June 25, 2017

Helping PR pros make smarter decisions

Virtually Changing Shopping

Virtually Changing Shopping

Remember hanging at the mall with your friends for four days, only to end up with six items for the holidays? Well, the music isn’t the only thing that has changed. And you should see what is changing in the world of online shopping.

While too many people seem genuinely excited about the return of the Officemax ElfYourself program (where you can make an elf of yourself), ecommerce is quietly changing by leaps, bounds and “points.”

Growth continues for Stardoll.com, Kohl’s cartoon-like site targeted for girls 7-17. Self-described as a “virtual paperdoll community site for everyone who enjoys fashion, design and making friends,” users have a virtual mall experience with their “Medoll” they design to look like themselves. While adults seem to have problems navigating the site, Tweens easily go store to store (like DKNY and Sephora) and try on different outfits and accessories. Parents buy them with the Stardollars virtual currency ($1 US = 30 Stardollars). The site is simply cool, features current pop stars and can cater to any attention span and taste in clothing.

Tweens “dress up,” use virtual currency, and social chat while Kohl’s and their store partners presumably learn what is going to be hot at school and in which part of the country. This will also bridge these young users into the next generation of shopping.

Adults will find that the slotted-door dressing rooms may not be as necessary as they once were. Augmented reality additions to sites like Tobi.com and their Fashionista virtual dressing rooms are in the process of changing how we buy clothes. Simply use your webcam, stand in the shot and point into one of the icons (like a television meteorologist pointing at a weather map). Pointing to a different icon on the screen allows you to change the clothing options that you are “wearing”- style, color, and so on. Point to the left or right arrow and get the next outfit. Point again, and you’re wearing the next one. The clothing lays over your image and if you like it, you can take a snapshot of it and post it on Facebook for comments, or you can just buy it. No virtual currency here, this is a big boy and girl’s store.

Zugara, who powers the Tobi augmented reality and motion capture application [video example] explains the reason that this works so well on their web site: “Consumers are empowered now, their media consumption options are virtually unlimited, and they need to be relevantly engaged on their terms, not the brands.” If you’ve read my columns, my mantras have been content and relevance on the customer’s terms. This company is recognizing both the media and the social aspect that more people feel comfortable with.

There is a reason for the comfort level. Simply, this is nothing more than the new school version of the old school practice of a salesperson handing a customer the product to hold. Once the item is in the customer’s hands, they can feel it and visualize owning it – or rule it out.

Networking giant Cisco previews the future of shopping in brick and mortar stores in a video where a woman, with a wave of her hand, is selecting and virtually “trying on” a variety of dresses in front of an augmented reality screen.

In short, there are a lot of big names pushing the mobile, desktop, and specialized devices to the virtual experience.

Somewhere in between the Amazon’s of the world and the augmented reality revolution is a more visual electronics-centric product search engine called Retrevo. Claiming four million monthly users, the California-based company provides a significant amount of information from manuals to community ratings to help you reach a buying decision.

Community ratings are nothing new to Kaboodle or the U.K. based Crowdstorm, both of which have grown strong communities and trusted ratings.

Comparison shopping engines like NexTag and PriceGrabber should be working on making the next generation of ecommerce a reality (because everyone else seems to be).

The stark contrast of the day: J.C. Penney announced that they are discontinuing their “big book” catalog and moving it to eCommerce. Someone should let them know that mobile commerce, or mCommerce is coming too.

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