augmented reality vs virtual reality: two ways to engage with customers in the retail industry

The progress of technology within the retail industry goes at the same pace with changing consumer behavior. The industry is adopting technologies to satisfy consumer needs, enhance customer experience, increase brand awareness, and visualise store layout.

In particular augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are capturing a lot of mainstream attention because they have the potential to re-shape the retail world and are promising tremendous growth.

Brands and retailers that are using AR and VR devices in - store are empowering customers to test products or services on a next level and this offers them the opportunity to transform how people shop and how stores will look like in the future.

Both virtual and augmented reality are similar in the goal of engaging the customer and personalize their experience, but different is the way they do it.

The augmented reality in the retail industry is an enhance version of reality created by the use of technology to overlay digital information in the real world through a smartphone or tablet. by comparison the virtual reality immerses the consumer into a simulated world. It usually requires technologies such as headsets and controllers that make the experience interactive and emotionally immersive. With AR, users continue to be in touch with the real world while interacting with virtual objects around them; with VR, the user is isolated from the real world while immersed in a world that does not really exist.

Every international enterprise, from Sony to HTC to Google to Facebook are making consistent investments in there. Why? are they seeing positive impact on the industry that justifies the investment?

These technologies may have started as technologies for gamers but experts in the field are pretty sure they will soon become vital to retail business with a long-term impact.

The cost of any tech investment is always an issue but in this case, the return of investment might be higher than the cost invested in terms of providing better customer experience that can bring retailers to save on their extra money. Retailers see personalizing the customer experience as one of the major opportunity to improve in-store experiences, but they often lack the right technology to personalize experiences.

In this perspective, the retail industry's investment on AR and VR is expected to increase at an annual growth rate of 238.7%, and soon become the top industry by spend in 2020. (Kirkpatrick. D, 2017). In 2020 the expectation of total AR investment will amount to 60 billion of dollars (Porter. M, & Heppelmann. J 2017) while VR 30 billion.

Of course, the investment must be made to ensure that staff, customers and retailers are committed to technology at the same way.

Nowadays the technology allows retail clients to get a real-time view of the products, interact with them or test the items prior to purchase and even without visiting the physical store. A great advantage if we think that so far, many customers are reluctant to make purchase on internet, mainly due to the lack of the possibility to see, touch and feel products in person. More than 55% of Americans goes to stores before buying online. (Skrovan, 2017) this data emphasizes sensory experience is still a critical aspect before making the final purchase.

This gives the possibility to offer a unique and tailored purchasing experience, guiding the attention of customers even towards innovative products.

One of the application of the virtual reality technologies that exero offers is to allow customers to walk into a retailer’s shop, check out and purchase items, as they would in an actual store, without moving from their couches (

Virtual reality has many promising applications in the world of retail; it is more exciting because it is even able to sell a product based on the “wow” effect but right now it faces a higher barrier. that is because customers are not habitual to have VR devices at home and the cost to undertake them is relatively high.

On the other hand, as Pokémon Go can teach us, any smartphone can be used for AR. on our point of view, with consumers increasingly relying on smartphones, AR could be at the moment more easily used by a greater number of people.

For instance, our partner Aisle411 ( worked with Tango to bring augmented reality navigation to the resorts and casino industry. This consists of a unique combination of gamification and indoor positioning in 3D on a mobile device. This technology guides you around and allow you to explore the space in an unusual way. You reach the customer, in the right place with the right message at the right time.

We see a bright future in the retail and shopping experience application. Just to give youn example of what we are talking about, one of our applications, available on specific digital device, turns the environment around you into a digital interface by placing virtual objects in the real world, in real-time. Inside a room, carefully mapped, a consumer can easily customize an item based on his/her preferences, by utilizing a great variety of components presented in the virtual store. a great advantage for high-tailored and innovative contents.

In conclusion let’s see where digital technology will lead the world of retail to in the near future, even though we probably already know.


Kirkpatrick. D, 2017; “forecast: Retail will be largest AR/VR segment by 2020”;

Porter. M, Heppelmann J: “perchè a ogni organizzazione occorre una strategia per la realtà aumentata; (Nov 2017)

Skrovan. S, 2017 “Why many shoppers go to stores before buying online

Online sources: