VR and AR could give £1bn boost to retail

Helping customers visualise how products will look in their own home could boost retail by as much as £1 billion, according to a new report.

The study, The Imagination Gap – Retail’s £1bn problem, from technology company DigitalBridge concluded that millions of customers would be more likely to make a purchase if they are able to visualise products in a virtual setting first.

Virtual (VR) and augmented reality (AR) platforms are tipped to be the standout technologies of 2017, thanks to high-profile successes by the likes of Sony, Google and apps like Pokemon Go at the end of last year.

According to DigitalBridge, more than a third of consumers have walked away from making a purchase in the past 12 months because they couldn’t imagine what the products would look like in their own home.

This is a serious concern for UK retailers, it said, as 56 per cent of homeowners plan to make some kind of home upgrade in 2017 with budgets ranging from £500 to more than £3,000.

David Levine, chief executive of DigitalBridge, said: “With so much uncertainty already swirling around about the future of UK retail, businesses need every advantage they can get to remain competitive, especially those competing for attention online.

“With as much as £1bn of revenue up for grabs in the home décor market alone, retailers can no longer overlook the value of virtual and augmented reality as a commercial tool. More than half of the consumers who took part in this survey said they would be more likely to make a purchase after using this technology.

“These types of visualisation tools could be the ‘undo button’ to home interiors that consumers have been calling for. Just imagine the benefits a customer would get from a retailer that allowed them to preview any product they wanted using nothing more than a picture taken on a smartphone.”

Retailer John Lewis is one of the most recent companies looking to bring augmented reality technology on board as a business tool.

Christine Kasoulis, buying director for home in John Lewis, said: “In areas like furniture and floor coverings, we know that the majority of our customers shop across our website and our shops, and there is a long and considered journey to the point of purchase.

“Customers want to see how a product will look in their own home – both for style and to understand scale. There is a gap at this point in the customer journey at the moment and it is one that visualisation tools will fill in the near future, helping a considered purchase to feel less complex.”