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Where is the Entry Point for Cutting Edge Innovation at Retail?

Customers at Tech Store

Augmented Reality. Virtual Reality. Artificial Intelligence. AR. VR. AI. As the two-letter acronym revolution integrates itself into the merchandising world, many suppliers who find themselves excited by the prospect of enhancing the in-store experience for their clients wonder when and how to leverage the new tech.

The easy answer is, of course, when the budget is sufficient. Technological trailblazers in any field take the hit for the rest of us in the process of proving out the new tech and establishing the scope of realistic applications. In the case of the “holy acronym trinity” of AR, VR and AI, the situation requires a more nuanced approach than simply throwing money at the challenge.

  • There will be an app for that. In contrast to “hard tech” like LED lighting or LCD screens, which only need some basic programming, potential adopters should be aware that AR, VR and AI require at least as much development on the software side. This may entail partnering with a UX/UI software developer, becoming fluent in the digital side of retail.

  • The human factor. Customers, especially younger ones, are eager for a new retail experience. But as that tech becomes even more human-like in how it responds, adopters should be wary of eliciting an “uncanny valley” customer reaction. Simply put, as a digital interface becomes more convincing in the way it simulates human interaction, many customers can experience feelings of uneasiness. Studies have shown that these types of responses can be involuntary and innate, defying correlation with a specific customer demographic.

  • Discretion is the hidden side of convenience. We all want to make the retail experience easier for our customers. A large part of that effort involves streamlining the process by reducing anything that would feel like a hassle. For most customers, drawing attention to oneself is a type of hassle, and AR, VR and AI often involve interacting with a display in ways that could cause one to stand out in a retail environment. This has the potential to draw more focus to the display and by extension, the brand, but only if a customer is willing to risk becoming the local center of attention.

The fusion of AR, VR and AI and the retail environment presents challenges, but as with any new tech, rewards a thoughtful approach. As exciting in-store developments loom, let the insightful Spectas team help your team find just the right point of intersection with these emerging innovations.


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