Don’t look now, but virtual reality and augmented reality are starting to make bigger gains in the retail world. These are still early days but trends are coming together — and expectations are rising, thanks not only the evolution of AR and VR technology, but the coming deployments of 5G mobile network ecosystems.
PYMNTS research helps illustrate some of those recent developments. Commerce operators such as Macy’s and Timberland, for instance, are showing how to use virtual reality-equipped smart mirrors for such tasks from product testing to checkout. Meanwhile, apparel sellers such as Tommy Hilfiger and The North Face have turned to VR-enabled headsets to provide 360-degree outdoor views in the middle of the mall — a way to entice shoppers to buy products from those retailers.
The spread of VR and AR technology is not confined to physical retailers, either — eCommerce giants are getting into the game as well. Translated, that means such eCommerce stalwarts as Amazon and Alibaba are trying to get into this game more as the technology spreads into consumers’ homes.
Consider this to further understand that point: The number of VR users worldwide jumped from 85 million to 171 million in 2018. That means more at-home shoppers are becoming curious about this hardware. VR is also gaining its place in eCommerce as a way for consumers to have a full, tactile experience in an online store — an example of the need for a deeper consumer experience making its way from stores to consumers’ homes, where, as PYMNTS has documented, more retail and payment activity is taking place as this new decade progresses.
In fact, according to PYMNTS research, virtual reality will generate some $1.8 billion via retail and marketing in 2022. As that happens, the number of users of VR is increasing, and has probably doubled from 85 million to at least 171 million, with more gains expected. VR-enabled revenues are set to spike by some 3,000 percent, too. And it’s not just the U.S. or China where such gains are happening. As a country such as India further embraces eCommerce and digital marketing, for instance, you can expect more AR and VR adoption there in the new decade.
Visuals and Voice Together?
More is certainly to come, as least according to the predictions of tech experts. Recently, for instance, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg expressed his view that augmented reality can address a number of social problems. According to a recent Facebook post of his, there will come a breakthrough in the technology over the next decade. He said the technology of the 2010s was “on the mobile phone,” but going into the 2020s, he said he thought that while phones would still be prominent, there would be major gains in virtual reality that could “redefine our relationship with technology.”
And as such Big Tech operators and firms as Microsoft and Magic Leaps introduced their own virtual reality headsets, Facebook, of its part, is working on augmented reality glasses. Codenamed Orion, the glasses are currently being developed in Facebook’s labs in Redmond, Washington. Facebook also wants to partner with Ray-Ban’s parent company, Luxottica, to release the glasses between 2023 and 2025. And they’re also working on a voice assistant to control the glasses, according to CNBC.
Indeed, voice is an even hotter trend in the retail world, and combining the visual and voice aspects of commerce in the 2020s could lead to yet more innovation and disruption in the space. In Zuckerberg’s Facebook post, he addressed some critiques of VR, among them that it looks unnatural. Zuckerberg acknowledged that some current and earlier versions had been “clunky,” but he thinks it could grow into “the most human and social technology platform yet.”
The path is still pretty long when it comes to VR and AR. But the big companies and important executives are focused on innovation in that space, and that will certainly lead to more projects.