Retail VR & Spatial Design: Building Stores for Tomorrow

June 15, 2023
-min read

The landscape of retail is evolving. Marrying spatial planning and store design with VR is opening a new chapter for innovation in the sector, adding a new level of immersion and depth to the consumer experience.  

By integrating VR, retailers can go beyond the traditional boundaries of imagination and reimagine spatial aesthetics.  

Read on to uncover the advantages of virtual reality in retail and why it’s the future of store design and planning.

The Evolution of Store Design & Spatial Planning

As with all industries, the nascent of retail was analog. But we’re worlds away from the traditional pencil-and-paper design method. 

We first saw CAD enter the scene in the 50s, and then BIM followed as a concept in the late 70s, though it truly came into being in the 80s. Though there are a lot of commonalities between the two, BIM has become the industry standard for designing and planning commercial spaces. 

Fast forward to today, and the latest game-changer in spatial design is virtual reality. BIM still has its place and will hold onto it for the next five to 10 years, at least. But VR goes way further than BIM can, combining both the design and test/experience elements into one, comprehensive package.

Retail VR: The Future of Store Design & Planning

VR excels as a partner to retail because you can actually visit your designs at every stage and after every iteration. The benefits for both business and client here are massive. And the capabilities will only keep on coming. We can expect to see: 

  • AI Integration: Combining AI with spatial design process will see much of that process being automated. And not just that. You’ll be suggested personalized shopping experiences as well as better, more optimized layouts based on the data your clients provide
  • Even Greater Realism: VR is continually evolving, seeing us edge ever closer to actual realism. While it’s already giving designers an almost unbelievably accurate representation of physical spaces, advancements in VR technology will only enable that immersion to grow 
  • Improved Connectivity: The best person for the job isn’t always local. The ability to collaborate on projects from anywhere in the world; to grow your client base regardless of location, VR provides those opportunities with an added level of immersion that no other technology can compete with

3 Advantages of Using VR in the Design & Planning Process

It’s Sustainable

Testing your ideas for floor plans and iterating in VR prevents the waste that comes with buying physical assets. It makes spatial planning and design much cheaper, too. 

There’s no need for mock-ups and prototypes—which, as you know, quickly increase costs—since a whole store can be speedily and sustainably built in a digital environment first. An added benefit of that is you’ll recognize any issues with a design before it’s too late.

Make Real-Time Adjustments

Exploring a space before it’s built carries a ton of advantages. But one particularly important benefit is that you can keep your client in the loop at every stage of the project. 

Keeping up with your clients’ changing demands isn’t an easy feat. With VR, each milestone of progress you reach can be assessed and signed off on. There’s no need to wait for project completion to find out whether your client is happy or not. You can easily make adjustments in real-time.

Live Collaboration

VR makes it easy to collaborate because designers can visualize and interact with a 3D representation of a retail environment in real-time, regardless of location. 

Any misunderstandings that come with interpreting 2D plans are eliminated, ultimately leading to better results and decision-making. What’s more, it also accelerates the ideation-to-execution timeline since instant adjustments can be made based on feedback.

Our Thoughts

The transformative potential for retail with VR is massive, and it exceeds well beyond both spatial planning and store design. Major retailers like Nike are already using VR to provide storytelling experiences of their brand and iconic sneakers. We’re also seeing a rise in virtual stores.  

VR is the retail designer’s tool of the future — lending itself as a sustainable, emerging solution that’s able to meet the sector’s demands of tomorrow.