VR Solves a Classic Retail Problem
Helping Decathlon maximize space with the first in-store VR experience
- Retail & Consumer Goods
- Emerging Technologies
- CX Strategy
Get to Know Decathlon
With over 1,500 stores in 60 countries, Decathlon is one of the world's largest sporting goods retailers. The company employs more than 80,000 people globally from 80 different nationalities. They have achieved this level of success by being very aware of what their customers want and need and by constantly challenging themselves to progress and improve.
Decathlon is a brand with an eye to the future. They have a focus on reinvinting retail by creating unique and relevant experiences that boost sells. Even as far back as 2016 they were keen on a new kind of tech that was emerging. In order to help them along the path towards creating the dynamic store of the future, we were lucky to partner with Decathlon in the creation of one of the first VR solutions to a common brick and mortar space issue.
Developing the First Retail VR Experience
Decathlon's need was simple: They had two square meters worth of space to showcase products they would have needed a full football pitch of space to showcase properly. The solution was tougher. We needed to build a way for customers to experience the larger products in Decathlon's catelogue. VR was a good solution, but given that there were no such experiences in existence prior to this project, the job was to create a functional VR experience that met Decathlon's needs and would be easily adopted by users without any real roadmap on how it should be done. With the help of experts in game design, we started working on discovery and the steps to creating the first POC.
The solution was tested in a store in Paris, and with the direct feedback received from customers, a functional MVP was developed. Immediately, it was clear that giving customers the ability to experience the benefits of Decathlon's products in VR carried an unexpected benefit. Not only did it give Decathlon the ability to showcase its products with limited space, it also provided an important upsell opportunity that changed the way customers shopped. Typically when looking for a multi-person tent, customers would come in thinking they knew what they needed and look through a catalogue to find something that suited them. With the VR platform, customers often saw that a larger tent than the size they assumed they needed was a better fit for a comparably small up charge. Thusly, the VR solution allowed Decathlon to display their products and increased the average sale.
Lasting Lessons From Early VR Research
As one of the first companies helping brands into the VR space, we benefit from a lot of early learnings that continue to serve us today. The first being the importance of choosing the right hardware.
Hardware is a big challenge because VR has been primarily developed for the gaming space, and therefore the controllers tend to feel more natural to gamers. However, when developing an experience for a retail store, it's crucial not to focus on the behaviors and comfort of a niche group. Choosing hardware with a low entry point for comfortable use and technology with a paired down functionality are crucial for VR projects. We simplified as much of the interaction and inputs as we could to minimize the effort of onboarding, leading to a solution that used only one button on one remote.
In addition to the hardware and software, we also collected early learnings about the users likely to interact with these offerings. We saw two different exteremes in user types that both needed to be addressed in a successful solution: The Natural and The Rock.
The Natural is someone who adapts easily, but is likely to get lost in the experience to such an extent that they move out of the physical space, walk into walls, or will otherwise focus firmly on the digital while missing the physical world. The Rock is someone who stands perfectly still as though they are watching a screen as opposed to interacting with the content before them.
Any functional solution has to take each situation into consideration and meet the needs of both end user types. Having done this work from as early as 2016 leaves Valtech well positioned to meet our customers' VR needs well into the future.
Valtech has been working in VR since 2016. With this experience, we helped usher in one of the first functional VR experiences ever seen in a retail space. And the project taught us a lot about how to best create a VR solution end users will be happy to make use of. Additionally, it taught us a lot about how to build a team well suited to creating such a product. The game developers and UX designers were perfectly well matched to create a system that would be right at home in any gaming system, but far more easily controllable for a non-gamer userbase.
Decathlon's VR experiences have been introduced in 92 stores in 15 countries. Customers, equipped with VR helmets provided in-store, can now view products in a variety of backgrounds by adjusting the VR brightness and weather conditions.
Through our strong UX/UI expertise, and by leveraging a state-of-the-art gaming engine like Unity, we managed to create a completely immersive room-scale VR experience, where the customer actually feels like he’s going camping and is ready to discover new products.
Ludovic Maire, Director Technology Solutions, Valtech Canada