Unleashing the Power of AI in Virtual Stores

In the rapidly expanding realm of global e-commerce, where sales are projected to reach a staggering $6.3 trillion this year with an 8.9% growth rate, retailers and brands are engaged in a fierce battle for market share and customer loyalty (Insider Intelligence, 2023; Forbes Advisor, 2023). To gain a competitive edge and differentiate themselves from competitors, leading companies are embracing immersive virtual commerce experiences. Amidst this transformative landscape, we’ve set out to harness the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) to revolutionize the way consumers shop through our virtual commerce platform.

At the core of this retail revolution lies the synergy between AI technology and the widespread popularity of online gaming. We’re leveraging AI to expedite the creation of virtual stores, making the process faster and more cost-effective. By integrating generative AI tools, our platform can now rapidly design virtual stores, slashing setup time from weeks to mere hours in some cases. Moreover, AI elevates and optimizes these experiences through the inclusion of generative content, such as images, text, and music, effectively breathing life into these immersive digital shopping experiences.

Through the adoption of AI-generated imagery in these experiences, retailers can significantly reduce the costs associated with traditional photo shoots and content creation. By eliminating expenses related to human talent, travel, studio and equipment rental, shipping, styling, editing, and other services, brands can allocate their resources more efficiently while still building a compelling immersive experience. 

A prime example of this cost-saving approach is Elizabeth Arden, a renowned beauty brand whose virtual store used AI to complete archival photos featured throughout their virtual store. Obsess used the DALLE-2 platform to edit existing imagery, optimizing the historic content to fit the modern context of a virtual store in an automated way.

In addition to image AI platforms, Obsess has also begun to leverage tools like ChatGPT to generate informative product descriptions and scripts for branded avatars that engage with shoppers within the virtual stores. Furthermore, AI-generated music libraries contribute to an immersive auditory experience without the need to pay licensing fees for copyrighted hits.

The true power of AI lies in its ability to enhance the immersive shopping journey by introducing engaging and personalized features that drive session time and customer satisfaction. Obsess customer Babylist, an online baby registry company, created a virtual store that includes an AI-powered baby name generator. By inputting a baby’s due date, the AI algorithm considers a curated set of names of individuals born on that day, presenting the shopper with a personalized list of potential girl, boy, and gender-neutral names based on astrological signs. This unique gamified feature optimizes an important personalization feature in the brand’s virtual store, creating engaging and dynamic content for consumers at a higher efficiency rate.

Looking ahead, the future of virtual commerce promises even more profound AI-driven applications. As AI adoption proliferates, we can expect an explosion in the types, designs, and formats of our virtual stores, leading to further growth in this domain. The emergence of advanced 2D to 3D rendering, and even text to 3D rendering, will empower Obsess to collaborate with more brands to swiftly deploy and test virtual store experiences. These platforms will dynamically render the entire virtual store environments in real-time, providing personalized experiences for each individual consumer.

With AI technology serving as a catalyst for change, Obsess has already made remarkable strides in creating virtual stores that are faster, more cost-effective, engaging, and personalized. As network speeds continue to accelerate and graphics processors become more powerful, the next generation of the internet will be characterized by 3D immersive experiences that closely resemble the real world. In the coming years, every brand with an e-commerce store will undoubtedly embrace a 3D immersive version of its online presence, ensuring a seamless and captivating shopping journey for customers worldwide.

Looking ahead, Obsess will continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible within our virtual experiences. We hope to continue to redefine the shopping landscape, offering retailers and brands an unprecedented opportunity to captivate customers and drive exponential growth in the evolving world of e-commerce.
If your brand is interested in launching an engaging virtual store using Generative AI, contact us at contact@obsessvr.com or fill out your information here.

Citations:

Baluch, A. (February 2023), 38 E-Commerce Statistics Of 2023. Forbes Advisor. 
Cramer-Flood, E. (February 2023), Global Retail Ecommerce Forecast 2023: Welcome to the Slower-Growth New Normal. Insider Intelligence.

Coach Wins Webby Award in Retail and Shopping for Obsess-Powered Virtual Holiday Gift Shop

Obsess customer Coach has won a Webby People’s Choice Award for its Virtual Holiday Gift Shop. The award-winning experience is inspired by a nostalgic New York City abode, and features a mix of classic and seasonal styles—all cozied up beneath the chicest of Christmas Trees. 

Hailed as “the Oscars of the Internet”, the Webby Awards honors the best on the internet, and is presented by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences. Each category selects two winners: one judged by a prestigious panel of over 3000 industry experts and technology innovators, and the other by the public. Winners are selected based on their creativity, innovation and overall impact on the web. 

Coach’s Virtual Holiday Gift Shop received the honor as the 2022 Webby Awards People’s Choice winner in the Metaverse, Immersive, and Virtual category. The virtual experience is a prime example of how brands can use immersive technology to create immersive and engaging experiences for their customers—combining technology, innovation and creativity. 

The experience is both visually appealing and interactive, and it provides a unique way for customers to shop for the holidays and learn what Coach stands for as a brand. Visitors to the shop can explore each room to unlock special shopping discounts, and even access a secret virtual space. The gamified shopping experience brought Coach’s digital strategy to the next level and set them apart from their competition. This award is a testament to Coach’s commitment to evolution, adding a competitive edge to their digital strategy by leaning into the trend of merging physical and digital shopping. 

The company is always looking for new ways to connect with its customers, and its Obsess-powered Virtual Holiday Gift Shop is a perfect example of how technology can be used to create a truly memorable experience. Through social commerce elements such as the ability to shop with friends, Coach is able to foster a new online community. 

To learn more about Coach’s addition to their online strategy with its Virtual Holiday Gift Shop and how they were able to generate customer loyalty and sales, email us at contact@obsessVR.com or book a demo.

