The Future of Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality In Retail



According to our good ol’ friend the Dictionaryvirtual reality is “a realistic and immersive simulation of a three-dimensional environment, created using interactive software and hardware, and experienced or controlled by movement of the body.” According to our own experience, it’s pretty damn cool. Through the use of a headset and a controller (typically), VR transports the consumer to a virtual, simulated world. The sensory input is so compelling it practically forces us to suspend our disbelief, immerse ourselves, and accept our digital surroundings as a tangible reality.



Augmented reality is “an enhanced version of reality created by the use of technology to overlay digital information on an image of something being viewed through a device (such as a smartphone camera)”. Unlike virtual reality, it adds virtual elements onto the real world as seen through a smartphone or tablet, as opposed to constructing a digital setting from scratch. It seamlessly integrates reality and the virtual world by enhancing the way we see, hear, feel, and even smell. Over 20 million people use it on their pocket-sized smartphones every day to chase Pokémon!



Even though they’ve become far more accessible over the past few years, VR and AR are still baffling concepts to the many marketers who are trying to incorporate them into their campaigns in 2017. Early last year, virtual reality and augmented reality were the talk of The International Consumer Electronics Show (CES). The buzz around the tech was palpable, with marketers and innovators alike expecting the VR and AR world to explode in 2016.

5 Kick-Ass Ways Brands Were Using Virtual Reality Last Year:

1.) Kiosk/In-Store

Lowe’s created The Lowe’s Holoroom to delight shoppers with a deeply engaging experience in the room of their dreams.

2.) Mobile Apps

The New York Times created an app to showcase their VR reports.

3.) Website

StubHub allowed audience members to preview their seats at concerts and sports games through VR before making a purchase.

4.) Events

Toms demonstrated their own charitable efforts by showing a 360-degree video of children enjoying their donated Toms shoes in Columbia.

5.) Social Media

Star Wars shows off their versatile hardware by posting 360-degree video of jaw dropping experiences to Facebook.

5 Kick-Ass Ways Brands Were Using Augmented Reality Last Year:

1.) Kiosk/In-Store

Nike used AR to project custom designs onto its sneakers in-store.

2.) Mobile App

Gap created a dressing room app, which allowed customers to try on clothes at home.

3.) Website

Ray-Ban offered a virtual mirror on their website that allows you to try on sunglasses by sharing an image or video of your face.

4.) Event

Sony demonstrated their SmartEyeglass, alongside many other innovative companies, at their booth at CES.

5.) Social Media

Snapchat has been helping innovative brands promote their products on social.

Even the government’s hopped on board!  President Barack Obama got in on the action and gave a VR tour of the White House. Then, the White House continued its tech winning streak by creating an AR app that gives you a tour of the most famous government building in the U.S.A. if you scan a $1 bill.

U.S. President Barack Obama tries virtual reality glasses as he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) tour Hanover Messe Trade Fair in Hanover, Germany April 25, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque


Virtual reality has faced major barriers in the past in terms of content creation and access to the required gear. Basically, while brands need to invest in creating VR content, consumers also need to invest in the headsets. Both parties need skin in the game for the industry to thrive. That’s what we’ll start to see pick up this year as VR becomes more mainstream. AR has fewer hurdles to jump in terms of the availability of tools and access to hardware, since it can already be accessed through the screen of a cellphone. As we close in on 2020, the virtual/augmented reality user experience will continue to evolve and become a bigger part of everyday life. Eventually, entire websites will be hosted in VR and AR. Users will be able to click with their eyes, rather than their mouse, and there will be icons and images embedded in the VR and AR experience, rather than a traditional top navigation menu.

In terms of retail, these growing technologies will offer a virtual shopping experience where users can visually walk through the store, try before they buy, view 360-degree images of products, and make purchases with their eyes. People will be able to have a completely immersive shopping experience from the comfort of their own home. No malls, no parking lots, no crowds, no greasy lunch at the food court. More and more retailers will begin to incorporate the technology into their brick-and-mortar stores to offer experiences tailored towards their brand, like Tommy Hilfiger’s virtual reality catwalk show.

Brands will start offering rewards, such as discounts or points, for engaging on their website through VR and AR. This will encourage more consumers to purchase headsets and will eventually help bolster leads and sales purely through these exciting new media. A complete game changer in terms of the marketing funnel!


Apple CEO, Tim Cook, has speculated that, even though both AR and VR are fascinating opportunities, augmented reality will be more commercially viable in the future. He claimed that this is due to the solitary nature of VR, and the fact that AR allows people to be more present and connect with others. There are even rumors floating around that Apple is testing augmented glasses to compete with Snapchat Spectacles and Google’s Project Aura. Meanwhile, VR faces a few hurdles. In an article from the New York Times, they attribute high costs, complexity of the hardware, and even user nausea to the slower growth rate and user adoption in the virtual reality space.

That being said, VR and AR both have technology on their side as we jump into 2017:


This is a thrilling time for both the virtual reality and augmented reality world, which are brimming with possibilities. It was only 10 short years ago that Steve Jobs released the iPhone onto the market, with its endless potential, and it has completely changed the way people live their lives. The impact that VR and AR will have on the market could be comparable, or even greater. So get out your cellphone, pick up some VR gear if you haven’t already. Things are about to get real. Well, sort of. Like computer generated real. You know what we mean.

How will your business start embracing VR and/or AR this year? Let us know in the comments below!