The Record - Issue 21: Summer 2021

150 www. t e c h n o l o g y r e c o r d . c om BY E L LY YAT E S - ROB E R T S F E ATUR E : M I C ROSOF T HOLOL ENS Rethinking retail Mixed reality adoption is surging, as retailers rethink all aspects of their operations. Microsoft’s Rody Senner says it can enable a better shopping experience while reducing operating costs S pending on augmented reality solutions in the retail sector is expected to grow to over $8 billion by 2025, eclipsing the 2021 figure by more than 10 times, according to IDC’s Wordwide Augmented and Virtual Reality Spending Guide, April 2021 Forecast. This rapid adoption comes as retailers recognise that these technologies provide opportunities to respond to market conditions that have left many of them badly bruised. The possibilities offered by mixed reality solutions from Microsoft are lim- ited only by the retailer’s imagination, and already are being used for many applications, including layout optimisation, sales assistance and training. “Layout optimisation can be extremely power- ful for interior design,” says Rody Senner, North America mixed reality sales lead at Microsoft. “Companies are leveraging mixed reality to immerse their customers in a holographic vis- ualisation to see the space before they spend any money. This can increase customer confidence, and the ticket price.” German firm küchenquelle creates in-built kitchens for homeowners and businesses. It used a mixed reality platform created by tech- nology firm Island Labs and based on Microsoft Azure and HoloLens 2 to help customers visualise their new kitchen before making the decision to spend. “We wanted a cutting-edge tool that would make our design and sales processes more efficient and effective,” says Andreas Rode, CEO at küchenquelle. “We also wanted to make the process of planning and buying a new built-in kitchen a fun, even joyful, experience for our clients.” The financial returns are real, too. Rode says küchenquelle’s tests indicate that it’s possible to increase the average sales price for its projects by up to 20 per cent with this solution, and conver- sion rates increase by 15 to 20 per cent, too. Italian furniture company Natuzzi has also seen a huge rise in its sales closing rates, by using HoloLens 2 to create an augmented reality solu- tion that allows its customers to fall in love with what they are buying, before they buy it. “We wanted to change the rules of the game for the interaction between the Natuzzi brand and the consumers walking into our stores,” says Pasquale Junior Natuzzi, the firm’s creative director. “It helps them warm up the hearts of the cus- tomers,” he says. “So there is always this human touch behind everything.” The company has seen a 35 per cent increase in sales closing rates since introducingHoloLens 2 at their augmented stores. And floor space at those stores can be reduced by 50 per cent, meaning