A Clearer View Of Augmented And Virtual Reality

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Next week is the National Retail Federation and Shop.org‘s Digital Summit In Dallas.

This article was published by Shop.org on their Medium channel and is an interview that they conducted with me ahead of our session titled, Virtually There With AR/VR…. 

NRF’s Artemis Berry talks with digital marketing guru Mitch Joel.

Mitch Joel? — ?author, blogger and president of global digital marketing agency Mirum?–?wasn’t dubbed the “Rock Star of Digital Marketing” for nothing. Top companies seek him out for his views on innovation and marketing, so NRF’s Artemis Berry decided to do the same. Augmented reality and virtual reality are on a collision course with retail, and Joel was willing to offer a few thoughts in advance of his keynote session next week at Retail’s Digital Summit, a Shop.org event in Dallas.

Just one caveat: Don’t say that AR and VR are like “3D for television.”

“This could not be further from the truth,” he says. “3D for TV was a feature. VR and AR are an entirely new media. For retailers, this is huge because stores can?–?literally?–?look and feel like they are no longer limited by location and square footage.” Websites and apps are two-dimensional, Joel says, and the e-commerce experience hasn’t changed that much in the past few decades. But with AR and VR, “you can move within and through the retail experience. So, imagine being ‘in’ a store, without physically being there. Now, imagine being in a physical store, but using this technology to change everything from the dimensions to the inventory, to how everything is merchandised. Endless aisles? More like endless opportunities. AR and VR could?–?in theory?–?allow retailers to truly customize each shopper’s real experience.”

More from Berry’s conversation with Mitch Joel:

How should retailers be thinking about virtual and augmented reality? Is it a complete game-changer, just another marketing tool or something else?

It’s coming. It’s not here. It’s coming. VR and AR are great for retailers today, because they can tag it on to in-store experiences (where they can control the situation and technology better). It is a complete game-changer when it comes to how we can tell better brand stories and how we can experience brands in a more profound way.

What are some of the best examples you’ve seen of companies using AR or VR so far?

When it comes to retail, I think Lowe’s did something very unique. Yes, it’s a virtual environment, so you can choose everything from paint colors to countertops and beyond, but what really impressed me was the viewing options. You can also walk through your exact room (as you have designed it, based on your real layout) from the perspective of a child. That experience changed everything for me. How the child could reach up to the doors and how they would see the kitchen from their vantage point made me realize just how much VR can do to enhance the shopping experience.

Everybody’s still talking Pokemon GO. What’s your take on it, what’s the takeaway for retailers and when will the hype calm down?

The hype has already calmed down. Regardless, Pokémon GO enabled augmented reality to break through to a more mass audience. As Jeff Bezos would say, “This is day one.” All we need is for more and more people to try this technology, and then get used to seeing a new world through their smartphones (or headsets). That’s the bigger idea. The smaller idea? Pokémon GO drives traffic. I just came back from a Florida vacation, and a local pizza joint held a Pokémon GO party. It was packed. Lots of pies being sold and lots of Pokémons got caught. The digital and physical world collided perfectly. The app drove traffic to the store.

What’s the most overhyped trend in the marketing universe right now?

Don’t kill me: virtual and augmented reality. This is why my presentation is called “virtually there.” We are not there yet. There are many hurdles in front of us (and going forward) that need to be addressed. So, the hype is real. I have no doubt that we will get there. I have no doubt that AR/VR is the next platform for all of us, but we’re not even close yet. Still, Kevin Kelly, founder of Wired and well-known futurist, says it best: “The future happens very slowly, then all at once.” We’re in the “very slowly” phase right now.

Quick takes – Rapid-fire questions for Mitch Joel:

  • The future of retail is… being able to truly “shop the brand” anywhere and anytime.
  • Millennials are … no different than the way older people always talk about younger people. They just move faster.
  • I’m happiest when I’m … writing (or reading) or with my family.
  • In my office, I can’t live without … music (jazz, no vocals).
  • If I wasn’t doing this I would be … this, that and the other thing. I was born for this.
  • The last thing I bought online was… a case for my iPad Pro (thanks, Logi!).
  • My first job was … interviewing Tommy Lee from Mötley Crüe.
  • I’m most creative when I’m … writing.
  • Your most-read/most-shared blog post is … ugh … no idea. I have been blogging almost every day since 2003. I stopped looking at my analytics years ago. I’m hoping that my most-read/most-shared blog post is the next one.

National Retail Federation – Shop.org – Retail’s Digital Summit takes place September 26 – 28, 2016 in Dallas, Texas. Come say ”hi!”