By 2020, 100-million consumers will shop in AR (Augmented Reality) online and in-store, according to Gartner.
Research by the market analysis and research firm suggests that AR and virtual reality (VR) have the potential to shake up the customer experience by individualising retailers' offers and enabling customers to visualise products in different settings.
Hanna Karki, principal research analyst at Gartner, said, "Retailers are under increasing pressure to explain the purpose of physical stores, and take control of the fulfilment and return process for cross-channel execution. At the same time, consumers are progressively defining the value provided by the experiences they receive from retailers. As a result of these pressures, retailers are turning to AR and VR to offer customers a unified retail experience inside and outside retail stores."
A 2018 Gartner survey indicated that, by 2020, 46% of retailers planned to deploy either AR or VR solutions to meet customer service experience requirements. Additionally, the technologies behind these solutions have moved 15 to 30% further along the Gartner Hype Cycle over the past 12 months.
Karki added, "The impact of AR or VR in retail can be transformative. Retailers can use AR as an extension of the brand experience to engage customers in immersive environments and drive revenue. For example, IKEA's Place app enables customers to virtually 'place' IKEA products in their space. Additionally, AR can be used outside the store after a sale to increase customer satisfaction and improve loyalty."
Gartner adds that with VR's immersive interfaces, retailers can create task efficiencies or reduce the costs associated with designing new products.
"They can also enhance the understanding of information through advanced graphical visualisation and simulation technologies. Pilots and implementation examples include Alibaba's full VR shopping experience, virtual reality tours by Tesco, Adidas' VR video to promote its outdoor clothing collection, and eBay Australia's partnerships with Myer to create personalised stores," the company states.
Role of 5G
Gartner says 5G mobile network technology represents an opportunity to accelerate the adoption of AR and VR in stores.
The company's recent 5G enterprise survey indicated that AR/VR applications of 5G attract the highest expectations for becoming drivers of new revenue, across all use cases and respondents.
5G capabilities can support multiple uses cases, such as real-time rendering for immersive video, shorter download and set-up times, and extension of brands and shopping experiences beyond stores, Gartner adds.
Sylvain Fabre, senior research director at Gartner, said, "Gartner expects that the implementation of 5G and AR or VR in stores will transform not only customer engagement but also the entire product management cycle of brands. 5G can optimise warehouse resources, enhance store traffic analytics and enable beacons that communicate with shoppers' smartphones."
In early March 2019, an ITWeb report detailed Ericsson's prediction that Middle East and Africa (MEA) will have around 30 million 5G subscriptions by the end of 2024, representing just 2% of total mobile subscriptions.
"This will make 5G the fastest generation of cellular technology to be rolled out on a global scale, according to Ericsson's MEA-specific Mobility Report released at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2019 in Barcelona."
ITWeb added that Ericsson did not have a specific prediction for 5G subscribers in Sub-Saharan Africa over the next five years, but the number will likely be well below 30 million when the Middle East is removed from the equation.