Zara a few months ago launched their take on Augmented Reality (AR) in-store. In a nutshell, you can hover your mobile device over a symbol which when activated will pop up images and video.
They certainly are not the first to utilise Augmented Reality. There have been trials with smart mirrors, interactive displays and virtual reality installations. All to mixed results.
New Look in Dublin many years ago installed smart mirrors. When I spoke to the store manager, they explained their customers didn't ask to use it while instore and engagement from Millenials with low.
The practical use of AR solution?
Hovering your mobile device over tags in-store opens up new ways for brands to tell their story. Styling advice, videos of how items are made, who designed it etc. For groceries - recipe ideas and nutritional education are the obvious applications. Life hacks and useful tips for DIY. I could drone on.
So, should all retailers jump on the AR app bandwagon? Personally, it needs to fit with the customer. Does your core customer have an existing app on their phone? Are they really going to spend the time using it?
Augmented and Virtual reality has had much hype, yet we haven't seen the tipping point. Perhaps the issue is the lack of content to encourage consumers to download apps? If so, and you have started to see interest from the customer, below is a starting checklist before you embark on an AR plan.
As you will see there are a number of factors to consider.
1. You may live in an area with great WIFI coverage or a shopping centre with free WIFI. However, you may have to wait a year or two until local coverage is improved and therefore this is not a workable option for you now.
2. Your customers may have started to ask and therefore you have to react.
3. You want to innovate to stand out from competitors.
4. Your staff may not have the technical skills to maintain, this may limit the scope of your plan, or you may have to plan the long-term skill needs for your HR pipeline.
5. You may be able to partner with local universities who have a sponsored programme to provide free development and innovation services.
You may decide that installing interactive screens maybe a better fit than developing an app. As it will engage customers without them needing to take up their phone storage, time etc. Though having such devices in store may require a level of technical experience from employees.
Dilimma of the store of the future
If we want retail to become more technically enriched either the technology available needs to be so simple, anyone can use, or we need to start investing in retail talent and pay for technical skills on the shop floor. With more sales going online and therefore a decrease in the floor space required, perhaps budgets can be switched to a smaller but better paid and skilled sales team?