The Aussie firm Coates Group has formally started marketing its in-house virtual reality capabilities as a way to understand how digital signage and interactive screens could be integrated into the stores of its target vertical – fast food restaurants.
The company has opened up a lab and showroom in its new Chicago offices, and is bringing in target accounts to show them how signage fits in their stores – in a manner well beyond more traditional concept renderings or even 3D fly-throughs. In this case, they’re putting a set of high-end HTC VR goggles on customers and handing them wireless joysticks to navigate a virtual store.
With the Coates Lab VR tool, says a press release, creative teams and designers can immediately see their merchandising ideas come to life using a VR simulation of the customers’ environment. Until now, the first time a client saw the finished product was at the end of the design and manufacturing process, stimulating a wave of inspiration about what would work better and how to improve the experience.
Unfortunately, these light bulb moments are often realized too late. The costs, time, and finite resources prevent the client from achieving the best result possible. The Coates Lab now transforms that experience allowing brands to go on that creative journey, test “riskier” concepts through the eyes of their customers without prototyping, time delays or incurring huge costs.
Coates, which markets a set of digital and interactive solutions and services for QSR and retail in general, touts the experience as a more effective means of getting customers to really understand how things might look and work.
The PR says the Coates VR experience includes:
- Visualize entire spaces and merchandising campaigns in the early design phase;
- Complete design control from the point of conception;
- Tailor and revise digital solutions earlier in the process;
- Reduce piloting and modelling costs and time;
- Test and develop through the eyes of customers for maximum engagement;
- Conduct focus groups to collect real world insights.
The capability was built in-house using, I think, an open-source VR gaming engine. I went down to visit a few weeks ago and while skeptic of VR in many/most retail settings, very quickly understood this was more than a parlour trick to wow visitors. With those VR goggles on, you really did feel immersed in a space and could get a solid sense of things like sightlines.
I did a podcast this week with CEO Leo Coates if you want to hear more about the company.
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for some 14 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast.