Augment your business's reality

Augmented reality isn't just for gamers, it has very real business applications.

Johannesburg, 20 Jun 2017
Read time 4min 00sec
Andrew Dawson, Commercial Director, Solutions in Hand.
Andrew Dawson, Commercial Director, Solutions in Hand.

Augmented reality is becoming more mainstream. Instead of creating a wholly virtual world (i.e. virtual reality), augmented reality imposes a virtual world over the real one, encompassing elements of both. And its applications are growing - the Google Play Store and IOS store have between them more than 310 000 applications that incorporate augmented reality (AR).

Initially, AR was used predominantly in the gaming industry, but the past four years have seen a shift towards more business-driven applications as emerging technologies begin to fill a gap created by more technologically aware business owners wanting the best commercial opportunities for their products, and a growing awareness of the importance of the correct 'look of success' in differentiating product and brand from those of the competition.

This focus on a brand image having to look a certain way has been fuelled by increasing competitiveness between companies of all sizes who are beginning to compete against each other, using the power of the Internet to level the playing fields, posing a massive threat to traditional bricks and mortar establishments.

To remain competitive, business owners are turning to sales force automation technologies to gain a competitive edge, and AR is the next step in this revolution. The technology is being used to engage users and address business problems in a new and creative ways across most industries.

AR in retail

Andrew Dawson, Commercial Director, Solutions in Hand, says, "AR is revolutionising the distribution management and sales force automation sectors. We're able to take an image of what a product display looks like in real time and superimpose the desired 'look of success' appearance over that image, so that the stocker can repack the product display with the effectiveness of a marketing specialist to match the AR image."

The 'look of success' refers to the supplier's ideal image of how their products should be displayed to match their marketing strategy and coincide with their brand image. "The use of AR is the most effective measure that one can put in place to remedy incorrect stock levels and/or placements," says Dawson.

Dawson explains: "The first step is to select the asset or object that is to be analysed by the AR technology. The app can determine the user's location, identifying the outlet and its associated 'look of success' layout. The user then taps on the point of interest to be analysed and the AR technology augments the correct 'look of success' onto the device screen, which shows the correct and incorrect stock placement and suggests the optimal alternative using intuitive graphics. The data recorded by the technology ensures that valuable compliance data is recorded and interpreted to better your businesses awareness and allow for action plans to be put into place to maintain or improve the outlet in question.

"By using the AR application, the user can identify whether stock is incorrectly packed, when stock numbers are low, or when a competitor's stock is infringing on your brand's shelf space."

Benefits of using AR in retail environments

The data captured can be used to provide compliance reporting on the following:

* Total compliance for the section/item;
* Product-based compliance;
* Shelf-based compliance; and
* Stock shortages.

Additional benefits include:

* Data is gathered quickly and in a user friendly way, getting rid of big files and time wasted on searching for the correct 'look of success' images.
* AR applications provide more in-depth data on compliance at both product and shelf level.
* The data gathered listing competitor products is combined with the compliance data to provide a total compliance percentage for the outlet.
* Allows for reporting on compliance vs revenue and shows if there is a correlation between low sale figures and compliance for an outlet, different sections within the outlet, or specific products.
* Get feedback on whether marketing strategies are working.

AR is most definitely the next step in the evolution of shelf and fridge execution management, there is unfortunately still a human element involved in the process so there can well be issues around 'finger trouble' and the like. However, but this process needs to be in place as a learning curve in order to reach the ultimate end state, which is the use of artificial intelligence to replicate the process but without the human engagement.

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