Does e-commerce need 3-D shopping?
One Australian startup is introducing a graphical online marketplace that promises to bring the “tangible, holistic shopping experience” that’s missing from online shopping.
The platform, called the 360 Mall, offers a 3-D interface that simulates moving around and shopping in a physical space.
“It really feels like you are inside the store,” said creator Alex Danieli in a press release. “Shoppers are able to walk around virtual stores using their keyboard. They can even pick up products and interact with them.”
The shopping environment works on mobile devices as well desktops and has beta tested successfully with 50,000 customers who’ve shopped more than 100 retailers. The release cites research showing that 48 percent of current online shoppers would shop more if online sites were more engaging.
While a promotional YouTube video from 2012 announced the imminent launch of the 360 Mall, the recent press release indicates that the solution has not been available to the public since its beta test and that the creators have been working to enhance the product. Said Mr. Danieli, “Since re-opening our retailer program this month, we’ve attracted interest from over 30 high profile labels … and we have some big names launching next month.”
The startup is positioning 360 Mall as a way for retailers to stay a step ahead of Amazon as it expands into Australia.
A simulated physical shopping experience may seem to move in the opposite direction of some current e-commerce trends, like the increased degree of automation in purchasing and replenishment Amazon and others provide. However, for that segment of the population playing increasingly realistic video games that involve moving through virtual environments, the experience may seem natural.
Retailers could face some hurdles, though. If 360 Mall stores mean to reflect the interiors of their physical counterparts, maintaining accurate on-site inventory could be difficult, given that it’s tough enough in regular omnichannel arrangements.
- Update: 3D Online Shopping Platform Has 100 Retailers and 50,000 Users in a Frenzy – 360 Mall
- Australia’s First Virtual Online 3D Shopping Centre | Pre-launch Ad | The 360º Mall – YouTube
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Given its momentum, does online retailing need 3-D experiences to advance forward? What advantages and disadvantages for retailers do you see in using 3-D for e-commerce?
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17 Comments on "Does e-commerce need 3-D shopping?"
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Consultant, Strategist, Tech Innovator, UX Evangelist
Technology for technology’s sake. After the initial wow factor wears off, I do not see consumers sticking with this. To really use a platform like this is to commit more time and effort to digital shopping, especially as there is movement to convenient interfaces (voice as an example) that create more purchase ease. Not buying it and not staking much in their interpretation of “48 percent of current online shoppers would shop more if online sites were more engaging.”
Agreed, this is an eCommerce gimmick for the most part. The goal shouldn’t be to replicate a physical experience online; it’s to create value-add experiences that work within a particular channel.
Global Retail & CPG Sales Strategist, IBM
3-D/Augmented Reality is very slowly gaining steam. We have been working on this for years with several organizations, however I still think the technology needs to be less “virtual reality” and more “real reality” for widespread adoption to occur. It has to impact more than just the sight sense, as brick-and-mortar stores do.
Managing Director, GlobalData
If the picture is representative, I am not sure why anyone would want to shop in an environment that looks like it came from the first iteration of The Sims computer game!
It feels like a gimmick that adds no real value. Indeed, it seems to make a simple online shopping process more complex and challenging.
3-D and VR do have applications in retail, mostly for allowing customers to interact with products and to visualize things like room set ups. But using them to replicate the physical shopping experience is a step too far.
Incidentally, the best way for Australian retailers to stay one step ahead of Amazon isn’t for them to mess around with this technology; it is for them to become good at the basics of retail which most of them are currently appalling at!
VP of Strategic Growth, Deck Commerce
There will likely be initial buzz for the first few retailers who jump on this bandwagon but I would expect that to fade fast.
Consumers shop differently online than they do in store. Trying to create the store experience online will likely limit the convenience factor that consumers have come to expect from their online shopping experiences. When it’s not easy, shoppers give up and go elsewhere to make their purchase.
Principal, Retail Technology Group
Definitely has the WOW factor. It won’t make shopping online faster but may make it more fun for a subset of the shopping population. It’s a “wait-and-see” for me.
