How will Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality change the Retail Environment

Augmented Reality (AR), according to the dictionary is “a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world, thus providing a composite view.”, while virtual reality (VR) is “a computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way by a person using special electronic equipment, such as a helmet with a screen inside or gloves fitted with sensors.” We could think of it as below:


For the retail world, both Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are going to be revolutionary in two ways.  Augmented Reality is revolutionary for the consumer, while Virtual Reality will be revolutionary for the

For the retail business, Virtual Reality will be a deal breaker and a source of innovation. I have been in the forefront of retail growth strategies and I have had my fair share of how complicated and expensive it is to design a store. Virtual Reality is here to help. With Virtual Reality applications, companies are now more than ever provided with the opportunity to design stores and test them before the expensive investment is made and things are much harder to change. More so, with Virtual Reality, companies are now able to recreate heatmaps (like the one below) to determine what are the shopper’s decisions, based on the virtual reality heatmaps. This will be useful in evaluating shopper behavior and testing new formats and concepts before deploying them in real life. As someone who has been involved in these aspects in retail this will generate tons of insight for any company who chooses to invest in this technology


Now when we look into the other key stakeholder in retail, the consumer augmented reality will be the gamechanger for them. One of the main inconvenient with furniture retailers as well as appliance retailers (especially in the brick and mortar world) had to invest large sums of money to have an immense selling space as well as an immense amount of working capital to maintain such a large inventory. Such is the case for companies such as Ikea to Best Buy. However, with Augmented Reality companies now have the opportunity to provide the confidence that the products that they are being look good or fit in the case of appliances. This will be revolutionary for companies such as Ikea, that no longer people will have to measure if the stuff they are buying looks good or if it fits, but rather they could purchase the products directly from the augmented reality experience. For companies such as IKEA it means less stores, less capital expenditures (CAPEX), less working capital and improved profitability. For other companies such as Wayfair, that don’t have a physical presence, it means increased penetration in the market. For other companies such as Best Buy a dwindling physical presence and a transformation into the digital business landscape. As Augmented reality becomes the norm in the business, I do believe that companies such as Best Buy will make the transition to a more digital business.

Now when we combine Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Mixed Reality, the future looks much more promising, but much more “un-real” at the same time.

Hyper Reality according to Keiichi Matsuda means the following

“Our physical and virtual realities are becoming increasingly intertwined. Technologies such as VR, augmented reality, wearables, and the internet of things are pointing to a world where technology will envelop every aspect of our lives. It will be the glue between every interaction and experience, offering amazing possibilities, while also controlling the way we understand the world. Hyper-Reality attempts to explore this exciting but dangerous trajectory.”

This new evolution towards hyper reality will be interesting for the retail landscape. This means that consumers more than ever will be more connected, but this will mean at the same time where do we draw the line in terms of privacy and control. With this sort of technology companies will have the opportunity to control larger markets (since everyone will be connected) and as a result, will we see Amazon controlling the whole hyper-reality retail world? That is a question that we should asking ourselves. Anyways, the future of hyper reality will be really interesting for the retail landscape.


  1. paulandresonbc · ·

    It is so interesting to imagine the multitude of ways that augmented, virtual, and hyper reality can change the world of business. Technology never ceases to amaze me and introduce new ways for companies and consumers to buy, sell, and use products. I like where you mention the potential line between privacy and control, as this area seems to be a very slippery slope and could enter that creepy sphere.

  2. cgoettelman23 · ·

    I think AR/VR definitely toe the line between creepy and cool, something that we’ve touched upon often in class. However, I’m actually really excited to see it implemented, especially in the retail world. I am intrigued by the concept being applied to shopping for home goods–seeing how it will look and fit in your own space is an opportunity for digital technology that I had never before considered. I can’t help but wonder how virtual and augmented reality will effect not only our social lives, but our security and privacy as well. Will allowing Ikea and other furniture apps to “see” our homes when using AR/VR cause discomfort among shoppers? What if the organization who runs the application records the data/video from customers using the app, and they see private information on a countertop? If that does occur, it’ll be interesting to see how people’s information is kept private.

  3. As people shift to purchases online as opposed to in stores, I wonder how AR/VR will change that. If I can envision a chair in my apartment without even seeing it, I don’t even need to go to the store… right? I’m not a fan of big box stores, but even imagining a company like Best Buy with diminishing stores doesn’t seem ideal.

  4. sejackson33 · ·

    This is a great follow up to your presentation! Unlike some other uses for VR and AR in the works, I can really seen this being used in the very near future. I think this technology will be revolutionary for the operations of retail stores. Not only will it help with store design, but keeping track of inventory and optimizing the space of the store. It will be interesting how this technology will eventually connect to data on consumer behaviors in the store.

  5. Really nice post. I’ve been excited about augmented reality for some time, but I do still think it’s a long way off (I say this as an original owner of Google Glass). I do find it ironic, however, that all of the use of AR & VR described above still has shoppers going into physical stores that look very much like traditional retail. I suspect that many of these stores will be gone before AR/VR makes it into the mainstream.

  6. I also commented on another blog about AR, and its great to see a deeper insight on the world of retail as your presentation and I now your job has to do with this. Its amazing how we will be able to use AR, but as I said, will be able. I don’t think that that will happen until the next 5 years at least. I would love to grab a product and with my cel phone or glasses see how many calories, nutrition facts and even recipes I can make with it, that can convince me to buy it or not.
    Hopefully this comes sooner rather than later because I am a fan of retail and how this application can come in play. Definitely the first to make it possible, make it cheap and in the phone of everyone in the world will be the clear winner. And no… I don’t think it will be Snapchat.

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