June 28, 2019 by Lindsey M. Adler

Visualization technologies are finally more than just cool ideas in retail. That’s one overarching takeaway from InfoComm 2019 where a number of experts spoke widely about real-life implementations of 3D and mixed reality in retail applications.

Center Stage

Megan Lubaszka, Gensler, and Alan Robles, Samsung present "Reimagining Retail
with Insights from the Experience Index" at InfoComm 2019 Center Stage

The customer journey has been straddling physical and digital spaces for some time now, and retailers are starting to catch up.  While big, bold, and increasingly higher resolution displays have been the reigning trend, and remain a driving force, emerging visualization technologies are now seeing wider adoption.

Backing up briefly, visualization technologies are defined by a combination of computer visuals and digital displays, most commonly applied to virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and 3D. In retail, visualization creates a smooth virtual test of products – removing the need for physical trials.  

These technologies help brands differentiate by informing consumers’ buying decisions. This is particularly well illustrated by larger scale purchases, like home improvement and furniture. These are places where making the right decision involves more than measuring dimensions.

Lowe’s is one retailer that has strategically invested in visualization technologies by building an in-house innovation lab. Josh Shabtai, Director, Lab Productions at Lowes Innovation Labs demonstrated a few of these implementations at an InfoComm 2019 education session.

Say you’re shopping for a new grill. Wouldn’t you like to see where and how it would fit on your patio? Open the Lowe’s app, select “view in your space,” and the app will overlay the grill you’re considering on your patio by using your mobile app camera and augmented reality.

Lowe’s is also using virtual reality headsets in some stores as training tools to help empower DIY customers. Shoppers at Lowe’s can take a hedge trimmer lesson for example. Data collected from the program indicated a 127 percent increase in confidence after a single VR experience.

The last two years have been really important in regards to visualization technologies, according to Beck Besecker, CEO and Co-Founder of Marxent, where innovative retailers have gone from pilots and testing to production. Marxent is a leader in cloud-based 3D product visualization, virtual reality and augmented reality solutions for furniture retailers and building product manufacturers. At InfoComm, Besecker shared some of his expertise working with Macy’s furniture department. Shoppers there can take up-close views of furniture materials against the backdrop of their rooms, place furniture with real photos using a 3D room designer and even walk around a room with the proposed furniture in place by donning a virtual reality headset in-store.

One of the most interesting aspects of these use cases is how they embrace the omnichannel shopping experience. They recognize that buyer journeys are unique, typically including experiences at home, in-store and online. Visualization technologies help cultivate these paths along the journey by not only creating unique experiences, but by providing new means to support consumers’ evolving shopping habits.

Oh, and the data is there to make a compelling case for ROI. Marxent points to a 50 percent increase in average transaction size, a 30 percent increase in item per transaction, an 80 percent reduction in product returns and a 30 percent reduction in the average sale cycle.  

As exciting as it is to see visualization technologies in retail become so tangible, it was far from the only retail trend at InfoComm 2019. Over at the show’s Center Stage education hub, leading retail practitioners engaged in dynamic conversations exploring a wide range of topics, including the role of AV in telling brand stories through flexible, media rich store designs; how online brands are re-inventing brick and mortar by looking at how digital components impact ROI; and how behavioral analytics are informing technology investments. Also, at Center Stage, Gensler presented its Experience Index, an ambitious research initiative exploring what makes a retail experience great and the impact of design. Gensler’s results further repudiate the myth of retail’s demise, instead, pointing to a new age of commerce that reimagines what a store encompasses.

Outside of the education sessions exploring these innovative use cases, there was no shortage of technology designed to enhance retail experiences. Behavioral analytics is one of the newer trends already primed for deployment. The Analytics Learning Platform (ALP) from NEC collects an impressive array of demographic data in complete anonymity, customizable to very specific search terms, pushing highly targeted content to digital signs. With data collection like this, the analytics reported are a key differentiator. Factors like variance reporting, messaging effectiveness and high-level content comparisons are invaluable resources for brands.

Among all these technological innovations in retail explored at InfoComm 2019, the discussions surrounding the devices and data represented a whole other value. Data security and privacy concerns proliferate, and manufacturers are responding with solutions addressing those issues. To hear retail professionals wonder if and when technology will render their jobs obsolete reminds us as innovators that we can and should design solutions that create new opportunities for human interaction. There were plenty of creative examples demonstrating how the people factor – while evolving – still matters. While new technology can pose a threat to certain norms, the nature of technology is to solve problems of any type. InfoComm helps demonstrate that our voices are important vehicles to fostering new ideas and new opportunities.

About Lindsey M. Adler

Lindsey M. Adler has been producing content about the audiovisual industry for nearly a decade. Starting out as a journalist and editor covering both consumer and pro AV, she quickly developed an affinity for the many passionate people she encountered upon realizing that most of them used to play in a band. While never having developed an aptitude for musicianship herself, some of her earliest life memories revolve around live music. This remains an impetus behind her work today as she seeks to connect technology with the human experience. 

As editor of Systems Contractor News, she honed her focus on the commercial side of the business, diversifying content creation into video, live events, and webinars. She has contributed content to Residential Systems, AV Technology, and trade show dailies for InfoComm, CEDIA, ISE and AES. More recently, Lindsey has cultivated her knack for storytelling into marketing content and strategy, helping brands communicate their value through thought leadership in a wide range of formats.