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Technologies of the future: How AR and VR are bringing a fresh element to retail

Engage Hub discuss how the latest tech developments are helping retailers interact with their audience more than ever

It is fair to say that UK retailers have been on a tumultuous journey over the last year or so, having had to face a variation of market pressure, challenging e-commerce rivals, not to mention rising rents and tricky trading conditions. It’s become the norm for retailers to be fighting for their survival. However, a way to stop retailers from vanishing off the high street is to keep up to date with the latest technological trends and apply them to their business.

What businesses often fail to remember is that as technology progresses so do customer shopping habits and expectations. Companies with their finger on the pulse are already deploying chatbots, artificial intelligence and messaging apps to keep up with demand. We are in a time where customers have never been so expressive about what they want and what they expect from companies. This was made clear with the results of our research. Our data revealed that 81% of respondents expect to be provided with a variety of channels in which to engage with. Not only do they want the option to choose but also, a smooth, integrated experience across all of them. Taking this to the next level, many consumers want Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) dressing rooms and even drone delivery, to be a possibility.

These “technologies of the future” are already being successfully utilised by large, online and instore retailers hoping to make the customer journey more inclusive and interesting. For instance, IKEA, has introduced Amazon’s AR view to help customers envisage how furniture will look in their home before making a purchase. For customers who prefer ‘ease of use’ these new technologies couldn’t be more perfect as they allow consumers a chance to ‘try’ before they buy. As well as convenience, AR and VR are helping stores to stand apart from the traditional retailer. L’Oreal Paris, for example, guarantees loyal customers with an in-store virtual makeover tool that enables you to try makeup and certain looks before buying. On paper, it has never been so simple for retailers to deliver a more engaging and convenient approach to the customer experience.

However, AR and VR are not the only new inventions transforming the customer experience landscape. Increasingly, we are seeing chatbots being used as a more convenient way for customers to interact with brands, specifically when they require assistance. In fact, 87% of businesses say self-service customer enquiries are a current priority of theirs. Apart from the obvious benefits like saving businesses money, self-service chatbots are improving customer experience and satisfaction. It’s fair to say we have all had our share of agonising waits and frustrating calls with agents and can therefore, understand the appeal of having access to instant help and real-time information.

With the implementation of GDPR In the age of GDPR and data sensitivity customers are very particular about who they give their personal data to. With this in mind, retailers must remember to be upfront about who or what they’re speaking to. Giving customers the option to self-serve will only succeed if you’re as transparent as possible.

Although customers normally expect a more human touch to their customer experience, retailers that fail to introduce the latest technologies and integrate them into the customer offering risk losing the loyalty of existing customers as well as potential new ones. However, before businesses begin their digital transformation, they must remember to take their time. Applying chatbot technology at the start can be just as powerful as implementing technologies which are grabbing the public’s attention, such as AR and VR.