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UK Consumers Seek a New Shopping Reality

Shoppers have a healthy appetite for augmented assistance

April 28, 2016

If you’ve attended a major industry conference recently, you’ve likely had a virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) demo. The level of excitement around these types of technology is palpable, not least because they’re closer to becoming consumer reality than ever before. For example, simple cardboard head mounts turn your average smartphone into a VR experience for a matter of just a few pounds.

Ways in Which UK Internet Users Would Be Interested in Virtual/Augmented Reality While Shopping, Nov 2015 (% of respondents)

The obvious implementations center on entertainment, but shoppers in the UK are keen to see such technology provide them with a practical use case. November 2015 data from retail shopping center company Westfield, found that sizable proportions of UK interenet users were interested in the shopping possibilities that VR and AR could offer. Fully 41% said they would be interested in a VR or AR experience that would help them see how products would look in their home, while a further 39% were interested in seeing virtual demonstrations.

However, this is all against a backdrop of relatively low awareness of VR and AR technologies, and even lower levels of experience. October 2015 polling from Futuresource Consulting among internet users in France, Germany, the UK and the US found that of the 41% who were aware of VR, only 8% had actually tried it.

Awareness and Usage of Virtual Reality Among Internet Users in Western Europe* and the US, Oct 2015 (% of respondents)

Marketers certainly aren’t especially convinced by the potential for VR and AR, at least not just yet. A June 2015 report from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) found that just 14% of marketing executives in the UK felt that VR and AR would have a big impact on their business by 2020.

A more recent March 2016 report from the Location Based Marketing Association (LBMA) found that the same proportion—just 14%—of marketing executives in the UK felt that VR and AR was of interest to them as a location-based marketing topic. Sentiment among digital shoppers in the UK seems to suggest that marketers should be a bit more interested than that.

Learn more about virtual and augmented reality at eMarketer's upcoming half-day event, Attention! London on June 7, where Facebook and GE will be presenting.

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