Retailers: 5 reasons why VR/AR might trip you up

Retailers: 5 reasons why VR/AR might trip you up

By Greg Liset, Head of Propositions
Tue Aug 22 2017

Virtual Reality, VR, and Augmented Reality, AR, technology - yet more things to consider in an already busy and fast-moving business landscape. With so many articles about VR and AR, why you need them and how you can use them, here’s the flip side, looking at five VR/AR traps to avoid.

Virtual Reality (VR) vs Augmented Reality (AR)

VR will almost always require a headset and controller, something for the consumer to wear in order to engage in a virtual world you’ve created. AR on the other hand can be powered by just about any smartphone and in almost any setting, making it a more sociable, possibly more practical technology to use in a retail setting. 


Risk: Directionless VR/AR
Safeguard: Thinking customer-first and connecting VR/AR to your business model

A bull walks into a virtual china shop, smashes everything up and runs out. As with all business decisions, having a solid reason behind choosing VR/AR as a next step is crucial, don’t just smash into it based on a fear of missing out.

The technology is not just a fad so it’s definitely worth considering, but thinking about what value it adds to your business and your audience has to come before anything else.

As with everything in retail marketing, connecting the use of VR/AR to your business model is a must – having concrete goals, targets and measurements and analysing them often will allow you to see what’s working and what’s not.

Your consumers will need direction, too. They need to understand, very clearly, what value they’ll get from using your brand’s

VR or AR functionality. Is it that you’ll be making it easy to visualise what a sofa might look like in a consumer’s living room? Or that a group of friends spread across the country can test out tents together for an upcoming camping trip without having to find a convenient date and location for meeting up?

Make it clear what painpoints you’re addressing and how. Once that’s established, you’ve got a great chance of consumers coming back to use the technology (and buy from you) again.

Read all about 5 ways to prepare for the future of retail.


Risk: Total domination by VR/AR
Safeguard: Understand your own limitations – physical and skills

Say you own a furniture showroom and you decide VR/AR is a great way to help consumers towards the checkout, think about how it’ll work in the space you’ve got. 

It’s easy to let technology take over, clutter and confuse the shopping experience. And easy to assume that everyone will be up for putting on a VR headset to visualise how that wingback chair will look in their living room. They might not be, so AR might be a better option.

And consider if a segment of your consumer base might not want either – make sure there’s a workable space for them, too.


Risk: Anti-social VR/AR
Safeguard: Get to grips with how differently VR and AR work

VR headsets are inherently anti-social. In a retail environment, each person wearing a headset is having an individual, singular, isolated experience. This is fine if it’s part of a bigger experience, with face-to-face customer service and an interactive shopper environment. Or, if your VR brand experiences are designed to be experienced at home, by people who have already invested in VR headsets.

AR works differently. The clue’s in the name – Augmented Reality. It can be powered by a smartphone and allow people to interact with a store or brand in a new, often more convenient way.

It might be the powerful connection between an app and a catalogue. For example, by downloading an app, a customer could simply place a furniture catalogue in the space where they want a piece of furniture to go, then point the smartphone, with app open, at that catalogue to see actual products from it in that space.

In store, it might be a fitting room mirror with an LCD screen that overlays different colours of the item you’re trying on to help you make the right decision without having to try on multiple items.

Greg Liset, Head of Propositions - Payment Gateways / POS / Security & Fraud solutions

“it’s about picking the right technology for your brand.”

Greg Liset
Head of Propositions - Payment Gateways / POS / Security & Fraud solutions 



Risk: Domestic or budget VR/AR
Safeguard: Don’t just dabble, investigate, plan, invest and analyse

There’s a real danger that by adopting VR without true purpose, you’ll be giving consumers the same type of experience they could have at home. For example, people can easily get a VR headset for home and play VR-enabled games. A full-body, multi-location VR or AR experience is something they might actually leave the house for…

Instead of putting a VR corner in your store, think about how technology can best help you get people through the doors, or how it VR/AR can link up your website, app, store and more for a true omnichannel shopping experience. It requires expertise, skills, planning and time. If you’re not clued up on VR/AR expert, understanding value of experts and partnering with someone who is could be a very sensible investment.


Risk: Out-of-control VR/AR
Safeguard: Always be prepared, in this case by investing in the right skills

Who in your company can bridge the gap between VR technology and your business needs? If the answer is no-one, you’re stepping into the virtual world unprepared. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail, as the old adage goes. Just as you would partner with a payments provider to allow seamless, safe, quick, branded, omnichannel payments for shoppers, so you should partner with VR/AR experts if you’re considering investing in this space. It might be that you outsource the brief initially, while you build up expertise in-house at the same time.

VR/AR is part of the future of retail and probably payments, too. See what else you could be missing out on – explore the possibilities where consumer desire for experiences meets their demand for speed, simplicity, convenience and flexibility in this practical guide.

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