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Star Wars and John Lewis saving retail one location-based VR experience at a time

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Star Wars is set to save the high street. No, Luke Skywalker isn’t going to be wielding The Force to mind control consumers to start shopping in stores, rather Disney’s ILMxLab and John Lewis – along with FoxNext and Zero Latency – are demonstrating that experiential location-based virtual reality (LBVR) is a viable business investment, which can be leveraged to spark consumers’ mundane brick-and-mortar store experience.

According to the latest Worldwide Virtual Reality Tracker Report conducted by Futuresource Consulting, LBVRT is gaining momentum, with consumer spending expected to reach £579 million by 2020.

John Lewis is the UK’s first retailer to satisfy its customer appetite for virtual reality experience by running a series of HD visual interactive sessions in its flagship Oxford Street store in London. Gatwick Airport, on the other hand, has put virtual reality to work to enable travellers to navigate the airport easier, conduct seamless mobile payments and overall provide travel-makers with the facilities never offered before.

Overall, the VRcade sector has 4,000 worldwide locations of which those in China account for 75-80%, offering a low-cost and consequently limited-quality experiences, reveals the same body of research.

Conversely, at the other end of the spectrum are high-end, free-roam and interactive multi-player ’location-based’ VR experiences. By 2020, multiplayer VR experiences are predicted to account for 41% of Global LBVR consumer spend.

“Q1 2018 saw significant growth and rising consumer spending, which is expected to lead a full year spend £214 million in 2018 across the four types of LBVR categories as [shopping] arcades, multiplayer experiences, VR cinema and VR theme parks,” explains Carl Hibbert, Associate Director of Consumer Media & Technology at Futuresource Consulting.

He continues: “All of four categories, ’VRcades’  has seen the fastest take-off. The category was estimated at £57 million consumer spend in 2017, accounting for 40% of all LBVR revenues. Multi-player LBVR allows players to roam free, untethered and with others in a VR environment. This category is expected to have the highest CAGR rate across the forecast period, despite a lower number of installations. This is due to consumer desire to pay for sociable experiences with friends, especially in more developed markets.

“Furthermore, the majority of multi-player installations offer original content restricted to franchise partners, thus remaining exclusive and adding to the attractiveness,” concludes Hibbert.

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