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Special Feature – AR & VR – Part Two

A New Era of Retail

Following on from Part One of our Special Feature on AR & VR in last month’s edition, this issue sees RLI take a closer look at a number of examples of AR & VR in the world of retail to highlight how it is being used to enhance the offering of companies and entice customers to enter this new era of retail.

Retailers are using both virtual reality (VR), where customers typically wear a headset to enter a completely digital world, and augmented reality (AR), which overlays digital projections into the real world and can be accessed on a smartphone. This is the viewpoint of Simon Read, Senior Writer at Formative Content and Contributor to the World Economic Forum in his article ‘How many consumers are shopping in virtual reality and what can it offer them?’

He goes onto say that such technology is being used to sell products shoppers have traditionally been reluctant to buy online and that more of us are turning to VR to do our shopping and it is a switch that could signal big changes in the retail sector. Below we take a look at a few examples of AR and VR in the industry.

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Within the roles of AR & VR, the Metaverse is another new element that is being incorporated by retail brands around the world. One example of this is how Tommy Hilfiger, which is owned by PVH Corp., one of the world’s most recognised premium lifestyle brands and a 3D technology pioneer, presented a brand-new, multi-metaverse hub, powered by Emperia, which launched simultaneously and brought together, interoperably, the most iconic metaverse platforms: Decentraland, Roblox (designed by Sawhorse Productions), Spatial, DressX and Ready Player Me, all part of Tommy Hilfiger’s Decentraland Metaverse Fashion Week 2023 presence. The new Tommy Hilfiger digital hub also focuses on enhancing the product experience, by offering four exclusive selected items, led by the Tommy Hilfiger iconic Varsity Jacket, presented in different aesthetic representations across all platforms and available for sale in two different forms: physical – connected to Tommy’s e-commerce; and digital – connected to digital fashion platform DressX. The Varsity jacket is available for sale in physical form via the Emperia hub, while the Ready Player Me platform is offering the digital version, which can be used in various games and environments, multiplying the interoperability possibilities.

Another example that is powered by Emperia is Tatcha’s new virtual store which launched back in February. The virtual experience aims to “immerse guests in the tranquil scents and sounds of the Japanese hinoki forest” while introducing them to the brand’s Forest Awakening collection. In addition, the store includes information about the benefits of forest bathing, also known as shinrin-yoku, a common medical treatment in Japan known for its immunity and mood boosting powers by connecting to nature through the senses. Starting with a walk through the Hinoki forest, visitors can explore several rooms that “engulf them in the Tatcha Hinoki experience” and allow them to move freely, explore products, learn about them and shop.

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Fashion brand H&M has teamed up with leading technology company Snap Inc. to launch augmented reality (AR) try on experiences – available now on H&M’s mobile app and on visual instant messaging app, Snapchat. The AR experiences are co-designed by H&M and the Institute of Digital Fashion (IODF), the London-based digital atelier and thinktank. Powered by Snap’s camera technology, the Lenses offer the ability to try on one-of-a-kind digital designs, expanding the expressive possibilities of fashion. Anyone can select an outfit, strike a pose, and share their favourite digital looks. H&M utilises Snap’s Camera Kit to build augmented reality into their mobile apps. Camera Kit is a cross platform, software development kit that enables businesses like H&M to integrate Snap’s camera technology and Lenses into their own mobile and web properties, “meeting their customers where they are”. The Swedish retailer joins others brands such as Puma in leveraging Camera Kit to enhance customer experience.

Meanwhile with Swedish brand IKEA’s new app IKEA Kreativ gives customers the opportunity to bring their ideal home to life. Visitors can take advantage of advanced technology to create a complete 3D replica of their room. The process involves scanning the room with LiDAR technology, which is integrated into iPhones. Once the scan is complete, customers can easily remove their current furniture and explore new products. This feature provides a precise visual representation of how new furniture will look and fit in their home, without the need for bothersome physical measurements. It takes the guesswork out of furniture shopping and offers a convenient and hassle-free way for customers to redesign their living spaces.

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Moving on, with the Sephora Virtual Artist, you can get a virtual makeover, star in your own tutorials, and share your obsessions with friends more easily. Customers can experiment with an infinite library of eyeshadows, lip colours, and even false lashes to find their perfect shade and perfect lip – all without stepping foot in a store. Bringing virtual reality technology to the beauty industry, Sephora’s makeup app uses facial recognition to empower customers to try on products anywhere. The app scans your face, detects your eyes, lips, and cheeks for product placement and lets them try on makeup virtually to see just what this eyeliner or that lipstick looks like on them. Undecided between a KVD Vegan Beauty liquid lipstick or Anastasia liquid lipstick? No problem—try them both, see how they look, and compare before you buy. Who doesn’t want a virtual lipstick tester to filter through colours, textures, and finishes?

Stepping away from traditional retail sectors such as fashion, furniture and makeup, Audi is the first car manufacturer in the world to bring virtual reality entertainment by holoride to series production. At CES 2023 back in January in Vegas, US, visitors could experience rides in the rear of an Audi e-tron and e-tron Sportback. The Audi Hub at the Waldorf Astoria will be their starting point. Behind holoride is a new technology that adapts the virtual content to the car’s driving movements in real time. For example, if the vehicle takes a right turn, the spaceship in the virtual world will also fly to the right. If the car accelerates, the spaceship speeds up, meaning a ride in the car becomes a multimodal gaming event. An added bonus is that by synchronising the user’s visual and felt experiences, holoride reduces the risk of motion sickness, which many passengers experience when watching movies or other dynamic content in a moving car.

It is not just in the physical world where AR and VR is making an impact. The online giant Amazon has incorporated AR technology to enhance the online shopping experience. Recently, the retail giant unveiled a new feature called Virtual Try-On for Shoes that enables customers to visualize how a pair of shoes will look on themselves from multiple angles by utilizing their mobile phone’s camera. To use the Virtual Try-On for Shoes feature, customers only need to point their mobile phone’s camera at their feet, and the AR shoes will appear on their screen. With the included functionality, shoppers can quickly swap out the colours of the same style of shoes plus snap a photo of their virtual try-on session, which they can save on their device or share on social media.