It has only been a couple of years since talk about the application potential of augmented reality and virtual reality in retail has started gaining momentum. And already, retailers are looking at a possibility where the two can be brought together in the same space through what is called mixed reality (MR), with the aim to differentiate.Mixed-Reality-Diagram

Looking at the pace at which the tech is gaining adoption in retail, soon mixed reality alone will not suffice for retailers looking to stand out in the crowd. They will have to leverage mixed reality disruptively by creating a memorable and unique experiential space that is highly customized. And this is possible by virtually looking at a 360° view of retail and augmenting it with the right technology:

Leverage valuable data to understand customer preferences

The data largely being leveraged by retailers today to understand customers is structured. However, another type of data is revealing its potential to give a more comprehensive understanding of customers – data that is typically hidden within layers of unstructured information like user-generated videos and images. This data has the potential to reveal what the customer is really looking for from their retail experience. This is virtual gold for retailers, who are aiming to create a mixed reality ecosystem that will engage customers at a deep level.

With this data’s potential to change the game, it is interesting to see that Google recently released a video intelligence tool. It has the capability to unearth insights from audio, video and images – all of which are valuable sources of unstructured information that retailers can leverage to eventually create a customized virtual, augmented or mixed reality experience.

Deliver an unforgettable experience, time and time again

In the coming years, mixed reality devices will become more cost-effective than they are today, opening the gates to retailers who are willing to adopt the technology. In such a scenario, mixed reality experiences will likely become commonplace. To stay competitive even under such circumstances, retailers will have to consider using technology like artificial intelligence (AI) that can make the most of unstructured data in the context of the consumer to create relevant experiences that will have a significant impact on the user.

Imagine this: In a world connected by the Internet of Things, the customer walks into a store, and is recognized with biometric tech. Then, centralized AI-enabled systems leverage data specific to the customer, with data analytics tools to inform the MR experience zone about his latest web activities, product searches and previous purchases, and customize an experience around the products he is likely to look for in the store. The customer steps into the zone, gets an avatar customized with these products, and gets to experience each product virtually. He is drawn in by an experience that is highly relevant to him.

Now, while it’s true that MR adoption at this level is probably a few years away, when it eventually does take place, it will inspire great loyalty in customers. They are more likely to want to visit a store that offers an experience that is customized for them, compared to a generic MR experience in another store. Till recently, retailers and brands have invested heavily in customer engagement modes that have yielded strong results. But it’s time to change the game and look at new and high impact tools like mixed reality that will not just help retailers gain an edge over competition, but also to creatively reimagine the retail space with the customer at the center and technology driving the transformation.