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Millions Will Use AR And VR In Retail Settings Soon

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As soon as next year, 100 million consumers in much of the world will be using augmented reality and virtual reality in a retail context, either online or in store, according to a forecast by research firm Gartner.

Virtual reality

“Retailers are under increasing pressure to explain the purpose of physical stores, and take control of the fulfillment and return process for cross-channel execution,” Gartner Principal Research Analyst Hanna Karki said in a statement.

“At the same time, consumers are progressively defining the value provided by the experiences they receive from retailers," Karki said.

The up-and-coming 5G mobile network will help facilitate the adoption of AR and VR in stores because it can support such uses as real-time rendering for immersive video, shorter download and set-up times, and the extension of brands and shopping experiences beyond stores, Gartner said.

A separate report by retail consultancy BRP found that 32% of shoppers are likely to shop at a store offering an augmented reality experience, while 29% are likely to shop at a retailer offering virtual reality in the store.

But can retailers provide AR and VR to meet rising customer expectations? Only 9% of retailers offer AR, though another 29% plan to within three years, BRP reports. Only 7% offer VR in their stores, while another 23% plan to add it within three years.

Gartner's survey is more optimistic: Gartner found last summer that 46% of retailers planned to deploy either AR or VR by 2020 to help meet customer service experience requirements. The survey involved 97 respondents in Europe, the U.S., Canada and China.

Some retailers are already making serious forays into VR and AR. Ikea, for instance, has been actively investing in augmented and virtual reality apps that will help consumers explore how furniture and other product items might look in their home without ever having to step foot in an Ikea store.

Retail landlords are also interested in AR and VR. Major British mall landlord Intu has partnered with ImmotionVR to expand ImmotionVR Centres at its properties. The locations offer VR games and other experiences to mallgoers.