As we ease into this bright new year, some delightfully disruptive news has filtered through the 2023 holiday season, and it’s all about Virtual Stores. Big name established brands like Crate and Barrel and J. Crew are investing in these digital storefronts that are e-commerce driven. Crate and Barrel launched a virtual flagship store last November just before the holidays. And, to celebrate their 40th anniversary in style, J. Crew launched a virtual beach house last summer.
Today’s Virtual Store is brand driven and mobile friendly. Adding gamification features with a mobile app increases the consumers’ engagement and builds brand loyalty. Gamification makes the online shopping experience personal and memorable.
The first Virtual Store appeared in 2014 and was a collaboration between Gucci and Google to showcase the Gucci menswear boutique in the Brera region of Milan, Italy using Google Maps. It offered a virtual walk through of the boutique and is a pivotal example of how retailers were beginning to offer exclusive virtual experiences to their customers.
Six years later, with COVID-19 causing an immense strain on worldwide brickand-mortar retail, the consumer was flocking to online shopping in record numbers, and a new type of Virtual Store was born. It is an economic extension for a brand or business that has elements of both virtual reality and augmented reality to offer services and sell products in the real and digital worlds.
Today’s Virtual Store lets customers navigate a digital version of the physical store to experience the brand and products to offer a more intimate online shopping experience. Within the Virtual Store, the customer can explore AR experiences, such as virtual lipstick and makeup try-ons or virtual fitting rooms to try on clothes. The customer can participate in a video chat with a store team member to ask a question or have a personal shopping experience.
Other interactive features that are popular are gamification elements that let the customer experience products in a 360-degree view and use AR to import a product into a real-world environment, at an accurate scale, so it can be viewed and adjusted as desired.
These elements of a Virtual Store resonate with today’s shoppers because they offer different levels of interactive engagement and are self-directed, encouraging them to play and have fun with products.
For a brand or business, the advantages of a Virtual Store include:
DIGITAL INNOVATION: Vital to business strategy is the integration of AR and VR into strategic plans to devise digital experiences that resonate with customers.
DYNAMIC ECOMMERCE: Dynamic e-commerce occurs when the prices for products change in response to real-time changes in demand and supply. Based on algorithms, prices can change from one customer to another based on shopping habits.
CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT: AR and VR based online shopping experiences should offer levels of engagement, to complement the broad range of customer skill levels.
NEW CONSUMER FRIENDLY: Today’s consumer is adaptive, deal seeking and resourceful. They are looking for interactive online experiences that are fun and give the opportunity to co-create with a brand or business.
In 2024, we will continue to see this delightful Disruptive Retail trend grow in popularity, as brands, businesses and retailers embrace short-term offline leasing and digital innovation. The value of Disruptive Retail is the array and diversity of new and innovative ways to engage with consumers, increase brand awareness, use innovative technologies and grow sales.
Gustie Creative is your one-stop shop for Disruptive Retail solutions that produce the right results and grow your bottom line. Our team follows sustainable design practices and our creative, unique, and market driven solutions are crafted to be as flexible and functional as possible. Be sure to explore GustieCreative.com and CreateDisruptiveRetail.com to learn more.
GUSTIE CREATIVE LLC
5030 Champion Boulevard G11-241
Boca Raton, FL 33496