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What VR means to the fruit and vegetable sector

While wearing a Virtual Reality (VR) headset, you can walk on the moon, step into movies, and play life-like games, all whilst sitting in your living room. Great for entertainment; but this digital world also have enormous potential in the fruit and vegetable sector. This was made apparent, last Friday, at a presentation made by Marilena Abt of Trend at the Deutscher Obst & Gemüse Kongress, or DOGK (German Fruit and Vegetable Congress).

Imagine: You put on a VR headset and find yourself in a supermarket. Not just any supermarket - this one carries only your favourite products. There will, of course, be a large fresh produce section. Near the tomatoes, there is a virtual assistant. "The recent sunny skies has made the cherry tomatoes extra sweet this week." You decide to take a punnet. You get all the articles you want and take the headset off. Two hours later your groceries are delivered to your doorstep.

Extra reality
Does this sound far-fetched? Yet, it is possible. Marilena Abt of Trend One explained at the DOGK what digitalisation can mean at Point of Sale (POS) in the fruit and vegetable sector. She sees various applications for Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality. "With Augmented Reality, you place a digital layer over reality. An example of this is Pokemon Go", she says. "You see the real world, with something extra added." In contrast, with Virtual Reality, you enter a wholly digital world.

Marilene Abt demonstrates how you can do shopping with Augmented Reality. You can see your total amount owed, displayed on your trolley.

Extra layer of information
An example of what Augmented Reality can mean for the fruit and vegetable sector, can already be seen in French supermarkets. There, thanks to Augmented Reality, consumers can get additional information about products. For example, what recipes you can make with it, or how many calories the product contains.

"This creates a kind of mixed reality", says Marilena. "You combine one reality with another. AN example of this is how you can, digitally, decorate a room, using a VR headset. The couch, for example, is digital, but you can see how it looks in analog room. "In Saturn, we use this technology to give each client a virtual assistant, called Paula. This digital personage guides the client through the shop, giving them advice." This can also be used to give people a value-added experience on the shop floor. Customers can see what path the fresh produce took, before ending up on the shop's shelves. Give them the opportunity to, digitally, peek into the greenhouse, and emphasis the products' freshness, for example.

Tech-Nick, a digital assistant, guides customers through the shop, Saturn, and gives them additional information about products.

The chain of production of cognac brand, Rémy Martin, is made visible with the use of a Hololens.

Completely virtual
The use of Virtual Reality is a step further when it comes to digitalisation. The consumer is, physically, at home, but thanks to Virtual Reality, they find themselves in the supermarket. They can point to articles, pick them up and put them in their baskets. Later, these articles get delivered to their home.
"Online auction site, Ebay, has taken this one step further", says Marilena. "They create a virtual warehouse, completely according to the consumers wishes and individual taste. It only contains the products and product recommendations that suit that particular consumer." This can be applied to supermarkets, and consumer's individual needs.

What do consumers want?
The possibilities are endless, says Marilena, as is the potential for technological applications. "But it fails or succeeds according to how consumers react. This is the true test." She mentioned three important trends. Firstly, "thanks to big data, we can find a lot more information on the consumer. You can gather this information and apply it to the POS in order to better support your customers."

Walking through a digital supermarket.

Speaking easy
The second is the advancement of physically speaking in the digital world. "This still feels strange for many consumers, but it is becoming more normal. The rise in popularity of smartphones means consumers find it tedious to type too much, making voice commands more popular. This can also be interesting at the POS." The third trend is convenience."Fresh, regional and fast. Consumers are ready for this, and expect this. When you order before 12 at certain businesses, your order is ready to be collected, or even delivered, by 2 o'clock. Just look at Amazon Go, where customers can leave without actually paying - it is completely geared towards convenience." This technology stems from automation. "I understand that it does not yet work 100% when there are many simultaneous customers, but it is certainly an interesting development."

What about privacy issues? Is Big Data the same as Big Brother? Marilena expects this to become a non-issue. "The convenience outweighs the anxiety about privacy." Offline shops will, also, still have their place. "We expected all commerce to become online, but there has been a strong trend to the contrary. Shopping is a form of relaxation, an experience and a place to connect to people. I believe in fusion: online, as well as offline, will remain players in the commerce game."

Publication date: 9/27/2017


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