According to a new impact assessment by PwC economists, VR and AR are forecast to add £62.5 billion to the UK economy, a 2.4% boost to GDP, by 2030.

The majority of the contribution to the UK economy will come from AR (£44.4 billion) with VR providing £18.1 billion. VR and AR will also have a significant impact on the UK workplace with 1.19% of jobs (400,663 people) utilising the technologies by 2030.

As well as offering organisations huge benefits when it comes to training employees, both VR and AR have enormous potential in retailing as consumers seek out a more experiential environment in which to shop.

VR and AR have enormous potential in retailing as consumers seek out a more experiential environment in which to shop. #retailtrends #kbb Click To Tweet

So what can this technology offer the consumer?

AR or Augmented Reality superimposes a computer-generated image onto a user’s view, either via a screen, headset or smart device, adding in a product so that customers can see it in its proposed setting.

VR or Virtual Reality offers the ability to fully immerse a customer in a digital environment, by means of a headset or surrounding display that shows a computer-generated realistic scene.

When it comes to choosing a kitchen or bathroom, VR enables customers to envision their proposed designs, without having to rely on the powers of their imagination.

Interactive 3D design software can bring plans to life and demonstrate different elements of a design, so that customers are able to experience what it will be like to actually walk into their new kitchen or bathroom space. This enables them to make more informed choices and participate more fully in the design process.

The assessment highlights that getting the most out AR and VR is dependent on focussing on how the technology can best work for you, and also enlisting expert help so that the software is tailored to your needs. Keeping the experience simple so that your customers – particularly first-time users – don’t feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed is key, and incorporating sound can also can help make the experience more immersive.

The report says that keeping tabs on the latest that’s available is to your advantage – technology is developing at such a pace that VR headsets are becoming more advanced all the time, and the rollout of 5G will help to deliver a smoother user experience as well as drive equipment costs down.

Technology with haptics, or the use of touch sensation, is also around the corner, so soon users will be able to ‘touch’ things in the virtual environment to add to the experience.

So why does this matter?

For a context with a creative element such as KBB retail, this technology has clear benefits. It can help make that sale if customers are given the opportunity to see how a new product will look in their homes or visualise a potential plan, and it can also make the in-store experience more entertaining and interactive.

Crucially, it can lead to greater customer satisfaction in the long run as clients have been able to have more input and feel fully engaged in the design process as it progressed.

But the assessment draws attention to another advantage – the ability for retailers to use VR and AR to conduct their own consumer research, in that they can see first-hand how customers react to different designs, layouts, products and colours.

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