Imagine trying on a shirt by your favorite designer without leaving your home. Don’t like the color? Simply wave your hand to better coordinate with the rest of your outfit. Or imagine gazing at a new couch in your living room, considering how it works with the rest of your furniture. Too big for that room? Just whisk it to the family room without an ounce of effort. These scenarios may seem like far-off, sci-fi fantasies, but they are real opportunities for retailers

In the first of a multipart series on virtual commerce, L.E.K. Consulting examines how augmented and virtual reality — AR and VR, respectively — are on the verge of transforming the way consumers shop. Just as retailers are racing to manage the fact that 10, 20 or 30+% of their businesses have moved online, a confluence of technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), computational imaging and beacon technology have emerged to disrupt, yet again, the emerging omnichannel paradigm.

While unsettling and scary, the successful incorporation of AR/VR into retail models also has the potential to vastly change the way retailers are thinking about stores-of-the-future. The successful navigation of this sea change will inevitably create new opportunities — and winners.

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