Virtual Reality in Retail, Beauty & Entertainment

Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM)

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are no longer simply futuristic ideals. They are being utilized in a wide range of industries and for numerous purposes, including attracting new customers and training employees. As with many technological advances, the adoption rate of virtual reality corresponds with the rate at which easier and cheaper models are available. So, while you may not currently use VR yourself, it is pretty reasonable to expect that you will soon.

In the article, Virtual Reality and Training the Millennial, Sid Banerjee said, “Over the last four years, global tech companies like Facebook, HTC, Google, Microsoft and Samsung have made massive investments in virtual and mixed reality technologies. These investments have driven down the cost of mobile and PC VR headsets, resulting in higher adoption rates.”

With higher adoption rates, we are seeing new, innovative and expanded uses of VR and AR. While traditionally thought to be used in the medical and military fields, we are seeing this technology used in retail, marketing, the beauty industry, sports, education and entertainment.

In the beauty industry, virtual reality is being used to boost confidence, perfect selfies and try products virtually before purchasing them. In Japan, Shiseido partnered with Microsoft Japan to launch the “Telebeauty” app. Geared toward women at work, the app allows users to virtually add a style of makeup (natural, feminine, trendy or cool) to their faces while on conference calls. The software detects the user’s facial features and digitally “applies” the makeup to their image.

With more and more consumers shopping online, the retail landscape is changing dramatically and developers are reducing their dependence on fashion retail and focusing on food, wellness, entertainment and lifestyle offerings. This is where VR comes in. Many retailers are looking to virtual reality to make the shopping experience fun again and bring consumers back to the brick and mortar store. By offering an experience that cannot be found online at home, retail stores are gradually pulling consumers off their sofas and back into stores.

Lowe’s, the home improvement superstore, is using VR technology to advance and aid in the process of home remodeling. Customers can slip on an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset and see their newly redesigned living room, bathroom or kitchen filled with products they have picked out. While wearing the headset, a store employee can switch out paint colors, countertops or fixtures until the customer finds the right fit for their home.

TOMS put virtual reality headsets into more than 100 of their stores so customers can experience trips that are a part of the company’s one-for-one campaign. At the TOMS store on famous Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice, CA, shoppers can be immersed in a trip to Peru while wearing one of the Samsung headsets. TOMS founder, Blake Mycoskie, believes the immediacy that virtual reality brings trumps photographs and traditional videos.

Virtual reality in retail isn’t always about the consumer. Stores are now looking at VR technology to train employees for scenarios that may be too expensive or logistically difficult to create naturally. The world’s largest retailer, Walmart, has been using the Oculus headset to train mid-level employees on the realities of holiday rush crowds. Senior Director of Central Operations, Brock McKeel says, “VR gives us a practical, scalable way to teach new skills, give associates more confidence in their jobs and make work more exciting and fun.”

Fast food chain KFC is using the Oculus Rift to train employees to make its signature Original Recipe chicken.
With the headset on, employees are tasked with demonstrating virtual mastery of the five-step cooking process (inspecting, rinsing, breading, racking and pressure-frying) with the ultimate goal of getting out of a virtual escape room.

KFC’s inventive VR training game may not suit every industry, but virtual and augmented retail have a very important place in recruiting, training and retaining employees in all industries. This is especially true now that millennials have surpassed Generation X as the largest generation in the American workforce. For millennials who grew up and are accustomed to an entertainment-filled world, processing information that is already perceived as tedious is a challenge.

Sid Banerjee says, “Virtual reality (VR)-based training content has the power to transform training from boring clip art, multiple-choice questions and silly animations to high-quality interactive, emotional experiences capable of capturing the wavering attention of the digital native.”

Retention of employees is important in keeping costs down and the restaurant industry has the second-highest turnover rate of any industry. Restaurant chain, Honeygrow, turned to virtual reality for the recruitment and training of employees and has so far seen increased employee retention. Honeygrow lets potential employees take VR tours of the restaurants and new employees play a VR food-safety game in their first two days.

Virtual and augmented reality are here to stay and will only become a bigger part of our lives. According to advisory firm Digi-Capital, the virtual reality industry’s annual revenue is expected to grow from less than $1 billion right now to $30 billion by 2020. This is a very large jump in a very short period of time and will effect industries across the board. FIDM educates its students for careers in fashion, entertainment, business, interior design, visual and digital arts and these innovative industries are all using virtual reality in one way or another.

Many of the companies highlighted in this article – Shiseido, Lowe’s, TOMS, and Walmart – are direct extensions of the industries that FIDM prepares its students for. Whether it is creating visual displays at Toms, managing Shiseido’s social media accounts or designing a new furniture line for Lowe’s, FIDM students are uniquely prepared for these careers from day one.

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