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3 Resources to Help You Prepare for the Impacts of Virtual Reality on Retail

Despite the fact that high-tech industry pundits have often scratched their heads when Mark Zuckerberg places big bets early on emerging technology, he continues to get it right.  Back in early 2014, Facebook announced the agreement to acquire Oculus VR. Only a few years later, virtual reality technology is expected to completely transform many industries, especially the retail industry.

In fact, according to AdAge retailers can expect widespread adoption in as few as three years. Within two years, CCS Insights indicated that the market for mobile augmented reality and virtual reality devices will reach $4 billion with more than 24 million devices sold. By 2020, the market is on target to be $120 billion.  Retailers are already leveraging VR technology this season. From a virtual view of New York City’s holiday window displays to a realistic virtual view of a Tommy Hilfiger catwalk, to a virtual tour of Adidas’s flagship store in Sweden, experiments are ongoing across the industry. The challenge of being a showroom for e-commerce retailers will be a thing of the past once virtual reality enables home shoppers to feel like they are immersed in a product or a store setting.

The great thing about innovative technology is that disruptions happen fast and fast adopters can achieve significant market advantages. But, change happens so quickly that even leading companies can find themselves looking for resources to stay informed. Here are a few that have helped me in my advisory work with clients.

#1 – Pay Attention to Artemis Berry

You can follow Artemis Berry via the National Retail Federation (NRF) website, where she is the VP, Member Engagement for Shop.org and the NRF. As an author, she works with industry experts around the world to provide predictive insights on how technology will impact the retail industry. In fact, she has covered technology trends in the retail industry since 2013; foreseeing the influence of social media sights like Pinterest, Instagram, Vine and Snapchat long before they were mainstream. She also called it right on digital retail, personalization, and of course, virtual reality.

#2 – Read What the Gamers on Venture Beat Are Saying

Within any 24-hour period, you’ll find at least ten articles on how emerging technology companies are developing or adapting VR technology on Venture Beat. Most of the articles are covering gaming platforms, but in my view, VR can create a gamification of shopping. After all, retailers have been adding gamification into their stores for years now; from productivity-measuring wearable device games to adapting mobile apps to create better in-store customer engagement, the gamification of shopping is happening and VR technology is only going to push this along faster.

#3 – Connect with The University of Southern California (USC) Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT)

If you are ready to invest in some experiments to explore how people engage with computers, virtual characters or other forms of human-computer interaction, the team at USC Institute for Creative Technologies would be your first call. With over 50 publications in 2016 alone, the researchers at ICT are on the cutting edge of artificial intelligence and virtual reality to solve problems facing companies. This group is on the forefront of science and innovation and would be a great resource to any organization looking for advice on VR investments.

Leading companies are continually exploring innovative concepts to incorporate virtual reality components across the global retail environment. The recent huge success of Alibaba’s VR shopping experience on China’s Singles Day proves there can be real ROI in new commerce concepts.  And, earlier this week, Adidas doubled-down on their innovative retail strategies by opening the first virtual reality store in Europe.

The opportunity to make shopping fun again has the attention of the industry but for most retail executives the daily focus is on today’s operational excellence.  I hope you’ll check in from time to time with these three great resources, along with the Clarkston Consulting blog, so you can start working today to prepare for the future of retail.

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