Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies have begun to make their leap from nascent technologies to comprehensive solutions that enable and empower many mainstream consumer/enterprise applications, customer experiences and various industry workflows. A revolution that started in the gaming industry with games such as ‘Pokemon Go’ is now making inroads into other industries such as real estate, retail, education, et al.

In retail, for example, AR and VR technologies are being adopted in a big way to create new digital consumer experiences. In my previous blog, I shared some of my online shopping thoughts and experiences to illustrate how these new technologies combined with mobility and smartphones can transform consumer product selection and payment processes in a very big way.  While AR/VR are great technologies in themselves, it is truly the combination with mobile networking that makes them a big game changer. Mobile access has become increasingly pervasive (with higher performance demands and expectations for many). According to Cisco’s latest Mobile VNI Forecast, smartphones (and phablets) will exceed a 50% share of total mobile devices and connection by 2022. Furthermore, smartphones will be responsible for more than 90% of global mobile data traffic by 2022. This projection punctuates the fact that smartphones are much more than a convenient communications device. They have become a digital hub (for many) that allow users to control other devices and services, access news and entertainment media, log on to business applications, purchase goods via e-commerce, and much more.Global Mobile Device Growth: 7% CAGR 2017-2022

Global Mobile Traffic Growth by Device: 46% CAGR 2017-2022

Cisco’s Mobile VNI Forecast also indicates that within the global mobile networking category (2G, 3G, 4G and 5G), AR and VR mobile data traffic will grow nearly 12-fold from 2017 to 2022.

Global Augmented and Virtual Reality Mobile Traffic: 63% CAGR 2017-2022

Large-scale 5G deployments are imminent and the Cisco Mobile VNI Forecast anticipates that there will be more than 400 million 5G connections  by 2022. At last month’s Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins spoke about the potential and reality of 5G (see keynote address). Many other technology leaders share his view that 5G will bring about transformational innovations and introduce phenomenal new possibilities for businesses and consumers.

So, what does this mean for retail? A lot! As mobile technology becomes more and more accessible and intertwined in people’ s lives, their habits as consumers are beginning to change. More and more people are shopping online via tablets, smartphones, and phablets — so its only prudent for forward-thinking retailers to transform digitally and shift their focus to prioritizing their mobile offerings and capabilities. When you add enhanced 5G connectivity to the mix (with extremely low latency and almost “real time” feedback), VR and AR applications can be taken to an entirely new level. Imagine the following consumer experiences:

  • Trying on new clothes to see what works for you without lifting a finger.
  • Choosing from a virtual catalog of glasses to pick the style that best suits your unique face shape
  • Selecting and coordinating different furniture, their colors and layouts to make sure it’s perfect before it even arrives at your home
  • Seeing and specifying how you want various items to be fit/positioned in a box or container that is being shipped to you
  • Store layout and merchandise effectiveness for product layout
  • Experience based retail – Drinking wine in your favorite vineyard, driving a car on your favorite race track or cooking with your favorite chef.

The possibilities are endless when these three powerful elements are combined – a multimedia mobile device, 5G access and AR/VR solutions. According to the VR/AR Association, there is a a clear and tangible financial opportunity.

“The VR retail market is expected to rise to $1.6B by 2025, and AR could reach $30B in sales.  The retail industry was expected to spend $1B in 2017 on VR/AR solutions. Driven by a 5-year CAGR of 240%, forecasts show that retail could become the top industry for VR/AR spending by 2020.”


Kathryn Howe (@HoweKat), Director of Industry Digital Transformation at Cisco, offers the following perspective.

“The trend in consumer industries is to move capabilities to the device in order to enable the consumer to do more with self-service functions. As 5G, pervasive connectivity and processing at the edge converge, the disruption that we will see across all industries will be unprecedented.”


Here’s the bottom line for next-generation retail. If a consumer is genuinely interested in certain services or goods from a retailer, he/she will be able to opt in for a digital experience. The “transaction” will be enabled and enhanced by AR/VR and it will be extremely personalized and the consumer will have the choice as to how they want the product or service, where they want the product or service, and when they want the product or service. Consumers will have the added benefit and convenience of going through the entire process in comfort of their homes (or wherever they happen to be) with every available option at their finger-tips. For the retailer, advanced data and analytics will create an improved customer relationship and the opportunity to target appropriate products and services more effectively based on demographics, preferences, and buying patterns. When done strategically and in compliance with relevant privacy guidelines, it’s a big win-win for retailers and their customers!

Stay tuned for my next blog on Digital Retail focusing on the customer shopping journey!

Cisco Mobile VNI Forecast Resources




Taru Khurana

Marketing Manager, Product/Systems