Customer Experience

Disruptive customer experience design in retail

Online retail has drastically changed consumer behaviour. Traditional retailers have had to evolve with innovative technologies and new strategies.

by Vicki Joshi (contact)
5 minute read

However, those who have kept pace and reinvented themselves to create a destination shopping experience have seen rewards in loyalty and maintained shareholder value.

John Lewis have redesigned shops to offer additional services and instore experiences. They have provided a reason for stores to exist and be an integral part of the customer journey. 67%[1] of sales still take place in store. The retailer has embraced digital disruption with an investment of £400m in its supply chain to meet the demands of new channels and technologies.

This is the mind set retailers need to adopt as there are still emerging technologies and customer trends to be leveraged when it comes to customer experience transformation.

Virtual reality technology is one such trend that has been cited. It is due to grow exponentially in the next five years[2] and provides an opportunity for bricks and mortar retailers to differentiate.

We have already seen a market buzzing with excitement. Major launches from Oculus, HTC and Sony have built up momentum. Prices for consoles continue to plummet by 10% year on year[3] adding to the hype and accessibility. The major uptake has of course been with gaming but already marketers across industries are experimenting to increase engagement with customers. In the UK alone we should expect to see 64.8 million headsets in use by 2020[4].

Retailers now have the perfect opportunity to fight back at the disruptive online challengers by adopting an experiential strategy and providing their customers with immersive experiences in store.

Until now the technology has been used to escape. But with recent advancements retailers can leverage it in more practical ways to help their customers in the real world, by saving them time or enabling them to envisage how things work more clearly. Consumer desire is certainly there. In a recent study by Westfield[5], 69% of shoppers would be happy to give VR a go to experience how products would look in their home or help them better understand what they are buying.

We are already seeing some strong examples in the market.

Lowe’s Holoroom brings homeowners an immersive experience

The hardest part of buying furniture is imagining how it will fit in your home. It requires an incredible sense of imagination to picture that new sofa in the middle of your living room or how the island unit will look in your kitchen space. To help with this particular point in their customers’ purchasing journey, Lowe’s came up with Holoroom.

Holoroom uses an Oculus Rift or Google Cardboard inside the store which lets customers design a dream kitchen and then step right into it. They can size up their own kitchen space and then add in Lowe’s products to build a dream kitchen. The experience helps diminish doubts by giving them an opportunity to get a feel for how things will work and feel, if colours will match, if the space is right or if they need to change to something else.

This customer experience design innovation gives Lowe’s a competitive advantage by ensuring minimal doubt in the evaluation stage on a customer’s purchase journey. It goes beyond traditional retail tactics and is redefining what best practice looks like in the sector.

Augmented Reality at GAME creates engagement and drives footfall

Augmented reality is another technology that can improve interaction and engagement with customers. It overlays digital information and experiences on the physical world using a combination of cameras and displays giving customers an enhanced and augmented view. As we’ve seen with the Pokémon Go phenomenon it can also be mobile led. So with consumers finally being exposed to the concept retailers have scope to drive footfall to store and create customer experiences online retailers simply cannot come close to.

For the launch of the 5th instalment of Xbox’s Master Chief Franchise, Microsoft and video game retailer GAME decided to mark history by using augmented reality to celebrate the launch. People in the store were given the opportunity to stand next to the legendary warrior inside the GAME store.

GAME provided customers with a new, perhaps never seen before, experience that could never be replicated by its online rivals. It captured the feeling of excitement, brought it in store and capitalised with relevant offers to drive sales. On top of that it has now also opened up new possibilities for future product launches around the world.

In the same vein, GAME replaced the traditional idea of a photo on Santa’s knee for a selfie with its own character: Gamer Claus. Customers were encouraged to come in store, take a selfie and share it on social media.

Using the retail store as an experiential tool in this way obviously may not shake the world like the internet did, but it certainly contributes towards building a unique and better customer experience, achieving a loyal following which can be measured through net promotor score.

Virtual reality and augmented reality both come with great promises for customer experience success. They bring opportunities for retailers to be different and distinctive. Most of all they provide a perfect platform to reinvent and recreate the instore experience for the shopper of tomorrow.



[1] Internet Retailing, March 2016

[2] Forrester

[3] 2016 Adobe Digital Insights Gaming Report

[4] IDC

[5] Westfield How We Shop Now what’s Next Report, 2016

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