How virtual reality, IoT and wearables expand options for retailers

Virtual reality is exploding. Along with driverless cars, home automation, smart televisions, smart watches, and even smart running shoes, virtual reality has become an important piece of the personal technology globally.

And it is exciting!

Although we probably won’t be wearing headset while walking around the city anytime soon, its intriguing to imagine a time in the near future when we can see data all around us through our sunglasses about restaurants, subway schedules, movie show times, and special offers just by looking at an establishment walking around town.

The personal tech industry will break US$1bn (£710m) this year, according to Deloitte, and Goldman Sachs forecasts the market at US$80bn (£56.8bn) by 2025, making the prospects of more exciting personal tech hardware closer than we think.

As the popularity of these connected devices increase, so will the data that collects consumer habits. And every major brand is vying for this information.

Retailers can acquire direct consumer relationships through digital product interactions, like a wearable watch for instance, and use this engagement to make marketing efforts far more effective.

The ability to apply real-time product tracking intelligence to marketing strategies will be sought-after for decision-making during the consumer lifecycle.

The network of data streaming from millions of personal digital devices communicate not only where consumers are working and residing but also about environmental conditions, travel patterns, activity levels, and how our behavior changes if we are near work versus home.

Audience profiles are the heart and soul behind all this data. Are you affluent? A homemaker? Student? Your age and gender, content consumption, peak time & day of access, heart rate, motion sensing, activity, sleep patterns, eating habits, workout regimes, etc. are all sought after nuggets of info.

Yet how do marketers co-relate all this data? A decade ago organizing this much data would have taken the world’s best analysts to make sense of these data sets, but today, brands have a multitude of providers to choose from who specialize in consolidating this data into useful, definable, and pertinent marketing gold. The advent of data lakes and new database technologies have made queries fast and efficient.

This is important as real-time data requires real-time decision making by savvy marketing teams. To act quickly on these enormous data streams is not an easy feat, so providers are creating products that marketers can plug in the existing systems efficiently.

One key metric of consumer data provided by these devices is location information. Many marketing teams are moving away from dated insights and looking for user location statistics. Information like traffic patterns, proximity to retail districts, and predictive destination monitoring are exciting the marketers.

Armed with location data streams, brands are upping the ante, experimenting with promotions and engagement tactics that have never been tried before. These new location analytics mark a shift to a unified view of the consumer and more real-time analytics at the point of consumer interaction.

Data platforms that provide easy access to fresh data and analytics can be particularly valuable for retailers. Retailers would be able to analyze real-world audiences, showcase special promotions to their loyal consumers, use predictive analytics to make staffing decisions at store level during festive seasons and also alter the merchandising mix at a store level as the audience that walks in.

These location pattern statistics are influencing planograms and placement strategies already at retailers like H&M and Forever21.

Fusing multiple data streams from the digital and physical world will enable brands to map and understand the consumer journeys and provide personalized consumer experiences. Retailers have just begun to scratch the surface of what ambient data could offer.

As brands find their stride in this domain, compelling data brand storytelling will emerge and create a better shopping experience for all consumers. But brands must act quickly, because the first to home plate will get the win.

Also published in Enterprise Innovation.