Augmented Reality is an exciting new tool for distributing information through “beacons”, close-proximity, wireless broadcast points. These beacons connect to smartphones, smartwatches, and other wearable technology. By itself, it has tremendous potential. Combined with virtual reality, smart mirrors, virtual fitting rooms and other new technologies, this will be a game changer.
Throw out your printed displays, forget the in-store video, and maybe leave the product in the safe. 3D holograms will be the showcase of the future. Jewellery designers will be able to showcase high-value items virtually in several stores at once. A beacon will transfer all information to a customer’s smartphone. The item can be purchased with a few taps on the screen and delivered to their home.
Recently, Neiman-Marcus rolled out a new technology called a Memory Mirror. It is an array of cameras attached to hi-def video screens. With simple gestures, the customer can turn the image to see how an outfit looks from the back. They can try other colours and even different outfits. The image can be stored in the retailer’s CRM, transferred to the customer’s phone, or uploaded to social media in an instant. Neiman-Marcus deploys this virtual fitting room right in the showroom aisles, allowing a shared experience.
You might think a full-length virtual mirror may seem like overkill in a jewellery store, and for now, you are right. As these new technologies take hold in the garment and fashion industries, they will become one of the most powerful sales tools a jewellery store can have. If a customer is shopping for a dress, she may have several VR files stored on her phone. Any virtual mirror can display the image. Using your smart mirror, she can try on different dresses and accessorise them with virtual items from your store. Augmented reality pop-ups can offer suggestions for upgrades or matching items.
A cooperative business model
Lifestyle stores feature a full line of clothing and accessories, including fine jewellery. They are the hottest new trend in retail. If several local, independent retail businesses work together using augmented and virtual realities, they can create a virtual lifestyle store. As an example, a bridal co-op could consist of a jewellery store, a dress shop, a shoe store, a salon, a florist, and a tux rental. A smart mirror ties them all together. As a bride tries on a dress in a virtual mirror, augmented reality will suggest the appropriate accessories. She can see how a necklace flows with the dress, in 3D surround video. Suggested add-ons will increase sales across the board. She can share her selections with friends and social media for opinions.
When she has the perfect ensemble, a single quick gesture sends a purchase order to the various stores. The can make appointments for custom fittings at the same time. For a bridal customer, time is her most precious commodity. This cooperative effort saves her time and allows her to control her schedule better while making the entire process fun and interactive.
Not yet, but soon
Although most of the technology already exists, it has a long way to go before it is fully adaptable to most independent jewellers. Apps still need to be developed, and the hardware is costly. When computers and cell phones first hit the general market, they were expensive and limited in capabilities. Seemingly overnight, they became integral to our entire business and personal existence. Ten years from now, virtual and augmented realities will be fully integrated into our life experience. Be ready for it.