Is This The Year for Virtual Reality for Retail?

Virtual reality has been around for decades and the reality is that we are only just finding ways to make it part of a playful, entertaining experience. It was in the late 1950s, just as Britain was shaking to the sounds of Elvis, that an idea arose that would change the way people interacted with computers to make VR possible. Virtual Reality has come a long way since the 1950s and is now changing the way we experience the world.

Even as a digital fanatic I sometimes wonder about VR. Technology is taking over our lives and I often think we need a more humanist future. However technology is the future and Virtual Reality is proving to have many uses in today’s world; whether it is for use in the military, education, medicine or porn to name a few industries. Working in retail design I am naturally interested in virtual reality within the retail space.

Why would we and how can we use virtual reality to create meaningful and valuable experiences within retail?
As a society we are way past the ‘information age’ and are now living in the ‘experience age’…an age where in 2020 Millennials and Generation Z will be retailers’ main customer. Millennials and Gen Zs want experiences, they want to be part of the conversation, they want surprising, they want the next, newest technologies to help them experience the world and enhance their lives.

This is where virtual reality comes in…VR offers retailers a brilliant new medium to engage with generations on another level. VR enables us to tell stories, it allows us to show customers behind the scenes of a brand, the production process, it enables us to meet the designers behind the brand. VR experiences bring the customer closer to the brand, therefore increasing loyalty.

Fashion and luxury brands are beginning to use VR even though it can be a very expensive process. I recently experienced Kate Moss in Virtual Reality for Charlotte Tilbury’s new perfume launch which was a beautiful experience of Kate Moss, light and sparkle, dancing in front of me. Tommy Hilfiger and Dior have used VR to take people somewhere they can’t normally have access to…Fashion Week. Technology is dramatically enabling the democratisation of fashion and luxury which I think is great news.

Taking you behind the scenes
Oculus Rift have delivered Dior and Topshop runway experiences through virtual reality. At Topshop’s flagship store in Oxford Circus, lucky customers were given virtual reality headsets to experience the catwalk show allowing them first row access next to celebrities like Victoria Beckham and Karl Lagerfeld.

Big luxury fashion brands seem confident that Virtual Reality is going to change the way their customers engage with the brands. Tommy Hilfiger’s CEO Daniel Grieder has said that “it’s not about turnover by squarefoot anymore. It’s about surprise by square foot, or newness,” which is exactly how we need to be thinking. Virtual Reality could transform the way we shop. Imagine being at home but through your VR headset you can actually feel as if you are in Barney’s NY, shopping directly from your lounge.

As we get more comfortable with the technology agencies and brands are becoming more playful with the content they are designing.

Taking you into the future with Virtual Reality
Heritage brand Rolls Royce, a brand you might associate with a heritage lifestyle have really upped their game and are pushing the boundaries of technology and innovation. In this beautiful 360˚ video you can meet ‘Eleanor’ who takes you into the future to experience Rolls Royce’s vision of the future. It is a very seductive video with Eleanor taking us through the story and into the car. The visionary design looks like it is floating and as you arrive and open the door you walk onto a red carpet of light…as Eleanor says ‘this is poetic engineering’

Bjork has always pushed the boundaries of music, art and technology. Her new exhibition ‘Bjork Digital’ at Somerset House is an immersive virtual reality exhibition. The experience just got better and better.

Bjork Digital is an exhibition not to be missed as you get to experience 5 different VR experiences in different rooms…it is a very generous exhibition to say the least.

Mouthmantra VR is a headset experience from the inside of Bjork’s mouth. Through virtual reality you can experience singing whilst standing in her mouth which was extremely weird…Notget VR sees Bjork transform into a wild, moth-like creature. Each Bjork experience gets wilder and wilder as you go from room to room.  At one point I wanted to see if I could walk through her as she danced infront of me. It was quite strange as I didn’t dare get closer even though it would have been physically possible to walk through her. I seemed to respect the fact that she was actually there.

At the end I was laughing and felt like I had an exceptional treat and was visually exhausted. After all of the VR we are invited to a cinema room to relax which was a really great end to the exhibition. We all lay down in the dark watching a selection of her previous, most creative music videos over the years which was such an enjoyable experience.

Notget VR © Rewind VR
Mouthmantra VR, directed by Jesse Kanda

For retailers the opportunities are boundless. Whether they are taking us to the future, letting us shop from a store in another country or taking us behind the scenes of a catwalk show, it is going to be fun. And without doubt this is how the new generations expect to experience brands.

Discover a universe of possibilities and explore the world like never before‘ Occulus Rift