The Rise of Virtual Reality-Enabled Supermarket Redesign

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The Rise of Virtual Reality-Enabled Supermarket Redesign

By Andy Harris - 12/28/2018
The Rise of Virtual Reality-Enabled Supermarket Redesign
Capture from Symphony RetailAI video on virtual reality

As the grocery landscape continues to change, traditional brick-and-mortar supermarkets are learning that success doesn’t mean investing online heavily at the expense of in-store improvements. Rather, the key to success is striking the right balance between allocating resources to digital and physical experiences and processes.

This is increasingly important, yet increasingly challenging, as third-party online delivery services and curbside grocery pickups continue to rise. Many traditional retailers need to change certain fundamental aspects of their stores to both accommodate online orders and keep in-store shoppers happy.

That’s because online shopping has forced retailers to rethink how they manage their most valuable asset: physical store space. For example, they may need to remodel checkout lanes or install more frozen food displays – both of which require a fast, efficient way to incorporate analytics and customer insights to create optimal layouts without relying on traditional live-testing environments. Virtual reality (VR) does just that.  

Before any investment is made toward remodeling the physical store, retailers can instead leverage VR to digitally test their store variables.

Digital Store Remodeling Leads to New Insights

One of the most compelling benefits of using a combination of analytics and VR is speed – a critical element of success in today’s market. When it comes to managing multiple store sizes and layouts, it’s challenging to determine the best use of total floor space. So, before any investment is made toward remodeling the physical store, retailers can instead leverage VR to digitally test their store variables.

When remodeling can be done digitally, retailers have the ability to run multiple tests with various layouts and factors, allowing them to identify the best format to maximize the customer experience, as opposed to taking the time to rearrange a singular store and test the results over time.      

Designing Stores From a Consumer’s Perspective

Additionally, a digital remodel can conduct performance reviews on an individual product level, analyzing how products look and perform based on their placement on the shelf. Placement and quantity of products are important when understanding trends on national or local levels, and the combination of visuals and product data gives a whole new upper hand to store remodeling.

Digital planning solutions not only allow retailers to analyze products and layouts, but virtual reality can also create robust digital test environments to observe and understand shopping behaviors. After all, to deliver an exceptional customer experience, retailers must first see the store through the eyes of their customers.

With virtual reality, customers simply “walk” through a store setting, allowing retailers to track, measure and react to the impact of changes to the store in real time, at limited cost, without disrupting existing operations or damaging customer relationships.

VR and store planning technologies built on customer behavior insights will soon become vital elements of the merchandising process, enabling informed, accurate space optimization at a low cost.

Research Methods to Understand Consumer Behavior

Beyond these benefits, the flexibility and granularity of virtual testing environments can’t be understated. With any size test group, retailers can study exactly how consumers walk through their stores and react to external factors and stimuli in a comprehensive retail environment. On a quantitative level, retailers can track shoppers’ eye movement, navigation and step analysis to see factors such as which aisles they’re spending the most time in or which shelf they grab the most items from.

On a qualitative level, retailers can gather feedback from targeted groups regarding floorplans, lighting, items on the shelf, frozen aisle displays or new seasonal messages. Even if they don’t say it, their behavior can be monitored for subconscious differences in their approach or buying patterns.

Combining both research methods allows retailers to test quickly, effectively – and at a low cost – which external stimuli influence their primary audience, leading to an effective layout that shoppers intuitively respond to.

VR and store-planning technologies built on customer behavior insights will soon become vital elements of the merchandising process, enabling informed, accurate space optimization at a low cost. Additionally, with real-time collaboration, retailers are able to instantaneously incorporate changes suggested by local stores or field teams.

The most effective store-planning technologies are designed to align customer preferences at the store, category and product level to make assortment and shelf space optimization quick and collaborative. This approach allows retailers to adapt to industry trends more accurately and faster than their competitors, at significantly lower cost – the ultimate winning formula.    

About the Author

Andy Harris

Andy Harris

Andy Harris is director of virtual and augmented reality at Dallas-based Symphony RetailAI. Read More