Virtual Reality is not only entertaining; it creates intelligent retail space

As most content released for use with virtual reality headsets focuses on entertainment, you can be forgiven for thinking only dedicated gamers and the occasional advertiser are interested in the potential of virtual reality.

However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Behind the hype, many companies within commerce and industry have been working with virtual reality platforms for decades. 

Now with the advent of the new generation headsets, virtual reality technology is becoming mainstream and one sector that stands to benefit hugely is retail.  

Traditional concept testing is outmoded

The tradition of testing concepts in physical stores is time-consuming, disruptive and costly. Even more so in the case of understanding the impact of micro and macro space planning changes whilst developing new innovative store formats, or making wholesale changes to stores involving moving heavy fixtures.

As customer-driven demand for more tailored shopping experiences increases, retailers can no longer afford the time to undertake physical testing.  It is crucial to adopt faster processes to manage the shifting assortment and layout demands across all channels.

Fast-track your category strategy

The use of virtual environments to test NPD and access shopper insights has already become an accepted methodology.  More recently, by combining space planning software with these environments, virtual collaborative planning sessions have become a valuable part of the merchandising process. Add in analytics to drive space optimization and virtual reality headsets to gain an in-store feel and intelligent space planning becomes a reality.

Category teams can now create their strategy from a consumer point of view, accurately judging the effect of any changes to layout that they make. They can understand customer sightlines and the effectiveness of their shopper activation strategies before going live in store, making faster, better decisions which directly affect in-store execution and the customer in-store experience.

Intelligent Virtual Store design

In retail terms this collaborative and shopper-centric approach really accelerates the process of testing new category layouts, store formats promotional elements and NPD awareness, and improves the instore experience with a customer-centric approach.  It allows all business units to plan their activities and rehearse the implementation and execution of store activation, leading to an increase in execution effectiveness and customer satisfaction.

The future will see a greater integration with big data, and using VR as a platform to understand how stores are performing. Not just visualisation of planogram and products, but the ability to tie together replenishment, supply chain data and macro and micro plans to visualise this data across a store will allow store managers and staff to receive a real time appreciation of the heartbeat of the store.  This is really just the start of the impact VR will have in the retail store.

The retail landscape is constantly changing and is driven by fast changing consumer behaviours and shopping habits. CPG’s and retailers need to pre-empt shopper demands to remain competitive and Virtual Reality will become a routine and necessary addition to the merchandising arsenal. 

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