How the Metaverse is Driving the Next Generation of Retail Workforce Development

Mar 15, 2024

Since 2020, the retail labor market and the way companies approach hiring and workforce development have shifted dramatically. Outdated processes and initiatives were thrown out the window as workers demanded more flexibility — and as workplaces across industries have become predominantly digital-centric, the retail industry has continued to explore ways to innovate through new technologies.

At the same time, rapid advances in artificial intelligence, augmented/virtual reality, robotics and the metaverse have created endless possibilities for retailers to apply efficiencies to their business models. But with these endless possibilities comes a question: Considering all the innovative technologies out there, how do businesses narrow in on a specific problem and a specific solution that solves that exact problem?

It’s no secret that Meta has bet big on the metaverse and its potential to revolutionize everything, including various segments of retail. Recent research shows that VR has immensely positive impacts on learning and understanding. Meta is combining its market dominance in the metaverse with insights it’s garnered about how VR can enable more effective learning to solve a core retail problem: employee engagement, training and retention.

“The metaverse promises to make learning more active,” says Nick Clegg, Meta’s president, global affairs, at a 2023 event. “With virtual and augmented reality technologies, people can learn by doing, not just passively absorbing information. This has the potential to transform the way we provide new skills and new lifelong learning tools for people in the future.”

As an early adopter of VR technology, Walmart is one example where immersive technology is currently being deployed to support workforce development and training. Using this technology, Walmart employees experience immersive simulations of real-world store scenarios, making the learning process more engaging and effective.

Specifically, Walmart has gained new insights into employee skills and seen improvements in employee test scores from VR-based training sessions.

According to Andy Trainor, formerly Walmart’s vice president of learning, “When we used the Oculus Rift VR headset in the classroom, we noticed an increase in test scores between 5% and 10%. We are starting to replace some global learning management-system modules that can take 30 to 45 minutes and transitioning this to a three- to five-minute module in the virtual reality environment.”

Any technology that can help increase training test scores and decrease the time to train employees has the potential to have a significant, positive industry-wide impact. Training in VR is four times faster than classroom learning and can lead to a 275% increase in confidence on the job after training.

Beyond in-store retail training, the technology also has broader implications for how employees can train for customer service retail jobs.

Meta plans to feature its Meta Quest product line, including the newly released Meta Quest 3, at the Innovation Lab, which is located in the River Pavilion of the Javits Center and will be open during show hours. Attendees will be able to experience a live mixed reality experience, including virtual reality and augmented reality, as well as Meta’s new business apps and solutions, bringing this technology to the forefront of retail businesses.

Access the full article on the NRF Blog.


National Retail Federation Foundation

The NRF Foundation shapes retail’s future by building awareness of the industry through statistics and stories; developing talent through education, experiences and scholarships; and fostering career growth among people who work in retail.The NRF Foundation has partnered with DECA to expose students to unique educational and employment opportunities that highlight the exciting, diverse career paths within the retail industry.

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