Fast Company says Virtual Stores Make Shopping Fun Again!
Online experiences that evoke the serendipity of traditional retail—complete with aisles of shelves—make shopping fun again. And they’re pandemic-safe, too.
The virtual store is back—and it’s the best retail experience we could have gotten during a COVID-19 lockdown.
Rather than resembling a printed catalog transformed into online form, as most e-commerce sites do, virtual stores use either 3D renderings of an environment or Google Street-View-like sequences of stitched-together photographic images of a physical location. They replicate neighborhood shopping, letting you walk through aisles and peruse items on display. They safely scratch the itch to be in a local store. But you don’t have to wear a mask, rush in and out, or worry about others not wearing masks or standing too close.
One example I visited for holiday shopping is Cost Plus World Market’s “World of Joy” virtual store, a pop-up online extension of the 243-store specialty import chain. Open only for the holidays this year, World of Joy allows customers to shop via a zoom-and-pan interface that works on PCs and mobile devices.
The fun of shopping at my local Cost Plus World Market comes in part from wandering about to see what’s new, and the serendipity of finding just the right item. I haven’t set foot in a shop for months, was in need of holiday gifts,—so World of Joy checked all my boxes.
Virtual stores can be found for Lily Pulitzer, Andersen Windows and Doors, Micha-Paris, Herman Miller, and others. Ferguson Bath, Kitchen, and Lighting Gallery, which has 250 showrooms across the U.S., has digitized 70 local showrooms.
A recent Wall Street Journal noted that some retailers, such as Ralph Lauren, were reproducing exact replicas of offline locations in order to “stoke the fire” for future in-store visits once the pandemic has passed.
Can spas be far behind?
Content excerpted from Fast Company