i3 | December 18, 2019

VR, AR are Emerging as Sales Tools at Retail

Steve Smith

If personal computers started a transformation of the retail industry through internet access and social media, smartphones completely changed the way we think of sales and marketing of consumer goods.

Today, more new technology is being sold by retailers that will transform businesses — virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) — and change the nature of other industries as well. CTA estimates that 2.1 million VR headsets will be shipped by the end of 2019 for “immersive entertainment both in the home and in business.”

The 2.1 million unit sales estimate for VR headsets isn’t massive, but it represents an emerging technology that consumers are learning about. What’s intriguing is that retailers have begun to use VR headsets for sales training with in-store associates, as well as online experiences to help sell products online.

Amazon set up a showroom earlier this year where consumers can post 3D images of furniture to see how those items would look in their homes. Walmart uses VR headsets to train in store personnel on sales functions and store operations. The two retail giants have begun to use the very technology they are selling to interact and connect with their customers, meaning other retailers will most certainly employ it in the near future.

Consumer technology retailers of all types, whether online or brick-and mortar, regional or local dealers, or those in the custom installation business may not have VR headsets as a major category now, or the near future, even though there are plenty of rosy predictions of a massive market coming in a couple of years.

But VR and AR will likely be critical drivers in selling and keeping the customers they have now, as well as attracting new ones. Consumer technology retailers who continue to thrive in the marketplace, especially those who were traditional brick-and-mortar types, have embraced online retailing, social media and digital marketing of all types.

And those with stores have redesigned them to make their showrooms welcoming and technologically savvy. VR and AR are among several new tools that can help to keep retailers on the cutting edge as desirable places to buy new consumer technology

VR/AR Appeals to Millennials

Several surveys show that the valued millennial demographic is very interested in VR and AR and more than half of adults would be interested in either buying headsets or experiencing them in a sales demonstration

This emphasis on technology driving retailers’ operations, sales and ability to attract and keep customers is certainly not lost on traditional electronics/appliance retailers. A comment by Jim Ristow, CEO of the BrandSource retail buying group, at the organization’s meeting in Dallas is typical. “Your website isn’t your second store — it’s your flagship store, the most important store in your arsenal. You must merchandise your website,” Ristow said, according to a Dealerscope report

Rest assured that VR and AR will become as ubiquitous in the sales of consumer technology in the near future, as many other digital marketing strategies for retailers, large and small, are today.

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