Thinking About Building an Innovation Center? Here are 6 Things to Consider

Posted by Sumi Nair on December 8, 2017

thinking woman with question mark on gray wall background.jpegInnovation centers are integral to business strategy—a lot of thought, design and budget goes into creating and maintaining them. So the good news is emerging technologies are changing the game and enabling these centers to become less susceptible to the continuously changing trends in retail. If you’re currently considering building an innovation center (or planning on revamping an existing one) you'd be smart to add a powerful tool in your innovation toolbox: Mixed Reality.

Let me explain. 

A MR platform allows you to easily build 3D content and transfer it into a virtual environment. Immersive VR, like we use in our ShopperMX™ HIVE, allows teams and decision makers to then experience these new concepts within a fully-immersive VR simulation—they put on a VR headset, and feel like they are standing inside a store. It’s the same idea as a mock center, but with significant space and cost efficiencies.

Here are 6 reasons to consider implementing some kind of mixed reailty element into your innovation center: 

Ideate - The ability to adapt
Retail teams put tons of time and effort into creating these centers, with the intent that they keep pace for at least a few years, given the significant investment. However, we are seeing that despite huge costs, traditional innovation centers are getting quickly outdated—and that timeframe is only going to shrink as the industry moves faster and faster.

A good solution is to keep your innovation center fresh by growing an adaptable library of virtual content. With MR equipment complimenting a physical innovation space, you can ‘immerse’ visitors in a multitude of different scenarios. You can add to the number of virtual environments, or show different environments at different visits. Within each virtual space, not only can you make micro changes like planograms and signage, you can also make macro space changes easily. For example, changing entire layouts or aisle flows.

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Micro level changes: Quickly and Easily explore multiple concepts (In this visual, 3 different planogram layouts – cell A, B & C)

Evaluate – Empowering speedy decision making
Innovation centers should be about more than simply showing new concepts. It should also allow for quick and easy decision-making.  

With virtual, not only can you visualize different concepts, you can also upload and integrate third party data—like Nielsen or Dunnhumby—combine it visually with concepts being considered, and analyze it quickly. Consider today’s process of poring over multiple spreadsheets, sales data and compilations of various research reports and how it slows down decision making: since we can integrate data with where things are on the shelf, it supports speed of decision.

In addition, if these data points are updated regularly, you can easily integrate the latest data or refer back to older data to make comparisons.

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Integrating 3rd party data into virtual – see your best-selling SKUs on shelf to facilitate decision making

Data - Combine your innovation center concepts with Insights
One of the biggest problems with physical innovation centers is that they are typically used for conceptualizing and presenting only. But pretty visuals without insights get old very quickly. Truly innovative innovation centers need to do it all: and immersive VR is the answer to that. How?

Our platform allows shopper research to be conducted using real shoppers. We work with your shopper insights team to conduct a virtual test with shoppers using the content in the platform. The results can then be integrated within the ShopperMX™ HIVE virtual environment for clear presentation and decision making, complimenting innovation center concepts with shopper behavior outcomes. 

Collaborate  - Geography is no longer a barrier
Another challenge with physical innovation centers is that you have to be there to appreciate the structural and visual work being done. And while many centers and mock stores have state-of-the art conferencing capabilities, it’s hard to bring remote attendees on a ‘walk’ around a physical space. This is where MR really provides a wonderful bridge. Internal teams can connect within the virtual space, allowing them to view and interact with new concepts, review data, and make tweaks.

It is also terrific for external collaboration; manufacturers and retailers or brand and design agency teams, for example, can actually stand in a space together to view concepts and insights and jointly make decisions. Moving products around to view them in a new arrangement, swapping out displays or handing a product to the other person is as easy as pressing a controller button. The dynamic changes from working across a table to working side by side—and with it, a more collaborative process emerges.  

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2 VR users in 2 different locations working in tandem, using results from a virtual A-B test to make decisions

Mobility – your innovation center in a suitcase
Physical innovation centers require people to come to them. But busy schedules and geography often cause meetings to have to be planned way in advance to accommodate a big group. However, having a VR toolkit as part of your innovation center allows you the opportunity to deploy your concepts directly to executives or retail partners.

Implementing an immersive VR tool like the ShopperMX™ HIVE within an innovation center allows you to bring your concept to any location—literally in a small suitcase. Have power sockets, will travel! 

Plan Ahead - VR is a tool you're going to want to be familiar with in the future
Sadly, the minute a physical innovation center is built, it starts to depreciate. Not so if you use MR. We continue to provide our customers with future thinking methods of getting to market. Whether it's to visualize a store of the future or a conceptualized glimpse of V-commerce, we help our clients ensure that their customers and decision makers are enticed to come back over and over again.

Budget - tremendous cost and space savings
This is more a result of using MR versus a physical innovation center than a capability, but it’s one of the most important reasons to consider a mixed reality component. Virtual simulations are helping companies bring positive change to the innovation processes—not necessarily by replacing physical mock centers completely, but by supporting creativity, simplifying collaboration, enabling shopper research and integrating insights and data within the innovation center—resulting in a more nimble operation, saving time and cost in the process.

I think there is a strong case for adding a MR component to your innovation center, but I'd love to hear from you. Do you have an innovation center in your organization? What kind of technologies have you implemented? What works and what do you wish you had done differently? We'd love to hear from you. Contact us to let us know, and to Learn More about revamping your company's innovation center. 

And stay tuned for more as I explore the importance of collaboration – and how MR is changing this space. 

This article was originally posted on December 8, 2017. Last updated on May 8, 2018.

Sumi Nair

Sumi is the Vice President of Solutions, Europe.

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