Virtual reality degree
July 19, 2017

Aras Koktas

The Shopping Experience of Tomorrow: AR and VR

For a lot of consumers, maybe the term AR (Augmented Reality) became exponentially popular with the game of collecting Pokémon in their neighborhood gym, or VR (Virtual Reality) with the popup shops in malls that let you try the dorky headsets – we are traveling to the future faster than we realize it.

Now, is the time for the retailers to be comfortable with this speed and embrace innovation in their strategies if they want to be successful with the generations growing up with these digital transformations.

Part of the promise behind AR/VR might seem like episodes of The Jetsons from your childhood, but history will have to repeat itself just like the transformation of cellular phones to smartphones. This new era of technology not only ushers a completely new way of interactivity between consumers and brands, but also makes their life experiences, including shopping, much easier.

VR, which is the full-immersive sibling of the two, uses wearable devices that produce realistic graphics and sounds where the user’s physical presence is mimicked in an imaginary environment. Many companies started experimenting with this technology to enhance their customer experiences. UK’s chain store Tesco’s demo is one example of how VR can be used in a retail shopping environment, and Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba’s Buy+ platform video. These demos will mature enough in the next few years to become commercial for the mass market. At first impulse, this may look like just a lazy way to shop, but the key ingredient behind this technology will be the personalization of the experience. Imagine a store that is fully catered towards your wants and needs, discovers products for you and brings it to your home. VR will also be very effective in influential marketing campaigns. Consumer buying decisions are mainly based on feelings and experiences that are story driven. The whole promise of VR is to create those experiences. Fashion brand TopShop used VR headsets for a select number of its fans, to showcase the London Fashion Week live. The hotel Chain Marriott, used the technology to create a product where you can visit aspirational destinations without leaving your house. No more spending hours onTripAdvisor trying to find the best beach anymore, you can walk around the sands and judge for yourself.

AR, on the other hand, is the live real-world view environment, enhanced and modified by computer supported inputs such as graphics and sounds. One of the most common uses of AR in commerce today is the previews of products without buying them. It is being used to showcase products that are hard to “try” such as furniture. A smart phone screen can be used to capture your living room’s “real world” view and place the piece of furniture so you can preview and fit the products. AR will use the similar approach to mass-market personalized products or expensive novelty items, to remove frustration or customer disappointment from the process. You will be able to try/preview items even before items are manufactured.

The try/preview model does not have to be just for large or novelty items. Loreal created the Makeup Genius App which lets you try on different colors and shades of makeup without putting it on first. This is a very simple way of solving a very complex problem, a lot of consumers are having problems with, and AR is solving it.

Another disruption area for AR will be the brick and mortar retail. Virtual dressing rooms and smart mirrors are slowly coming into our lives. Rebecca Minkoff and eBay partnership brought us a fully connected store experience where the virtual dressing rooms are designed to make the shopping experience much easier. With engaging content being pushed to the consumer, new product discovery, looking for different sizes, AR is changing everything you hate about shopping in stores.

While AR/VR technologies may seem too futuristic for retail today, there are enough experiments to suggest they will be a mainstream in the very near future. Customers will start to expect a higher level of sophistication from this technology, because personalization, direct connection and ease of shopping will be the norm for commerce.

Questions you need to answer will be; How can you use the VR’s promise of creating worlds and telling stories for your brand? How can you create an experience for your consumers to connect with your brand emotionally? How can you use AR to make your product selection easier and shopping more fun?

Silicon Desert Insider is a weekly blog published every Wednesday on, about technology, trends, advice and more that could help your company. If you have an idea for “Silicon Desert Insider,” please email AZ BIG Media Associate Editor Jesse A. Millard at