Historically, shopping had always been a sensory experience. You went to the store, an ‘associate’ served as your personal shopper, and they helped you pick out items. You gauged quality by the look and feel of the product. You asked for the associate’s opinion when you tried on clothes. It was as much an emotional experience as it was a physical, tactile one.
The traditional shopping experience is hard to replicate online. Companies are struggling to find their niche with the modern consumer and they’re turning to new technologies to recreate this sensory experience. IKEA has launched an app that lets customers visualize virtual furniture placed inside their home. Warby Parker, the eyeglass company, has an app that lets you visualize how a new set of specs will look like on your face, as if you were looking in the mirror. Sephora, the beauty products company, can allow you to visualize various shades of makeup on your face, again, as if you were looking in a mirror in the privacy of your own bathroom
There’s huge potential in replicating real-world shopping experiences using augmented reality. If a customer can buy furniture without leaving their home, what are the possibilities for the audio/video/lighting/shading/system control companies that make up CI?
In the future, will industry partners – buying groups, distributors, etc. – work together on smart inventory management and supply chain analytics to allow for a floating group of ‘hot’ products a dealer can access and loan to a client for an in-home demo? And can we design the apps necessary for the customer to take a test drive of any given product in the privacy of their own home in order to get them excited and pumped about acquiring one for themselves and their family? Will we be able to virtually replicate the look and feel and sensory aspects of the products we sell? Because an efficient, communicative delivery model could create the same effect a smiling store associate does when preparing a customer’s package — a pleasant experience that drives loyalty.
In the last twenty years, the internet has become the front door to every retail store. And the most innovative of companies are trying to exploit the transition as consumers forgo the malls and bring the in-store experience home. What about us, the consumer technology industry? How do we find ways to virtualize the showroom experience with the convenience of shopping from home?