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By Thomas Buckley
Thanks to technology, sales reps in the consumer goods industry are working much more productively and efficiently than they were once able to. Smart phones and tablets have revolutionized data capture in store, and through mobile pitching tools, sales reps are easily able to present multimedia information to store managers, showing them inventory levels, competitor information and product performance, giving retailers greater insight into sales and in-store selling strategies. But until now, those reps have been unable to communicate visually what a certain product or display may look like in an actual store setting.
For grocery stores and consumer goods manufacturers alike, conveying a vision is vital, and forward thinking retail companies are aware that product visualization will become a need in brick-and-mortar stores. With the introduction of augmented reality, there’s a new vehicle for real-time product visualization, both online and onsite.
Augmented reality imposes an object or objects into the real world. What makes AR so appealing is that, unlike virtual reality, which is frequently hailed as the next great thing in technology, it does not require a device such as a headset or a set of smartglasses to operate. To use augmented reality, a user holds their phone or tablet camera up, showing a picture of the store in front of them on the screen. The user them drags and drops the ‘virtual’ display or product around the screen. The virtual object scales correctly for the picture on the screen, making it appear as though the virtual object is placed in the real world. Viewers can then see exactly what the display or product would look like in their store. The images can be emailed, or attached to a contract with the retailer, describing the specific location of the display.
AR simulations can show an end cap display with a brand of cookies, chocolate or pet food in the actual store environment, or a beverage display sized to fit in a certain location within a store featuring the products being promoted. Using an AR application, a sales rep can show the simulated layout to a store manager, providing a visual impact their sales pitch.
Sales teams can enhance product performance by tailoring their sales pitch to each specific store and buyer. This includes using store specific visuals to show how a display will look in store – and this is where augmented reality has an advantage over generic sell sheets. With AR, store managers are quickly able to envision the product and fully understand its value in a specific location.
In addition to providing support for the sales process, augmented reality helps ensure store compliance with agreed display and product standards. A misplaced display or sales promotion can result in a loss of sales for stores and CPG manufacturers, as well as an annoyed customer. Through AR, stores and manufacturers can picture a display in real environments beforehand, eliminating the guessing game and enhancing the in-store experience for everyone. A common example of noncompliance happens when the two people that made the agreement to place a display are not there when the display is positioned, or when the placement of a display doesn’t meet a retailer’s clean store policies. An AR picture is the perfect reference that shows the exact position of display agreed to, ensuring that build orders will be carried out more accurately and in line with store guidelines.
As AR becomes a standard part of the sales representative toolkit, retailers will be better able to plan for product promotions and compliance, and ultimately optimizing in-store success.
Thomas Buckley is CEO of StayInFront, a global provider of mobile, cloud-based field force effectiveness and customer relationship management solutions for consumer goods and life sciences organizations.