Managing Partner, Advanced Simulations
We’ve been playing with this idea for years. There are two basic problems with it. Clothing often needs to be tried on, so virtual shopping for some stuff in the mall is problematic. The bigger problem is inventory maintenance. In many mall businesses, inventory is changing rapidly. For one store, say Coach handbags, not a problem. For 100 stores, more of an issue. For grocery, nearly impossible at a reasonable cost.
I agree with many of the other commenters that we’ve been talking about and playing with this concept for decades. In fact, my agency built the first Toyota.com site in 1996 and we had 3-D “fly-arounds” of cars. I would say the technology really only makes sense when you need to see inside and outside of a product, like a car or a house or room.
Strategy Architect – Digital Place-based Media
Let’s understand how important the quality of the virtual reality images and experience are to the appeal and value of this medium. VR at the commercial grade for training, design, consumer insights and analytics has been advancing rapidly. The webinar on the status and directions of VR recorded by the Center for Digital Experience describes the business proposition that underpins investment in the medium. VR will become an important manifestation of online commerce, product information and training.
Founder, CEO, Black Monk Consulting
Sounds like more hype than hope. Why do 3-D when you could already do VR, AR or mixed reality? But I have a serious question whether — at least today — you need all those digital bells and whistles to promote e-tailing. Online sales don’t seem to have slowed down enough to warrant this kind of investment.
The advantages, I suppose, are a new way of navigating “the store.” The disadvantages is that anything that adds complexity to the formula aimed at creating “frictionless” commerce probably isn’t worth the effort.
Managing Director, StoreStream Metrics, LLC
While virtual 3-D is valuable for experience design, visualization and gaming — this technology is a long way from replacing the analog shopping journey. This reminds me of the response I received from a retail marketing executive 15+ years ago. He politely interrupted my passionate demo and stated that, ” … this is a wonderful tactical implementation in desperate search of a strategy.” He was right — we were solving a problem that didn’t exist. Someday we’ll have the Holodeck, but not yet!
Google Maps already offers this service allowing users to walk around inside a store using photo mapping technology. The only channel where this 3-D will work effectively is in virtual worlds like Second Life that are still running strong, believe it or not.
Head of Trends, Insider Trends
I don’t see 3-D or VR being essential for online retail. At present it seems very much a case of “we can do it, so we will,” rather than offering a real benefit to customers. While I see online retailing continuing to evolve, this seems like a bit of a gimmick at the moment, especially until 3-D and the like is part of everyday life. Currently it’s hard to imagine who would want to shop in this way.
Director of Product Management, Voyager Labs
The potential for these types of programs rests almost entirely on the back-end engine that drives the merchandising to the shopper. If it is just trying to match what the customer does in-store, it’s really nothing special and the shopper might as well go to the physical store. If it works with the shopper’s buying history and combines that with publicly available social media data to customize the experience for each person, then they may be on to something.
Cross referencing multiple data sources from onsite activity, product popularity, hot products in the market and offsite data, and then utilizing this knowledge to truly understand who the customers are and what price sensitivities and considerations influence their shopping behaviors would enable a profound wholesome experience.
Podcast Host, Retail Influencer, Fractional CMO
I don’t think people will want to wander around a virtual store. Having said that, the technology is useful if you’re going to use it to:
i) create FOMO (fear of missing out)
ii) create an environment that gives a product context
I’ll want to view a product in 3D if I want to see how it might sit in my living room, or what it might look like adjacent to a product I already have etc. etc.
Creating a mall for technology’s sake is just superfluous. If you want to know what it might look like? The US has empty real malls all over the place.
Founder, The 360 Mall
I agree with many others that 3D shopping that mimics real physical shopping will be more likely a one-time fun thing to do.
There are other approaches and technologies to provide immersive experience: probably virtual reality has some prospective there and virtual doesn’t have to mimic real reality. For example, I think that trying a new dress or suit at say a virtual function is more fun than trying it on in virtual fitting room.