There are several technologies that are prophesised to transform the state of physical, bricks-and-mortar retail. But of all these, mixed reality (MR) might be the one with the most potential.
MR is an innovative amalgamation of both augmented reality and virtual reality (VR) technologies. Users can interact with their physical surroundings while also benefiting from elements that are digitally overlaid – something which could prove to be a game-changer in the retail world. This provides consumers with a totally new perspective that they otherwise would not have been able to enjoy.
It is not hard to imagine how this technology could deliver huge value. For example, a retailer starting work on a new store could stand in the middle of their currently empty space and put on an MR headset, like the Microsoft HoloLens, to immediately visualise how the furnished and fitted shop might look, without having to actually purchase any physical products.
MR can also be easily integrated into the in-store experience itself. Take a car showroom, for instance. Currently we’re still used to having to flick through paper catalogues to find the model, colour and spec that takes our fancy, but MR changes this entirely. Instead, a customer can put on a headset and see a blank template of a car in front of them. From here, they can then have their desired options displayed on top of the template, allowing them to see the exact car they want to purchase right before their eyes.
MR is something retailers can benefit from today, but there is a large obstacle that stands in the way of many; and that’s cost. MR is still in its infancy and therefore expensive, which leaves it out of reach for the vast majority.
This is where subscription models can prove their worth. In much the same way that many of us pay for our mobile phones or cars, there are models available to retailers that allow them to purchase cutting-edge technology such as MR via a rolling contract. This makes investment in technology far more affordable for retailers of all sizes.
These models also mean customers don’t have to deal with outdated equipment. This is especially crucial in the MR field: Microsoft is purportedly releasing its latest HoloLens headset next year, and so retailers will want to adopt this as soon as possible.
Despite its intelligence and sophistication, MR is relatively straightforward to set up and start using. All that’s needed is an MR headset and the apps and/or software that retailers want to use. There are also several companies out there working directly with the leading independent software vendors to develop retailer-specific solution that can deliver significant added value.
With many retailers wondering how to reinvigorate the in-store experience, MR is the ideal solution – one that is exciting, innovative and capable of an entirely new in-store experience. Subscription models also make it far easier for retailers to take advantage today, and to continually refresh their estate for years to come.
Tim Morgan-Hoole is managing director at JTRS, part of the Econocom Group
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