Virtual Reality and Retail – Disrupting or Facilitating?


By Hannah Batten

There's a lot of talk at the moment about the impact of certain technologies (including Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and E-Commerce) on the retail sector, with a number of suggestions that the sector will see a divergence between those retailers focussing on functional retail (making the process of buying products as quick, easy and cheap as possible) and those focussing on retail as an "experience" (where shopping is recreational rather than practical). 

These changes, together with the increasing pressure on the traditional "bricks and mortar" retail model from various factors (such as the changes to business rates), could result in significant changes to the location and nature of premises used by retailers. John Catchpole, one of our real estate specialists here at Foot Anstey, predicts that we could see more "click and collect" points, more businesses sharing premises and facilities (like eBay, Argos and Sainsbury's), more warehousing for storage and distribution, and more purpose designed venues, where customers go to "experience" a product before they buy it (I like the idea of a DIY venue where you pre-book a time slot, a selection of lawn mowers and an area of turf within the venue on which to test them, with the preferred mower then being delivered to your home/garden shed). 

Mark Hardy's article is interesting as he considers that, whilst technology is undoubtedly a driver for change, it can also be used by retailers to facilitate those changes by, for example, using data to identify the customers' needs and then using VR to develop the new concepts to deliver the service.  

VR allows teams to go over new in-store ideas and visualize changes within a hyper-realistic virtual store, and then test those concepts through virtual walk-throughs.
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