Leveraging VR Technology in Retail
The emergence of virtual reality (VR) technology has been helped, in part, by Google’s October release of its Pixel smartphone and Daydream View VR headset, according to Hypergrid Business. Retail businesses have reason to be excited; VR introduces seemingly endless opportunities for engaging consumers. With this exciting new frontier, however, they must remember that bandwidth and network connectivity are not infinite. As companies consider how they can leverage VR technology to increase retail sales, they must consider how to most effectively deliver content over already-congested networks.
Like mobile technology, VR stands to affect every aspect of the enterprise. “I see VR and [augmented reality] becoming tools for every aspect of any business including future product prototyping, developing new features, driving sales and enhancing retail store experience,” Bishnu Nayak of FixStream, Inc. says in Forbes.
More specifically, says Amelia Kallman for TechRadar, “In retail you can imagine you can have all designer fashions available at your fingertips, so you can instantly compare a [$370] leather jacket by Stella McCartney to one by Burberry, try it on your avatar, see it in 360 degrees and make instant purchases, all while ‘shopping’ with your friend who lives in China.”
Seek Quality VR to Inspire Consumers
The key to any successful VR effort is quality. In order for users to experience true immersion, the video must be realistic. But there’s more to quality than creating great content. It’s also about delivering that content to the device. “Even with good display hardware in a headset, low video quality can break the sense of true immersion,” reports VRScout. “The tricky part is delivering a great looking image to the device at the right moment. While all the headsets have cutting-edge high-resolution displays, the shortfall comes from content delivered at low resolution.”
It’s one thing to offer 4K content. It’s another issue altogether to stream that content over today’s business networks. Dan Rayburn, the principal analyst at Frost & Sullivan, explains:
“To put some real numbers behind it, for a content owner delivering video today at 3Mbps, one hour of video is going to consume about 1.4GB. If they are paying two cents per GB, which is a low price, it’s currently costing them about three cents to deliver one hour of video. If they then want to deliver that same content at 4K quality, it’s going to cost them between eleven cents and eighteen cents.”
While VR is exciting, it can burn out businesses if they invest in a poor-quality product that ends up causing more harm than good. When choosing which VR technology to invest in, businesses need to keep in mind that buying a cheaper product at a lower quality can create extra costs and labor time down the road. Storing, encoding and adjusting the content takes time and money.
That brings up the issue of cost justification. Businesses must determine if existing infrastructure and connectivity are sufficient for delivering quality VR content. Retailers must determine whether they can afford to deliver VR content and, possibly, make it profitable.
Compared to VR content and devices, connectivity isn’t the most glamorous topic. But as businesses undergo digital transformation, connectivity will become increasingly important until it becomes a breaking point. Retailers need to take it into consideration sooner rather than later to ensure they can deliver quality digital experiences that translate into sales.