The use of virtual reality (VR) in the retail and marketing sectors is expected to generate $1.8 billion in 2022, up from $181 million in the last year, according to ABI Research. The technology has reached a point where VR can further enhance the at-home shopping experience.
The fashion, beauty and furniture industries have been the quickest to adopt VR and augmented reality (AR), with retailers including Macy’s, L’Oréal, IKEA and Ashley Furniture investing in these capabilities.
The primary challenge these tech-forward retailers currently face is cost, according to Khin Sandi Lynn, Industry Analyst at ABI Research. Creating new content is expensive and time consuming, but that may change as the technology becomes more established. Service providers and manufacturers will streamline the process, and retailers will be able to reuse existing content rather than creating everything fresh.
Startups specializing in AR and VR are well on their way to becoming mainstream, raising $3.6 billion in the 12 months prior to the end of Q1 2018, according to Venture Beat. Related companies raised over $750 million in the first three months of 2018 alone.
While AR is an important part of developing a retailer’s presence, it builds on existing services rather than replacing them entirely. Virtual experiences can help younger, more tech-savvy shoppers make purchasing decisions, but older consumers still prefer visiting a store and trying out physical products.
“I don’t think things are going to completely change, where people are only using the VR,” said Lynn in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “The older generation of shoppers is still going visit the store, see the product and buy. This is more for the younger generation.”