2019 is shaping up as a year where a number of technologies spoken about for awhile are beginning to converge.

In particular 5G, machine learning, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and augmented reality, are all starting to make their presence known, and the effects they will have on a myriad industries are starting to unfold.

With that in mind research firm Gartner has looked at how these technologies will change the retail experience over the next two years.

A new customer experience

In fact one of Gartner’s major predictions around the retail sector is that augmented reality will play a far larger role in the industry than before. So much so that they predict that 100 million consumers will use augmented reality in some capacity for their shopping experience either online or in-store.

“Retailers are under increasing pressure to explain the purpose of physical stores, and take control of the fulfilment and return process for cross-channel execution,” says Hanna Karki, principal research analyst at Gartner.

“At the same time, consumers are progressively defining the value provided by the experiences they receive from retailers. As a result of these pressures, retailers are turning to AR and VR to offer customers a unified retail experience inside and outside retail stores.”

Around the corner

A survey the research firm conducted in 2018 indicated that 46 percent of retailers planned to deploy AR and VR solutions in order to meet new customer expectations around experience.

It is important to note however, that said survey was conducted in Europe, the UK and the United States, so it may still take a while for these innovative solutions to reach our shores.

That said, the impact of these technologies for the retail sector are still hard to avoid in the opinion of Karki.

“The impact of AR or VR in retail can be transformative,” she enthuses.

“Retailers can use AR as an extension of the brand experience to engage customers in immersive environments and drive revenue. For example, IKEA’s Place app enables customers to virtually ‘place’ IKEA products in their space. Additionally, AR can be used outside the store after a sale to increase customer satisfaction and improve loyalty,” Karki adds.

Pushing things along

Helping to accelerate the adoption of technologies like AR and VR in retail is 5G, according to Gartner.

In fact 5G is garnering the highest expectations in terms of its ability to become a driver for new revenue growth, the research firm has discovered.

More specifically 5G’s capacity to support multiple uses cases, such as real-time rendering for immersive video, shorter downloads and set-up times, and extensions of brands and shopping experiences beyond stores, all hold great potential for retailers.

“Gartner expects that the implementation of 5G and AR or VR in stores will transform not only customer engagement but also the entire product management cycle of brands,” noted Sylvain Fabre, senior research director at Gartner.

“5G can optimise warehouse resources, enhance store traffic analytics and enable beacons that communicate with shoppers’ smartphones,” he concludes.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]