By Alon Melchner

Let’s look back ten to 12 years and consider if anyone could imagine just how smartphones would change our lives or the effect it would have on our social life, leisure, finance and our consumption of data and sales.

Just consider that nearly half of holiday shoppers had planned to use their smartphones and a fourth said they would use their tablets for the 2018 holiday shopping season1. Black Friday last year racked up USD $6.2 billion in online revenue, with over 30% of sales on the traditionally bricks-and-mortar shopping day were conducted using mobile devices2. Now imagine what would have happened if we combined this experience in a more realistic, natural way?

The beginnings
Up to now, content has been consumed unnaturally in 2D format, first in print, later on radio and TV and more recently on the Internet and digitally in both fixed locations and now increasingly on mobile devices. But we live and interact in a three-dimensional world.

So why have we interacted on 2D screens until now? Technology had not yet been developed despite some attempts. The catch is that in all cases the content has been viewed on square and relatively limited screens.

Augmented reality (AR) led to some improvement providing 3D content in front of cameras or maybe in newspaper online ads that were brought to life with AR. But we still watched the content on 2D mobile device screens.

Virtual reality (VR) allowed us to immerse ourselves in 3D virtual spaces, which bear a greater resemblance to the 3D experience. With a headset we could experience and interact with content and feel as if it were really there. Despite the novelty, the user was taken into a virtual environment that was not connected with the real world.

But the aim of both AR and VR was to change reality, improving on it and to create new experiences. What we’ve seen is a preview of what is coming and it will be much sooner than anyone expected. The digital world will then become part of reality.

Enter mixed reality
Mixed reality (MR), as opposed to AR and VR, is where digital content understands the real world, makes use of real locations and is part of the actual or physical worlds, in a natural and realistic way. MR remains constant until it moves, just like a real object, easily viewed by anyone who is at the location. In effect it becomes part of reality.

The MR revolution will begin on mobile phones. The users will activate the cameras and see the world covered accurately with digital content. The market is estimated at more than $200 billion by 20223.

The next stage will be the introduction of smart glasses by all of the leading manufacturers. Apple will probably release their product by 2020 and this is likely to be the next wave in technology similar to what the iPhone was for the smartphone market.

Some companies like Mixed.Place are developing an infrastructure that will enable the business world to easily adapt location-based MR content. By developing the necessary technology now, retailers will be ready for the revolutionary changes in stores: similar to what happened more than a decade ago with the introduction of e-commerce web sites and mobile apps.

How can the retail world take advantage of MR?

To increase sales, engagements, loyalty and foot-traffic experiences; Combine personalized, digital products on shelves inside real stores or shopping malls. No need to offer pop-up tables in stores with just a few products as MR allows retailers to offer products according to different parameters like gender, age or colour; Use interactive mannequins that can have one’s gender, body size and wearing a favourite colour. Artificial intelligence (AI) will be used to answer any questions, give directions and lead to increased sales;  Create foot-traffic and engagements at real locations in the stores. Attract customers to specific brands or locations within the stores; and Interactive window shopping: enabling customers to “magically” remove products from the display windows, see how it looks on them and experience the products’ feel. The products could then be bought in the store or in MR-enabled e-commerce.

E-commerce will enter a new era when the consumer will have a virtual closet or shelf in their own home. When it is opened, the customer will see personalized offers using 3D realistic technology that can be bought by just dragging the product into one’s own room.

How will marketing change?
Advertisements, billboards, mass transit ads and points of sale (POS) can be brought to life by changing the concept of the street, room or the world at large;
Marketers will be able to equip customers with tools to change the world by enabling them to colour the streets with companies’ colours, products and/or logos. The digital content will remain at the locations and be visible only with the use of mobile devices or smart glasses. Pokémon Go did it with predefined Pokémons on a map;
Virtual collectibles and loyalty programmes will be upgraded and become global experiences that are interactive, infinite, exciting and viral. They merge the digital and real worlds; and
Social experiences and content will grow exponentially as a result of new innovative technologies, and this will be accompanied by an increase in creativity. Snapchat was the first to try this, but the trend will explode in the future and can be used to highlight any brand.

Be prepared for the Mixed Reality revolution, which is coming within one to two years. Everyone will be taking part in the MR world. Billions of dollars are expected to be invested in this new revolutionary medium. Consumers are looking for new and innovative experiences. Jump on the bandwagon.

Alon Melchner is CEO of Mixed.Place (www.mixed.place).

1 Rod Sides, Bryan Furman, Rama Krishna V Sangadi and Susan K. Hogan, “2018 Deloitte holiday retail survey,” Deloitte, article, October 23, 2018.
2 Ingrid Lunden,” Black Friday hits $6.2B in US online sales, smartphones accounted for $2.1B”, TechCrunch, article, November 23, 2018.
3 “Forecast augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR) market size worldwide from 2016 to 2022 (in billion U.S. dollars)”, Statista, 2019.

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