ShelfZone, a VR tool for improving retailing

Shelfzone is a B2B VR program for retailers but hopes to one day be your digital shopping destination.

Shelfzone by InVRsion is a retail space simulator. Using VR, Shelfzone replicates supermarkets, malls, and other retail establishments allowing customers to interact as if it were an actual location. As one of the few VR solutions dedicated to retail visualization, Shelfzone currently sells a software solution aimed at retailers for analysis and planogram optimization. In the future, Shelfzone has plans to allow shopping to occur from home using their technology as seen in the video below.

Currently, Shelfzone creates value for retailers in two ways. The first is planogram optimization. When a retailer sets up a traditional planogram to test and configure layouts, it is done physically. With each test, the planogram is adjusted requiring hours to complete tests. With Shelfzone, retailers can create their planograms virtually, and have test shoppers interact digitally. The ability to adjust layouts quickly or use A/B tests to compare layout performance is a massive improvement over physical planograms. In addition, the amount of data that can be generated real-time is also an improvement over existing methods which is the second main value creator. Data can now be gathered with eye tracking software to allow retailers to track how long someone looks at an item and/or which items they looked at prior to picking up an item. In addition, tracking of movement throughout the store along analytics tools gives retailers a perspective on shopper behavior they never had before. To capture this value, Shelfzone is a customizable software tool that is sold directly to retailers with a physical presence. Additional services such as consulting and industry reports are also available as the company obtains more customers.

While the software alone is a unique B2B solution, the possibilities for this company really start to emerge with B2C models. Here are two distinct ideas that may enable this business to grow beyond its B2B software roots, assuming customers will find value in shopping from realistic but digital stores from home:

A platform for virtual shopping.

With the technology to create digital versions of physical stores, Shelfzone is positioned to offer what most retailers wish they had, a platform. Just like today’s shopping malls, Shelfzone could offer a destination that includes multiple retailers allowing customers to take advantage of all the benefits a VR storefront gives, from the comfort of their own home. To enable this, Shelfzone needs to have seamless interfaces with databases from retailers. The creation of a new store should be as easy as creating an Amazon 3rd party store. With this ability, Shelfzone could be one of the first platforms attracting retailers right away with minimal work and paving the way for customer adoption to grow unencumbered. Although multi-homing could be a problem if other platforms emerge, Shelfzone should offer differentiating services such as special discounts or shipping benefits for all products on their platform. They could be the Amazon of physical stores in the AR world.

Utilizing crowd reviews

One of the weaknesses of physical retail is the inability to overlay real-time data onto products. For Shelfzone, there are many ways to increase value to the consumer using data. A store that includes illuminated expiry for groceries or illuminated sale items are just two examples of unique features that customers would find useful. However, a feature that would increase value immensely would be crowd sourced reviews for items. Again, like Amazon, Shelfzone could encourage and maintain reviews for items that didn’t have reviews before, increasing the likelihood of purchase, especially for highly praised items. In addition, this could be implemented two ways. The first, being a full VR solution where shoppers buy in a digital world and have their products or groceries shipped to home. The other way is to create AR software that would allow shoppers in physical stores to overlay the data, real-time as they are shopping. Either way, the application of crowd sourced data to an environment that lacked it for so long is sure to change shopping for the better.


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Student comments on ShelfZone, a VR tool for improving retailing

  1. You already hinted at it when you wrote “assuming customers will find value in shopping from realistic but digital stores from home”: What is the unsolved need from the customer’s point of view? I think I would prefer NOT to walk virtually through a supermarket, but to say/write the item I am looking for and then being told the brand, price, quantity etc.

  2. I think they should continue to focus on B2B applications. If needed step into other industries as well. Oil and gas companies have used VR to plan drilling activities for years now. Except their device currently is literally a room. But the point is that such companies do not view VR as their core competency. It’s just one of many tools applied in specific situations. This company will scale well if it becomes the go-to VR service provider across industries.

  3. What a coincidence! Both of us wrote about the VR application in shopping. In my research of VR shopping, one concern loomed. The production of VR headsets fell way behind the development of platforms or headsets. I wonder if ShelfZone develops its own VR headsets or partners with a manufacturer. At the end of the day, the headset shortage will affect the sales of ShelfZone, won’t it?

  4. Hey Yi…I wrote on a similar concept of VisualCommerce which is aimed at the retailing and manufacturing industry. Enterprise Solutions is the way to go for them. It looks like this market seems to provide a ready interface to the VR industry and has an easy application. It might get overcrowded soon and therefore there is a need to build a market and gain the first mover advantage.

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