Editor’s Note: Alba Chiara Di Bari is a Social Media Strategist for DrawLight.net, an Italian studio dealing with immersive media.
The incredible amount of innovative technologies which permeates our present and foreseeable future is making online shopping a fast-growing trend, turning in-store shopping into a luxury which only people with ample time and a lot of patience can indulge in. With new technologies like Oculus Rift and Google Glasses, it is increasingly challenging for retailers to satisfy customers’ hunger for real time information and comparisons. How are they supposed to face the risk of being cut off of the market by the online competition? Is it the end of retail shopping?
Well, no. The truth is that almost no one is using the store to the maximum of its potential, and we are missing out on a lot of profitable business opportunities for brands. The tendency is to use the store solely as a showroom. This is slowly killing the retail shopping experience, failing to address client’s needs and – more importantly – failing to tell the brand’s story and create emotional bonds. A few companies around the world have tried to push the idea of the physical store to the edge, reaching what is becoming known as Immersive Retail, a new concept developed from the Internet of Things (IoT) which aims at generating a fully engaging customer experience inside the shop.
The working principles are easy: the Immersive Store adds a virtual layer to the physical surroundings to actively guide both the customer in his purchasing and the retailer in his marketing strategy. Some of the tools which would allow this unique and personal interaction have already been invented, such as QR codes to access multimedia information directly from the smartphone and transparent displays to interactively describe the product exhibited in the store – get inspired by it! Companies as Nike, Sephora and Gucci have already launched Immersive Stores, creating physical installations which lead the customer in an emotional journey within their brands, giving them the opportunity to know and enjoy who is behind the products they buy.
Nevertheless, the concept of Immersive Retail is only beginning and other technologies are being developed and improved right now while I am writing. For instance, augmented reality will allow us to visualize every angle of products in stock in every color and size – think about choosing a sofa or a house – and projection mapping could connect the whole surrounding environment to our smartphones, letting us control lights, colors and atmospheres and enhancing the entire surface of a room. With new tools such as VEDO™, the lighting system developed by DrawLight, it will be easier also to be in command of dynamic effects and designs which could transform the retail shop in a fashion catwalk, in a refuge on the peak of a mountain – if you are selling sport clothes and accessories – or everything else you could think about!
The new Immersive Store will give the customer the opportunity to fully interact with the product in an immersive experience inside the brand’s story, while also gathering information to be communicated to the retailer. In this way it will be easier to persuade the customer to purchase something, to share pictures and updates on social networks directly from the shop, or also to join a simple mailing list. Nowadays, the secret of real engagement is merging virtual and real world in a unique enhanced experience, able to grasp customer’s attention and to satisfy his desires. The Immersive Store will revolutionize the entire retail world: don’t wait and fall behind!