How virtual reality is changing the retail industry?

Shopping is not an activity anymore. Its an experience, where fashion and retail giants are trying to give a more personalized experience to each customer through services like virtual closets, merchandise tracking, direct communications, etc.
How virtual reality is changing the retail industry?

India is the world’s fifth-largest global destination in the retail space. The Indian retail industry has emerged as one of the most dynamic and fast-paced industries due to the entry of several global and new players.The retail industry is amongst the largest industries, accounting for over 10 per cent of the country’s GDP and around 8 per cent of the employment. As per industry estimates, India’s retail market is expected to nearly double to US$ 1 trillion by 2020 from US$ 600 billion in 2015, driven by income growth and urbanization.The overall concept and idea of shopping has undergone a tremendous change in terms of format and consumer buying behavior, ushering in a revolution in shopping in India. Modern retailing can be observed in the form of bustling shopping centers, multi-storied malls and the huge complexes that offer shopping, entertainment and food all under one roof that spans across metros, tier II & tier III cities too. Alongside modern retailing, e-commerce is also revolutionizing the retail industry and this trend would evolve and emerge in leaps and bounds in the years to come.

The omni channel shopping experience

The consumer goods & retail industry has witnessed propelled growth with the onset of digitization. The real driving force behind the vast industry is now controlled by online as well as offline factors. Globalization and digital adoption clubbed with the emerging markets for the middle-class have given rise to high consumerism.  Shopping is not an activity anymore. It’s an experience, where fashion and retail giants are trying to give a more personalized experience to each customer through services like virtual closets, merchandise tracking, direct communications, etc. The foundation of this revolution is being set, and what awaits ahead is a reformation that is going to change the past, present, and future of the industry.

Furthermore, today’s consumers are more knowledgeable on products than ever before. And retailers are struggling to find the right assortment mix, the correct price points, and to ensure that inventories match demand. Those that are getting it right are more often those that listen carefully to consumer insights on social media and are able to clearly project their brand identity across all channels. It is critical to plan with the retail experience in mind while maintaining the flexibility to react to consumer demand. While retailers must think about optimizing their merchandising, they must also adapt to consumer demands for a more personalized and omni channel shopping experience.    

What all of these means for brands and marketers is a faster go to market with new designs, assortments and the complete revamp of the POS or e-commerce medium. From a six month cycle to sixty days and even less fresh designs, fresh look needs to be churned constantly; for which retailers and the fashion industry needs to transform at rapid pace.

The transformation in retail industry: The way forward for retailers and fashionistas in India

Indian retail landscape is in the midst of a massive transformation driven by the next big 3D solutions for the industry. Numerous factors driving the digital retail channels will work as per the evolving consumer buying behavior with ‘Virtual being the new real’. E-commerce market is likely to quadruple to $70 billion with the current trends shifting to 3D printing, mood-sensing technology and the concept of Internet of Everywhere. Additive manufacturing and 3D creation are driving massive product innovation while social media is connecting consumers to brands. Sustainability concerns are driving the creation of products that are both planet and human-friendly. Like never before, technology is connecting the fashionistas with the designers who now have the tools to deliver highly consumer-centric and personalized fashion experiences.

Retailers should optimize between traditional and digital retail channels (e-commerce), which would enable them to spend less money on real estate while reaching out to more customers in tier-2 and tier-3 cities.The digital economy is providing opportunities for innovation within the lifestyle products industry. 3D creation and simulation pipelines offer nearly endless avenues for exploring ideas. 3D printing and digital prototyping provide quick validation of concepts, allowing companies to compress total time to market while a fluid supply chain helps meet demand. And, additive manufacturing allows “close to consumer” manufacturing and customization to finally be a reality.

But it takes more than a good idea or an innovative design to bring a product to market; it takes a highly collaborative and flexible product process incorporating an agile supply chain able to meet consumer demand without jeopardizing on-time delivery or quality. It takes visual, consumer-driven planning where collections can be created with the retail experience in mind. It also takes digital commerce experiences that engage and delight with immersive product customization.

Achieving digital transformation is the first and foremost step for a retailer to re-define the shopping experience for a consumer. In addition to delivering value to empowered customers, digital revolution also drives operational efficiency. Brands can implement effective design-for-cost strategies and launch their products to market faster. They have a virtual environment in which they can access powerful 3D design tools, test and validate their designs, as well as program and simulate their manufacturing processes. This helps reduce the need for physical prototypes and enables them to ensure manufacturability early in the process.Innovations such as delivery drones, 3-D printers, and virtual mirrors is helping to close the gap between in-store and online, hence making shopping a seamless and pleasant experience for today's customer.

The retail sector will change dramatically over the next two decades. However; in-store shopping is not going anywhere, but it is definitely getting an upgrade.To draw consumers to physical retail outlets; marketers might look at an assortment visible online but available offline for purchase. This will also provide an opportunity to upsell and cross sell as well draw valuable consumer insights.

To sum up to thrive in a digital world marked by heightened consumer expectations for hyper-personalization and instant gratification, retailers are experimenting with augmented reality, virtual reality, 3-D modeling and other related technologies. Digital technology advancements have driven “e-shopping” to a new level, enabling consumers to more effectively interact with brands, search for information, try products, communicate with other customers and, perhaps most importantly, to buy in real time. The advent of mobile apps and related technologies has turbocharged e-tail globally. By 2020, the industry will have fundamentally changed everything from the way retailers look at selling a product to a consumer’s concept of shopping. Physical store space will be a past thing and the revolutionary digitization will breed a new series of online-native retailers. Online retail will become a substantial channel for the sector and the regular customer will be the new online investment of a company.

The article has been penned down by Samson Khaou, Managing Director, Dassault Systèmes India. 

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