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The purchasing power driven by virtual, augmented reality tech

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The purchasing power driven by virtual, augmented reality tech

Retailers and vendors are benefiting from augmented reality as a means to help convert demonstrations into sales transactions in select categories.

Executives speaking on the "Shopping with VR" panel at the Virtual Reality 20/20 conference in New York on Oct. 16 said virtual reality and augmented reality can help consumers locate items in stores and facilitate sales conversion. Alphabet Inc.'s Visual Positioning Service, for example, furnishes consumers with a sense for a retail establishment's layout before they actually enter its doors, indicating where they can find specific items.

Jeremy Goldman, founder and CEO of Firebrand Group, said virtual reality and augmented reality initiatives are typically supporting larger, more costly items than consumer-packaged goods or food items. For instance, there is not likely to be enhanced format investment behind paper towels as people generally know the product's attributes.

As for the bigger ticket items, Ramsay Hoguet, vice president of business development at View AR, a provider of augmented, mixed and virtual reality services, said home improvement chain Lowe's Cos. Inc. has been using VR solutions in select outlets, where sales associates outfit shoppers with a headset enabling them to explore various kitchen design elements. He said consumers can view how different products and brands look in the room.

"The VR experience helps the sales associate as part of the process," he said.

Some retailers have also enjoyed success with technology enhancements in makeup departments, giving consumers views of how they could look wearing a certain foundation or eyeliner. Hoguet further noted that these "magic mirrors" hold value not only in terms of producing sales but also in minimizing returns.

According to Hoguet, there are also big in-store opportunities with augmented reality, VR, computer vision and artificial intelligence to help merchandise managers position items in-store for promotional purposes. He noted they can test how different locations can drive sales or monitor the amount of time customers spend with merchandise through eye-tracking software.

However, it remains very early days. When asked after the panel about the number of retailers that are using augmented reality to help shape their store and merchandise layouts, Hoguet replied, "Not many."

Expanding beyond traditional brick-and-mortar store settings, virtual reality might also drive auto and real estate transactions.

Jenya Lugina, chief technology officer of virtual reality company VRGO, said it makes sense for luxury automobile manufacturers to use the format to show off their cars and their features. VR can also help create a real estate environment where users can get a feel for the area.

For example, if there is a property touting an "incredible sunset" view, then he said the seller can depict that beauty with 360-degree videos that provide a better sense of being there before the prospective buyer actually visits the home.