The Record - Issue 21: Summer 2021

151 R E TA I L & C PG “Companies are leveraging mixed reality to immerse their customers in a holographic visualisation to see the space before they spend any money” Natuzzi can cut back on overheads at the same time as increasing sales. Mixed reality can be extremely effective out of the showroom, too. “Rather than put users in a fully computer-generated world, as virtual reality does, HoloLens allows users to place 3D digital models in the room alongside them,” says Senner. She believes that these immersive expe- riences contribute to customer loyalty. “Mixed reality gives retailers the ability to allow their customers to interact with accurate 3D replica- tion,” she says. “They can customise materials, colours, details and finishes within a highly immersive and personalised experience that strengthens the retailer’s brand and loyalty.” Not all mixed reality applications are customer facing. Firms in all industries are realising the benefits of mixed reality when it comes to train- ing staff, both in terms of providing easy and lower-cost access to experts, however remote they are from the person being trained, but also delivering training in a highly personalised and visual way that can increase understanding and therefore the quality of instruction. To prepare employees to handle around 2,500 new food items at its revamped Kroger Express stores, Walgreens is piloting an immer- sive, mixed reality training programme using Microsoft HoloLens 2 and tablet devices. A three-dimensional model of the reconfig- ured stores and various scenarios help to teach employees how to restock products, determine if products are past their prime, help customers redeem grocery coupons and deal with unfamil- iar customer service situations. “We feel that this very immersive, interactive technology helps teammembers grasp new ways of learning beyond what I’ll call the paper exer- cise,” says Steven Lamontagne, vice president of physical design and formats for parent company Walgreens Boots Alliance. Lamontagne says HoloLens 2 training offers the benefit of familiarising employees with the new store layouts even before renovations are finished: “By using a 3D model for the store, a team mem- ber gets to see what the future is going to be like after their store’s remodelled, and they’re imme- diately within that new physical environment.”