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Augmented Reality used at BMW flagship store. Guess for what …

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BMW has opened a while ago a flagship store in Brussels which welcomes some top-notch models as well as temporary exhibitions. Currently it hosts an exhibition dedicated to the i8 electric car on the first floor. On the second floor some more “regular” models are exhibited along with a range of interaction devices. Among them a very interesting (and quite entertaining) augmented reality device.

Get into the engine

The augmented reality device is located just between the M3 and M6 models and enables the visitor to get a better understanding of how the V8 petrol engine of the M3 works. A touch screen has been installed on an arm that rotates around the engine. The engine serves as “target” for the augmented reality software. When you rotate the arm the software gives you the possibility to virtually interact with the engine, get into it, and gather information about it. You get in real time an explanation of what happens inside the engine as well as technical facts about it.

Is augmented reality the future of physical store ?

We see more and more retailers harnessing the power of digital innovation to enhance the customer experience. This is fantastic news. Our friends at Creapills.com and Laminuteretail.com propose numerous reports on such innovations. In terms of consumer behavior, one of the amazing aspect of this digital in-store revolution is that customers will be able to get helped without the pressure of salespeople. This has been a recurrent issue in assignments we’ve conducted for retailers in the past that salespeople were actually seen by clients entering the store as hurdles. Clients feel actually frightened by the contact with salespeople and fear in particular to owe them something. Digital devices propose an interesting alternative for those customers who will be able to be advised by less intrusive methods and will not fear any pressure afterwards.

It poses however a problem for those retailers who don’t follow the trends. I was interviewed a few weeks ago by Trends – Tendances for an article they wanted to publish on Lookiss, a new retail initiative by Di (a former brand of Delhaize) which opened a concept store in Leuven (Belgium). While analyzing it with the journalist, I got the feeling that this sales point was only a gathering of existing products without a real innovation. In particular, although the store clearly addresses a younger audience, I couldn’t find any evidence of digital devices being used or of social media initiative enabling cross-channel promotion

Advice for your business strategy

If you’re about to open a retail store, don’t neglect digital aspects. They are crucial to improve the experience of your customers, create a unique differentiation strategy and develop your sales. This will also show to be essential in the future to get loyal customers. Be aware that expectations in terms of in-store digital interaction will rise and that customers will be more and more demanding. Not surfing on the digital wave will impact the satisfaction of your customers negatively and will jeopardize the survival of your venture.

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Author: Pierre-Nicolas Schwab

Dr. Pierre-Nicolas Schwab is the founder of IntoTheMinds. He specializes in e-commerce, retail and logistics. He is also a research fellow in the marketing department of the Free University of Brussels and acts as a coach for several startups and public organizations. He holds a PhD in Marketing, a MBA in Finance, and a MSc in Chemistry. He can be contacted by email, Linkedin or by phone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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