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New virtual reality stores enable retailers to open their high street shops online

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An online marketplace that usually matches brands with pop-up shops is now instead offering virtual reality stores where retailers can recreate their high street shops. 

Storefront has teamed up with virtual and augmented reality specialist Obsess to help offline retailers, fashion brands and designers to reach new customers through virtual reality (VR) stores.  Brands will be able to offer a short-term virtual shopping experience to their customers via the partnership. Stores are fully branded, and can easily be customised, featuring the retailer’s own inventory. Visitors walk around the shop, browsing shelves and buying the items they want. Fashion buyers, meanwhile, can shop from showrooms. Retailers can offer a 360 degree store experience that is viewable and shoppable from a phone, or a virtual reality experience that shoppers with VR headsets can explore. 

Storefront chief executive Mohamed Haouache said: “The current situation is very difficult for retail. Stores are closed and people are stuck at home. While I am sure they can buy much of what they want online I know they are missing going to shops, and the overall retail experience.

“Our virtual retail stores and showrooms provide brands that rely on relationships with their customers to deliver genuine shopping experiences.

“We hope these virtual reality stores will help people feel a semblance of normality.”

Retailers can turn their high street shops into virtual stores, or create a new virtual store from scratch. Both sit on top of ecommerce websites in a way that, say the partners, reduces the need for extended development work. Virtual reality stores will be offered at a fixed cost that reflects how long they remain open and how complex the build is. 

Obsess founder and chief executive Neha Singh, said: “With virtual pop-ups, brands can immerse their customers in a branded store environment online and engage them in a deeper way digitally while consumers are at home.

“The Obsess virtual shopping platform brings the discovery and brand experience, which is lacking in the current ecommerce interface, to online shopping in a very scalable way.”

Haouache added: “While we see this as a great opportunity for brands to engage with their customers during the crisis, we definitely see it as something that will have a huge place in our future offerings.

“Physical retail isn’t going anywhere and I am confident that when the dangers of Covid-19 have passed we will once again see busy high streets and malls. However, the nature of that retail will probably be quite different. 

“We predict there will be an increase in demand for short-term retail for product launches, events and experiential retail. This is a trend we were already seeing and we believe the impact the global crisis will have on consumer behaviour will only accelerate physical retail’s evolution into ‘experiences’.

“With this in mind we can see these virtual reality stores becoming part and parcel of our regular pop-up stores. When you’re popping up you want to maximise the impact you have so increasing your reach with a digital version of the same store will be key.”

Image courtesy of Storefront/Obsess

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