Create a virtual walk-through to avoid store design failure
Whether you are a Fortune 500 Supermarket, Warehouse retailer or Mall owner, a pocket-size design flaw can be costly to fix. For example, an Apple store in Chicago built in 2017, had to be closed and redesigned, due to the risk of sharp ice on the roof that posed a great danger to visitors. Apart from architectural failure, in-store UX is equally important. Especially, during COVID, where social distancing has become a new normal and customers are in a hurry, it is the job of the in-store planner/designer to ensure that the customers navigate through the aisles easily and have a delightful experience.
For many years, in-store planners and architects have been using 3D CAD Models to get an understanding of the overall design of the store. No doubt, it can help to visualize the whole structure, but it lacks immersion and has limited interaction points. With Virtual Reality, in-store planners, can simulate the entire store and navigate through it just like in the real world, to the extent of opening the doors, switching on/off the lights, and creating pathways. Moreover, the virtual model can also be used to test customers’ reactions before opening it for the masses.
Data collection for an effective assortment planning
One of the most important areas in a retail store is the shelf-space. How happy and satisfied customers are, greatly depends upon the assortment planning strategy deployed by the visual merchandisers. Certainly, the COVID situation has changed the consumer’s buying process, making it more important than ever to keep track of consumers buying patterns and behaviours within a retail environment. For example, while navigating the pathways of a store or just standing in an aisle, where on the shelf do consumers look? Which product do they buy unintentionally? What attracts consumers to buy products in the first place? Traditionally, retailers have been training salespeople to conduct in-store surveys or interviews to gather customer feedback. However, this has often resulted in skewed and biased results.
With Virtual Reality, Visual Merchandisers can conduct assortment planning more effectively and efficiently. For example, visualizing a planogram in a spatial environment to get a sense of how the shelf would look like in a retail environment. Additionally, VR combined with Biometrics and Eye-Tracking technology can be used to test consumers’ purchasing habits across different retail scenarios. This can substantially save costs for the retailers as they can assess what attracted or distracted consumers’ attention.
Training Employees using Virtual Reality
Staff Training is an important aspect of any retail business to ensure that employees develop a harmonious relationship with customers. As Henry Ford, Founder of Ford Motor Company said:
“The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.”
However, over the past few years, many retailers like many other organizations around the world have relied on traditional training methodologies, which are time-consuming, non-engaging, monotonous and lack data analytics. With Virtual Reality, Learning and Development teams can create immersive and interactive training modules for the customer-facing team.
For example, instead of giving a video demonstration of a newly launched smartphone, a virtual representation of the smartphones placed across the store along with consumer avatars to sell to can be highly engaging and interactive for the sales team. According to a report by the University of Maryland, participants trained in VR demonstrated better information recall and made fewer errors than Non-VR participants.