is clear.  Even though the user adoption of these technologies has been slow, retail analysts and forward-thinking retailers believe that virtual reality and augmented reality have the potential to shape the future shopping experience and to help turning around the current retail slump.



According to Shoppertrak, between 2010 and 2015 foot traffic decreased 57% in US stores. Although it's too early to call the end of brick-and-mortar stores, it is undeniable that if they want to survive the competition, they need to innovate and offer their customers a new shopping experience more in tune with their current lifestyle made of digital screens, online photos and colorful filters.

Brands that have adopted VR in their stores include North Face, which transported its customers to Yosemite Park. More recently, Under Armor also offered to its shoppers a VR preview of a soon-to-open store in Boston, thus not only it generated hype around it, but also collected customers reactions on its layout and merchandising. Although, VR in stores is still mostly a gimmick, retailers can already use it to plan the perfect shopping experience by testing new stores with both experts and focus groups.



Samsung virtual reality for market research
Photo: Samsung
Samsung virtual reality for market research

If the adoption of VR in retail is not as imminent as some were expecting, AR offers a middle way that has the potential to enhance the retail experience in the short term. New York designer Rebecca Minkoff has been one of the first to embrace new technology by installing smart screens and smart mirrors in her stores. On the smart screen customers can browse the looks of the collection and choose styles and size. Once in the fitting room the garments are recognized by the smart mirror that then offers the possibility to browse different looks and lighting situations. According to Oak Labs, the makers of the smart mirror, customers spend 59% more when they engage with their mirror.

Recently, sustainable brand Reformation has adopted a similar approach for their first brick and mortar store in San Francisco letting customers browse looks, sizes and pieces on a digital screen and delivering their choices directly in the fitting room ready to try on.

interactive shelf by veras retail
Photo: veras retail
interactive shelf by veras retail

As every week big and small stores shut down, it is evident that retailers cannot postpone any longer the digital innovation of the in store shopping experience.

Looking forward to our next "Hi, Tech! Our weekly fashion tech news"!

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