Mixed Reality's Foray into Retail Business

Mixed Reality's Foray into Retail Business

The breakthrough of projecting an alternative 'Reality' which engages and thereby entices customers more, allowed Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality (AR/VR) to take the world by storm, with ever-more businesses paying close attention to this breakthrough innovation in Digital Technologies. In particular, the world of retail lapped it up, and have since then taken giant strides in the space from positing quality products into our hands to now providing a whole new shopping experience to its billions of customers worldwide.

What is picking up pace now in the Retail space however, is the amalgamation of AR/VR technologies and therefore the coming into fore of the concept of Mixed Reality (MR).Canadian AR giant NexTech AR’s recent announcement that it is going to offer a VR platform as well points definitively to that direction.

The field of Augmented Reality is not new though. In fact, the very success and adoption of AR/VR technologies can be traced back to the cult of Pokémon-Go in 2016, which saw both technologies at play simultaneously at times.

The next major development came in the form of Amazon Web Services (AWS) announcing a new offering called Amazon Sumerian – a platform for developers to develop and fine-tune AR/VR/MR applications without the compulsion of specialising in programming or graphics development. The service of Sumerian was initially beta-tested, before being introduced to the whole world.

A successful MR offering at scale post Pokemon was yet to emerge, but it was clear that the proverbial camel’s back was sure to break.

What is today accelerating the transition of Retail and particularly Online Retail into offering more and more MR solutions is probably the rapid increase in consumer mobility. This has led to a growing trend of Shopping-on-the-go and without an MR offering, retailers are sure to lose out.

Imagine if we could select and purchase farm fresh vegetables from the fields from the comfort of our drawing room using VR and at the same time also getting to know their nutrition levels using AR technologies. Or while on Holiday in Europe with your partner you are able to browse through various famous Retail stores in the vicinity using VR and also customise your selection and arrive at a purchase decision using AR, before quickly dropping by to just pickup the purchase.

The possibilities are immense. MR devices can overlay information in real time and thus offer hands-on experience, which can have deep implications for the retail industry. Using MR, one can not only browse through their favourite shirts, but also touch and feel them in real time, try them on, from your store of preference – all of this without actually being there, but only with the help of an MR device.

In the Indian context, MR assumes even greater significance. All know that India is home to one of the largest retail markets in the world. But it is also a place where major populations find it difficult to have a wide variety of choices when it comes to retail, given vast social and economic disparities which lead to challenges of access.

MR can bridge that gap effectively, not only enhancing the reach of retailers but also helping them find newer customers and maybe therefore find newer products and offerings, all leading to exponential business growth. For example, a working professional in Agra today, might not have daily access to the top fashion stores lining the malls and markets of Delhi, but through an MR experience, she can go through all her favourite stores throughout the week, check out prices, quality etc .and have the selection sent over to her in quick time.

Alternatively, by analysing browsing habits and feedback of such newly found customers, brands can develop products and offerings which cater to local tastes and sensibilities, resulting in a win-win for both the brand and its customers.

With so much to offer, it is only a matter of time before MR in retail picks up pace and it is quite likely that just like the Mobile revolution, India will soon be the biggest market for it given its market size and consumer aspirations. In-fact, India can also potentially be the innovation hub for MR in retail, given its diverse consumer base which can be used to test offerings for the benefit of the world.

It is an opportunity just like the IT sector was during the advent of the Millennium and we should cash in just like we had then.