From The Editor | January 19, 2017

NRF 2017: Is Virtual Really The New Reality?

Matt Pillar

By Matt Pillar, chief editor

Virtual reality

The CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas typically serves as a precursor to the consumerist technologies that will filter into enterprise retail—and therefore be on full display at the NRF BIG Show—by the following year.  So it goes that the virtual and augmented reality demonstrations that stole the show at CES 2016 last January were spiffed up with an enterprise twist and littered throughout the Javits Center at the NRF event last week.

The proposed use cases for VR/AR run the gamut from creating a wow factor for shoppers to aiding merchandise and inventory managers with deep analytics, as is the case with the VR experience demonstrated at the show by SAS, Intel, and boutique player InVRsion. The adjective du jour among peddlers of VR is “immersive,” a word invariably used to describe an experience that intends to give users graphic insight into traffic patterns, merchandising efficacy, planogram compliance, and stock levels. On the consumer-facing side, augmented reality in dressing rooms intends to provide a more efficient and creative fitting room experience. More abstract use cases for the technology are designed around “experiential” retailing, whereby shoppers can interact with or envision merchandise in an environment or context outside the four walls of the store. The home improvement (virtual remodels) is a commonly cited segment that stands to benefit.