Italian firm Zakeke Takes On VR/AR Retail Challenge

by Guy Frum

Having the technology available to do something is not enough for it to become a reality.
That technology has to be attainable, understandable, and doable in order to achieve market penetration and saturation.
That’s a barrier that both augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (AR) are facing in several industries, namely retail. 
The Italian software design company Zakeke has put together a comprehensive report that breaks down the inherent flaws in getting acceptance of these two forms of extended reality when it comes to the reality industry: understanding and implementation.
Zakeke combined its efforts with YouGov, an international market research firm, to better understand how the COVID-19 pandemic affected brick-and-mortar stores and how those stores can move to a new technology to augment sales.  

The Results Are In

The survey found that people prefer brick-and-mortar stores for their essential items but favor online shopping for discretionary items. Out of all discretionary items surveyed, only cosmetics were selling better in physical stores than in online environments. A second benefit of online shopping is that it allows customers to have a wider range of objects, particularly how they can be customized for their specific tastes. This means a wide range of customers can get what they want rather than just what is available inside of a store at a specific time. 
The report also finds that while VR and AR are increasingly being used in reality settings, they still have not reached a saturation point because they cannot “fully replicate the act of touching and smelling fresh produce or trying on a new pair of jeans.”
The survey also found that China and the United Kingdom were the only countries to report having more trouble with incidents in online shopping as opposed to brick-and-mortar shopping. Part of that was likely because the UK has the highest percentage of online-only shoppers, a whopping 17%. This likely had a lot to do with the country’s fierce restrictions during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As far as interest in VR and AR goes, it was no surprise to find that tech-savvy regions like Asia and the United Arab Emirates had the most interest in engaging the technology in retail stores, along with Mexico as more of an outlier. These rates outstrip those found in Western Europe and even the United States. This might be because of the age of consumers as well. The US and Western European countries like England and Germany have notoriously aging populations. Interest in shopping online, and particularly VR/AR plummets starting at age 55. Finding an interface for the older generation with these technologies remains an undiscovered country.

Insights on Age A recurring theme throughout the report was the direct relationship between age and interest: “the younger the shopper, the more likely they are to show interest in virtual or augmented reality.” Interest in VR and AR retail – and in online shopping more generally – starts to steeply decline with the 55+ age group. This group remains “a large opportunity for penetration.”