Digital transformation

AR & VR get retail in motion

September 30, 2021 - 4 minutes reading time
Article by Eric Heil

A shop window that comes to life when visitors walk past. A personalised offer when customers scan a product with their phone. Erik Heil is convinced that augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) will revolutionise retail.

Inexperienced forklift truck drivers often struggle to find the most convenient way around large distribution centres. But Centric has developed a solution thanks to AR technology. Drivers can see the aisle in front of them on a screen in their truck, with superimposed arrows indicating the recommended route. “What can be done in a distribution centre can also be done in a shop,” says Erik Heil, AR/VR specialist at Centric. “A proof of concept with Albert Heijn has shown that we can lead customers to the product they are looking for, with a deviation of no more than 30cm.”

Imagine walking through your own virtual supermarket

‐ Eric Heil, Managing Consultant at Centric

Virtual supermarket

We already have more AR and VR applications in retail that have gone beyond proof-of-concept. Heil points out the Ikea app, which allows customers to project a piece of furniture into their own living room. Coolblue has a similar app for choosing TVs, helping customers make better choices.

“But there are so many more possibilities. Imagine customers being able to walk through their own personalised supermarket with VR glasses on. If you’re looking for something quick for dinner, it will show you the way to the ready meals aisle.” Such applications might still seem a long way off, but behind the scenes there is an array of technological advances that are bringing us closer to new AR and VR applications and fast. Heil mentions persistent cloud anchors, which can relate AR content to physical locations. “When people walk down a street, they can see that AR content on their smartphone.”

In motion

The use of AR & VR does raise a lot of questions. For one thing, is the layout of supermarkets really so confusing that consumers need an app to find their way around? “And won’t customers have a better experience if a staff member shows them the way instead? AR and VR technology puts all sorts of aspects in motion.” Heil is convinced that people will take quickly to AR and VR technology, which is why he is calling on retailers to think about the opportunities for their own operations. “We’d like to speak to retailers who have their own ideas about this. Together, we can build those ideas into a proof-of-concept and explore the opportunities.”

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