Architectural Systems had a full house for an interactive discussion during the Shop! Association Retail Design Collective, titled Creating Experiential Spaces with Virtual Reality, with presentations by Verizon, RYOT Studio, Bergmeyer Associates, Vera Bradley and Chipman Design Architecture. The panel was moderated by ASI President and Shop! Association, Women of Distinction, Nancy Jackson.
“Virtual Reality is the use of computer technology to create a simulated environment placing the user into an immersive experience interacting in a 3D environment. It provides a platform where you are no longer an observer but a participant, the core of VR is experience and presence. For retail designers the narrative brand storytelling doesn’t change but the way in which they tell the story around us with Virtual Reality will change.
We are navigating in an experience economy, and the expectation of the customer is to have an elevated journey when immersed in a branded environment; and as you saw during the presentations whether enhancing the in-store experience or affecting the actual design process outcome, Virtual Reality has arrived!” states Nancy Jackson.
The panel discussed how leading retail brands and design firms are integrating VR into their design process.
Kambiz Hemati, executive creative director, head of design, spoke about how Verizon incorporated virtual reality technology into their San Francisco flagship to show how dimensional story telling enhances the customer experience. Combining design innovation with their red brand color and the Verizon technology incorporated in the fixtures too; the goal was met in delivering a space where you are immersed in a state of the art store yet the VR experience delivers a local flavor of San Francisco and engagement on a personal level.
RYOT is in the business of building and implementing emerging immersive and linear technology. Josh Gold, executive producer, RYOT shared how they were challenged to bring something fresh to the Verizon Wireless Experience. RYOT used VR to give customers an opportunity to experience a perspective of San Francisco as a local rather than that of a tourist by creating content not only with the standard SF iconic sites. They had drones and helicopters drop into different areas of the city by the bay at night to provide an active and participatory experience for the in store customer.
Mare Weiss, principal, and Bill Spaulding, senior associate, education & technology director of Bergmeyer Associates Inc. educated the audience on how virtual reality is used as a tool in the design process. Bill Spaulding provided a historical context of VR and how the technology has advanced over the years. Mare Weiss gave the audience a walkthrough of how VR is implemented to design and merchandise retail spaces even before they are built out. They concluded with forecasting what might be next for VR and Augmented Reality which includes no headsets, eye tracking innovations, laser scan technology integration, and mapping.
Melissa Flickinger, director of store planning, design and visual merchandising at Vera Bradley explained how Vera Bradley wanted to expand the brand offering into lifestyle with the introduction of a bedding line. Many of the stores are not large enough to show this product. Melisa Flickinger discussed how they worked with NY Fashion Tech Lab and partnered with Obsess to bring VR technology into their NYC SOHO location to be able to introduce the bedding line. It was so successful, they sold out product in the first week and won VMSD Excellence in Store Design and Visual Merchandising Award at the PAVE Gala. As a Vera Bradley strategic material partner, ASI invited the retailer to set up a Pop-Up Shop in the ASI Showroom during market week, which included the bedding collection and the VR Headset!
Lauren Chipman, CEO and principal, Chipman Design Architecture, focused on sharing with the audience how virtual reality was instrumental in the planning and designing of the Manhattan ULTA Beauty flagship location. Uses included troubleshooting specific challenges with VR goggles used by contractors on the job site, which proved to be an effective measure to save costs and time on the build out and ensured everyone involved in the project was on the same page. Her takeaway was how virtual reality can be used at the construction phases of a project to create an optimal outcome.