Augmented and virtual reality: the future is now.

The retail faces many challenges today: consumers’ expectations of companies have changed a lot and now they want to feel involved with brands and be able to interact with them both online and offline. The overall scenario is dominated by new technologies: mobile devices, social networks, big data, artificial intelligence and immersive technologies.

The new goals in marketing 4.0

Together with Digital Transformation, in the last few years a more impetuous and unstoppable technological growth has started; at the same time, consumers’ need to have something more from brands and products has arisen: the demand for experiences.

The result of these parallel processes is marketing 4.0, whose activities aim to provide the market with memorable experiences, since it is clear that offering only the product itself does not provide any added value to the customer. The experience is defined by Smith as a set of “perceptions, feelings and thoughts that consumers have when they encounter products and brands or engage during consumer activities and the memory of those experiences”. The contacts between the product/brand and the consumer can now be verified at any time in any place, especially thanks to the growing diffusion of mobile devices – in particular smartphones and tablets – which are now considered to be a “physical extension” of the individual. The strategic objective has become twofold: on the one hand, a strong relationship with the consumer must be established and, on the other, it must become a source of emotions and memories.

The experience in stores

The experience in the shops is very important because the consumer expects it to be unique; today, indeed, it isn’t longer enough focusing on the strategic integration of online and offline channels, but it is necessary to think of an ad-hoc purchasing path that leads the customer to remember the brand and therefore to feel involved; finally, the involvement is closely linked to loyalty. The shop therefore needs to be upgraded, following the rule of offering the consumer new ways of interaction, transforming the stores into real spaces of relationship between users and the brand.  The physical store has the greatest possibility to involve the consumer in this sense: it satisfies many needs such as interaction and assistance of the staff; the need to touch, interact or test the product before the purchase; etc..E-commerce shoppers, on the other hand, are often not able to enjoy the retail experience, as the traditional online shopping experience is based only on the use of 2D product photos.

The strong rise of immersive technologies

Massimo Curcio, associate partner of KPMG, in his research “Social distancing and new Retail Experience models” highlighted how it would be appropriate, considering among other things the new scenario profiled in recent months, to completely rethink the structure of physical, and especially virtual, stores moving towards augmented reality, virtual reality or 3D websites. The consultancy firm Gartner, indeed, estimates that the use of immersive technologies – including VR and AR – will be 70% by 2022.

The immersive technology, in fact, blurs the boundary between the physical world and the world generated by technology, making the user experience a sensation of immersion; allowing the consumer to live multisensory experiences, and being able to perceive himself present in a context different from the one in which he really is, and specifically designed to increase his involvement towards the brand.

Sources:

– KPMG, COVID-19 and social distancing impact on Retail Customer Experience: KPMG vision & approach for Large Retail Chains.

– PMI.it, Immersive Technologies: growing market. 1st July 2019