AR AND VR THE FUTURE OF RETAIL IN NIGERIA.

The world is changing at such an unprecedented rate. Over the last 30 years, technology mainly the computer has changed the way we live, work and play. The worth of technology start-ups increase at an exponential rate. It has taken less than 25 years to make many internet startups billion dollar companies. This trend will continue over the next 10 to 20 years. We have seen e-commerce and online businesses transform retail. However, many have been asking what the future of retail is like.

In this article, I will be sharing my thoughts and foresight and why entrepreneurs and investors should look closely at these technologies. I have identified the following emerging technologies as one that will greatly disrupt existing systems and processes in Nigeria. These technologies are:

1. Robotics

2. Internet of Things

3. Augmented reality

4. Virtual Reality

5. Data Solutions: Machine learning, Analytics, Artificial intelligence and chatbots

For this article, the two technologies being considered are AR and VR. According to forbes ,Virtual Reality (VR) immerses users in a completely virtual environment that is generated by a computer. The most advanced VR experiences even provide freedom of movement. One needs to wear a VR headset to experience this technology. This means digital in digital.

Augmented Reality (AR) is defined as an advanced version of reality created by the use of technology to add digital information on an image of something. AR brings the digital world to the physical.

How do these technologies enhance retail experience?

AR and VR technologies help answers both the sellers’ and customers’ many questions. For instance, a customer will always have the ‘’what will this look like on me’’, ‘’what will it look like in my home’’ questions. A seller will always ask ‘’ how can I engage my customer better’’, ‘’how can I optimize my shop floor’’. These technologies presents both answers enabling them make better decisions.

1. Testing products before purchase: One of the biggest challenge facing online retail is the high cost associated with returns. AR technology helps reduce this by providing a ‘try it before you buy experience’ that exists in a physical store. One great advantage a physical store had over an online store is the ability to try and test a product before purchase, thus reducing the cost associated with returns in a physical store. With AR this will change for many online stores. AR solutions allow customers to visualise products in real time, from the comfort of their devices. Customers see how products could look in their environment before they commit to purchase, reducing the temptation to order multiple items to try before choosing one and returning the others, a practice that is common.

2. Virtual surfing: A VR store lets customers browse the store and find the product(s) they want to buy. Sometimes moving between shop floors might be a tiring experience. A virtual showroom will save many businesses cost. Businesses will not have to build physical structures thus eliminating decommissioning costs also. A buyer can check through different stores at the same time to compare products and prices.

3. Customs goods: A virtual version of a custom product can first be produced. The customer is able to try this product first to see if it matches expectations. This will help save time and resources used in prototyping before now. An example is the Nike maker’s experience.

4. Virtual customer service and shared experiences: AR and VR can make product consultation a very easy one. For instance, I may want to shop online for a product in America while in Nigeria, it may be difficult speaking to a company representative given the difference in location and time. These technologies help overcome this challenge by enabling virtual consultation. Also, customers can collaborate and make discussions about a product. This means I can randomly ask 2 or 3 customers that are not in my network their experience with a product. This helps make better decision and will allow sellers identify possible area of change. A seller will be able to tell clearly which product interests customers.

photo credit: gsd.harvard.edu

AR and VR technologies will see to better customer experience, reduced cost and increased efficiencies in retail. Nigeria’s retail is a big one given its population. This is the right time for online e commerce store to invest in these technologies. The future of retail is promising with these technologies. Buinesswire predicts that the market for AR and VR technologies will reach $60.55 Billion and $34.08 Billion by 2023 respectively.

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Michael Damilare

Michael is the Technical Lead at Cedar Analytics, an Industrial Internet of Things company offering consultancy and tools- hardware and software to businesses.