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According to IBM Research 92% of retail volume still takes place in brick and mortar stores. Research shows that consumers are more likely to shop in store than to buy using a mobile phone, but once in store, they want in-store services available through their mobile devices. They feel lack of personalized information, helpful product reviews and special propositions that online shoppers enjoy in abundance. There is an actual problem how to combine benefits of online shopping with shopping in stores. Many big retailers have already started using virtual reality in different ways to enhance the shopping experience of the users. Some of the big names include Walmart, Carrefour, Bloomingdale, Tesco, etc.
Walmart – a world leader in the retail landscape – is one of the consistent advocates of augmented reality technology. During 2012-2013 Walmart released a few apps built around films such as The Avengers, Ninja Turtles and Man of Steel. These apps had very similar features that enabled users to get an augmented reality experience by interacting with special in-store signage located throughout Walmart stores, online and in the retailer’s weekly flyer. Some modes required going around the supermarket collecting special tokens, others enabled users to take their photo with main heroes and share those photos in social media. All these apps were introduced as a part of different promotional marketing campaigns that were launched in the USA and in Canada.
The largest Frenc retailer Carrefour has been constantly evolving and breaking new ground so that its customers are able to enjoy sneak previews of the best innovations. In contrast to Wallmart and its AR apps, Carrefour prefers interactive augmented reality campaigns on digital screens in its supermarkets. They first introduced promotional campaign for Qualitea Life brand in Indonesian stores in 2009. Customers could hold the package of Qualitea Tea in front of the digital screen and see interactive scenes appearing on them.
This year Carrefour in partnership with Clear Channel has installed virtual fitting room in six of the shopping centers around France, allowing women to try on clothes from the new ready-to-wear collection without actually stepping into a fitting room. The virtual fitting room experience combines augmented reality and motion recognition technology. To make this campaign really viral Carrefour stimulated its avid followers of fashion by sharing their photos via social networks to win one of 10 coupons worth €100.
The largest UK-based retailer Tesco has its own views on augmented reality applications in stores. The company enhanced their printed product catalog Tesco Magazine with augmented reality features alongside QR code scanning, therefore capturing the advantage of direct mail’s immediacy and then triggering dynamic, interactive content to engage the user. customers are able to access product specific content such as nutritional information through QR codes which are placed on a range of products in-store and by scanning page of the magazine.
Tesco is also working with IBM on creating an application that would help managers to arrange products on store shelves according to display plans, which will create a better shopping experience for its customers. The Tesco colleagues run the app on a mobile devices to photograph and capture the current status of the store aisles including quantity and location of products. The application would then connect to Tesco’s product database to compare the current display with the planned arrangement and instantly superimposes information that reveals insufficient quantities, missing products or misplaced items.
This application of augmented reality in retail stores may not directly entertain or educate shoppers, but certainly lead to improved shopping experience.
These days it’s not only largest global supermarkets that stay ahead of the rest of the world in adapting innovative technologies and addressing to experiential marketing. Local supermarkets in different parts of the world keep up with the new tendencies as well. For example, New World, a full-service supermarket chain in New Zealand, has introduced the Little Fridge app to its customers. The idea of the app is to draw attention to special brands in the store. Customers participating in Treasure Hunt around a New World could win ice cream for the whole year.
Another interesting example of AR application was implemented in Ukrainian supermarkets Tavria-V. A shooter game triggered from the package was used to engage customers in toys section. Gamification gave shoppers a possibility not only to have fun, but also get a discount for the toy if they have a good score.
Talking about the conceptual projects I cannot miss the interesting concept for virtual supermarket suggested by Yihaodian, the largest food e-commerce retailer of China. In 2013 it announced that it would open the first augmented reality supermarkets in the world in ‘blank city spaces’. The company promises to another layer of reality to “the office open space, parks and college campuses”, in which customers will be surrounded by completely stocked supermarket, filled with virtual food. Initially Yihaodian planned to introduce 1,000 AR supermarkets around China. Hope they will make this concept a reality soon.
Augmented Pixels Co. – Augmented Reality Solutions
Product Marketing Manager