Opinion Piece Ft. on Mumbrella

In a week flooded with news about the price of a Super Bowl ad spot and Usher’s acrobatic half-time performance, reviews started coming in for Apple’s latest innovation and groundbreaking development into spatial computing: the Vision Pro. And in classic Apple fashion, it didn’t need a Super Bowl spot to cause a stir.

In case you missed it, Apple’s Vision Pro headset priced at $3,499 USD brings digital content and blends it into the physical realm with a new kind of virtual reality experience. And while for many of us, getting our hands on Apple’s latest piece of tech might need to wait out the cost-of-living crisis, we do get a glimpse into what the future of retail shopping could look like.

In the realm of e-commerce, imagine being able to virtually try on clothes, shoes, whatever, in the comfort of your own bedroom with your own 3D avatar showing a true-to-life representation of potential purchases.

What’s more, the technology may also see a reduction in return rates from online shopping. Recent studies indicate return rates in e-commerce hover between 5-15% which poses significant challenges for retailers. With the immersive experience provided by the Vision Pro, retailers could anticipate a decrease in return rates as consumers make more informed purchasing decisions. Sounds good, right?

And with that kind of at-home-anywhere shopping experience and a goodbye to buyer’s remorse, you might ask if there is still a need for brick-and-mortar retail shops. And yes, the potential of the Vision Pro to revolutionise both e-commerce and brick-and-mortar shopping behaviours is undeniable. It’s a game-changer for the retail landscape, for sure. But death to brick-and-mortar? I’d say far from it.

In brick-and-mortar environments, retailers stand to benefit from the Vision Pro’s mass adoption when, and importantly, if, that happens. Retailers will be able to leverage this technology to enhance the in-store experience, enticing customers with personalised offers and interactive displays. Imagine strolling through a Westfield and receiving push notifications alerting you to nearby sales with integrated maps guiding you directly there. 

The potential extends far beyond mere notifications. Retailers could also create immersive environments where customers can see customer reviews and receive real-time recommendations. There’s also a significant opportunity for tech integration within e-commerce platforms like Shopify which could see a proliferation of innovative shopping experiences across various online storefronts. 

By bridging the gap between the physical and digital realms, Apple’s Vision Pro may allow retailers to deepen consumer engagement and create a truly 360 degree customer shopping experience, both in-store, and online. 

Let’s also not forget that predictions of the demise of brick-and-mortar retail have been proven wrong time and time again, especially in light of post-pandemic consumer behaviour. The physical experience of retail holds a unique appeal that hasn’t yet been replicated or replaced by online. If executed well, VR through the Apple Vision Pro could help blur the lines between siloed retail experiences and give consumers the unique experience they crave.

However, the barrier to entry to adopt spatial computing technology is the imaginary elephant in the retail room, and the Vision Pro’s current limitations are apparent. 

If you’re on-the-go and not plugged in, battery life of a Vision Pro runs short at just two hours. Of course, the cost of a first-gen device is hefty for everyday consumers, and the investment required for retailers to blur the lines between the physical and digital shopping experiences is significant. However, ultimately, the biggest limitation is mass adoption. 

Snapchat and Meta have both made strides in AR shopping filters, yet the uptake has been lacklustre. We’re not yet in an era where we have the infrastructure and consumer buy-in to fully support electric vehicles on our roads, and we’re definitely not yet in an era where we’re all walking past Hungry Jack’s on Queen Street Mall with a headset covering our face. However, with Apple’s influence and innovation, maybe this time will be different.

We stand on the cusp of a new era in retail innovation, and the major players in the market that have resources and a willingness to invest in this technology have the first-movers advantage to shape the future of retail.


Josh Somerville

Josh loves a good pair of socks, so much so that he walks around the office without shoes on… a little too often. We’ll cut him some slack since he literally couldn’t hurt a fly and buys the team beer. Josh is the taller co-founder who’s still trying to beat his 62 year old father at Triathlon, with little luck and a bruised ego for it. When he’s not ensuring ad platforms are working cohesively together he’s probably spending his time with his partner Emily balancing the relationship between his cat Marco and border collie Bailey.