Trying to Make Virtual Reality a Reality in Your Retail Space? – Here’s What You Should Consider!

Bringing Virtual Reality into the retail space is a trend that continues to grow. If your company has decided to make this technological step, this post will layout the questions to consider before moving forward. When assisting a company take that next step, the Ballast Lane Applications Team focused on high-end Virtual Reality equipment. The advantages of a high-end VR set-up, as opposed to lower end options, include a higher refresh rate, body tracking, more precise head tracking, and a superior rendering. All of these benefits add up to a better experience and fewer distractions (motion sickness for example!) for customers.  However, if price is a major constraint, there are less expensive options to consider including Standalone and Mobile VR Headsets (Oculus Go and the Google Cardboard for example). Based on this approach, we provided our client with the following gear inventory:

  • HTC Vive Pro kit (Headset, Lighthouses (for motion tracking), and Hand held controllers)
  • High-end gaming computer (Alienware desktop with all the bells and whistles)
  • Flat screen television

After you select the gear, it is crucial to match the hardware with your retail space.

To correctly match a VR solution with your retail space, it is important to begin considering these questions …

I. Available space

The location of your VR space can be as influential as the gear you purchase. The optimal areas are lowlite and have few reflective surfaces. Light can disrupt the lighthouses and interfere with motion tracking. A corner usually meets the criteria if you are using a headset with lighthouses. That being said, you want to show off the VR station, so throwing it in the back corner may not be an ideal solution. The size of your space is also a crucial part of picking the right space, the size can affect the user’s safety and overall experience. A small space can be a liability if you intend to allow the customer  to walk around or have other objects in the space. Some VR headsets have the ability to set barriers that warn users if they are approaching said barriers.

II. Ease of installation in the space

Installation difficulties vary for each retail space and each headset option. To make the process as seamless as possible the key is to match the two.  When trying to match the two consider if the space is permanent, if it can fit without remodeling, and the amount of time and money you have for installation.

III. Training users / store sales reps

VR can take your sales representatives to the next level. They are no longer simply talking about what the product can do, but rather, can show it by fully immersing the customer in the experience. To have substantial results it is crucial to have VR gear that can be easily managed by skilled sales reps. This will take training. Sales reps will need to be trained for setup, calibration, and actually demoing. Training will change based on your VR Space but the main elements include:

A. Setup – Learning how to setup the hardware and software can be crucial if the setup needs to be consistently broken down and setup. VIVE Pro Example: 

  1. Check software installation and base station(lighthouses) status
  2. Set up the link box
  3. Set up the headset
  4. Pair the controllers

B. Calibration – After every setup the hardware must be calibrated. This is also true if the lighthouses are moved in any capacity or if anything seems off with the VR.

C. Demoing – The sales rep needs to know how the app works, how to to fit the headset on the customer, and most importantly how to guide them in the experience.

Another important consideration is how to link VR into a sales process.  Think about when to bring the customer into the VR experience…

This will affect many aspects of the VR:

  • Where the station is set up in your retail space
  • The content in your VR space
  • Your employees training

IV. Ease of development and availability of off the shelf assets

A. Some systems are easier for developers to work with allowing you to have more custom content.
B. Another option is off the shelf assets which are virtual spaces already developed and can be purchased for use. Vive pro comes with a nice development environment
C. Decide where to invest custom design work to make your space unique versus using off the shelf spaces.

Here are some nice off the shelf demos:

Waltz of the Wizard a good 1st VR experience

The Lab Demo on Steam

Google Earth VR

Conclusion

The goal of the VR station is to bring more customers into your retail space but, more importantly, to have a product which best fits the needs of your business whether that be resolution, convenience, or the interaction. Creating a VR station in your store can transform your customers shopping experience no matter what your business is. A VR station is like a dressing room, customers can “try on” your product, even if it is a new kitchen floor. To take full advantage of this opportunity it is key that your VR station fits the needs of you, your retail space, and your customers. Best of luck from the Ballast Lane Applications team.

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