For example, retailers like Walmart use VR to help train associates, and one can easily imagine a future of totally immersive customer support between shoppers at home and associates in stores or elsewhere.
Some factors could accelerate VR. A well-designed app, reduced pricing and the rollout of faster 5G networks would help VR make an impact sooner rather than later. For the time being, VR’s potential appears to be offering consumers an in-home benefit rather than an in-store one.
While we await a full sensory transformation to occur, there are a few developments currently impacting the grocery experience that are instructive to consider. Brands like Jim Beam seem to grasp the most fundamental requirement of a successful new tech experience: It ought to be fun. Shoppers can point their camera at a bottle of JB and watch the shelf come alive.
Rich with stories and information, a good AR experience should not only offer entertainment, but also increase consumer association with a brand’s narrative and purpose.
Of course, AR does not need to entertain — utility can also inspire consumer use. Imagine a shopper with food allergies using AR to “see” all the items with ingredients she should avoid. Or going to the store with no shopping list, only to have recipes built from items on the closest shelves “appear” in front of the shopper. Whether adding entertainment value or actual value, quality of content is at least as important as the tech itself.
It remains to be seen to what extent COVID-19 accelerates these trends, but grocers should be ready for technology to continue to play a larger role in the future. They can start by testing new tech today and having it ready for people when they want it.
Perhaps VR could help alleviate the isolation many consumers feel in lockdown. Maybe AR has safety applications no one’s yet considered. With a little vision the industry can create rich new world’s for brands and consumers to reconnect, either in-store or out.
Robb Powell is president of e-commerce services at Advantage Solutions.