How to Create a Virtual Store Using AVA, A Virtual Store Editor and Builder

Introducing AVA, A Virtual Store Editor and Builder

After 2+ years of development, Obsess has launched a self-service tool to empower our brand partners to easily create and manage Obsess-powered virtual stores, which include elements of virtual and augmented reality, gamification and interactive shopping. The forward-thinking, innovative addition to Obsess’ virtual store technology platform enables brands to create smarter, more dynamic stores that match consumers’ ever-evolving needs and align to brands’ marketing and merchandising calendars. 

Virtual shopping experiences drive greater consumer engagement and e-commerce results, and with AVA by Obsess, brands can expedite content management and merchandising of fully branded, immersive, 3D virtual stores—simplifying how to create a virtual store. The powerful, first-to-market virtual store editor enables brands and retailers to make their virtual storefronts dynamic and easily implement optimizations to merchandising and content. 

How to Create a Virtual Store with AVA

The AVA platform enables brands to customize an entire 3D virtual store without additional assets or 3D design experience—the virtual store editor was developed to provide 3D editing and merchandising technology to brands in a “no-code” format.
To get started, AVA users simply have to upload a standard 3D media file into the content management system (CMS). Obsess’ patented rendering technology then converts it into a proprietary, web-compatible format for large-scale 3D environments. Brands can also easily integrate SKU-level data and product imagery from their E-commerce stores and dynamically place products throughout the virtual retail store.

Managing Dynamic Virtual Storefronts

brands and retailers are able to manage dynamic virtual storefronts and customize their merchandising and styling in AVA, a virtual store editor

In the words of Obsess Founder and CEO, Neha Singh: “In the same way that platforms like Shopify and Squarespace revolutionized digital presence enablement for brands, AVA by Obsess democratizes building for the next generation of the web—which is 3D, interactive, and experiential.”

Shopify enabled brands to seamlessly create storefronts for the traditional web grid interface; likewise, Obsess enables brands to seamlessly create shoppable virtual storefronts in 3D. 
Teams of all experiences can easily customize merchandising and styling in the virtual store editor, and are able to quickly add content hotspots to showcase immersive offerings such as in-scene videos, games, educational content, and avatars. Regardless of expertise, anyone on your team can make updates to your virtual store’s display through the CMS.

Expediting Optimizations with the Virtual Store Editor

brands and retailers are able to expedite optimizations to their virtual store by making changes as frequently as they wish

“Brands need to keep their virtual experiences fresh, just like their websites,” says Singh. Virtual stores are an always-on, year-round sales channel that needs to be optimized regularly, and adapt to ongoing learnings about shoppers. As an immersive extension of the brand’s own website, Obsess-powered virtual store experiences offer more control compared to external platforms. 

As an owned channel, virtual stores grant brands access to first-party customer behavioral data and 3D spatial insights, which can be used to optimize the experience for later iterations. 

First-party data allows brands to increase the efficacy of their promotional content, and strategically highlight their products to increase engagement and conversion. From product placement to embedded media content, the AVA virtual store editor allows brands to make optimizations quickly and frequently.

AVA access is included as part of every managed service contract with Obsess. Every Obsess partner is able to use the tool as part of their annual subscription—they can choose to use the virtual store editor independently or work with their dedicated team to manage their virtual store. Get connected at contact@obsessvr.com to talk to the Obsess team about building a virtual store. 

Sustainability and Obsess Virtual Stores

Reducing environmental impact is one of the key reasons that brands choose to build virtual stores. Likewise, sustainability is of the utmost importance to Obsess—in terms of how we function day-to-day as a company, and how we choose our partners and providers for our virtual stores.

To raise awareness around sustainable retail practices, and provide more robust transparency around virtual store carbon emissions, Obsess created a Carbon Emissions Calculator for Retail Stores. This free, public tool analyzes the energy output of brick-and-mortar retail stores, in comparison to virtual retail stores.

Learn how the Obsess platform supports a sustainable future:

1) Minimizing Waste and Carbon Emissions

The Obsess virtual store platform enables brands to create immersive selling environments that can be optimized, decorated, and staffed using fewer resources than traditional physical retail.

  • Every Obsess virtual store can be accessed via web browser. This means that consumers do not need to travel to access physical shopping locations, reducing their carbon footprint from transportation.
  • Store owners and managers do not need to transport physical goods into their retail locations when they supplement a virtual store for a physical one. Retailers use our proprietary virtual merchandising tool to showcase digital product imagery in virtual stores on an ongoing, dynamic basis.
  • Key virtual store platform features like quizzes and virtual try-ons allow consumers to better match products to their individual needs and styling. Better product matching leads to fewer returns—thus reducing any back-and-forth of items in transit, and ultimately mitigating excess carbon emissions.
  • Obsess retail partners are able to test demand for product inventory through virtual selling, leading to lower waste and better stock estimates at their physical store locations.

2) Increasing Transparency

Our technology empowers brands to increase visibility and engagement for their already-impactful content. The Obsess platform is 100% customizable, so brands can showcase sustainability messaging and visuals in a hyper-engaging, memorable context.

The Carbon Emissions Calculator for Retail Stores compares the energy output of brick-and-mortar retail stores, in comparison to virtual retail stores. If a retail or brand team is evaluating construction for a new physical store location, they use this tool to assess its potential carbon impact—and compare it to the impact of a virtual store alternative.

3) Efficient Energy Usage

As a fully managed SaaS (Software as a Service) platform, Obsess relies on a technology infrastructure that can support top-tier web performance, without compromising environmental impact.

  • Web hosting for Obsess virtual stores:
    • Our primary hosting provider is 3.6X more energy efficient than other hosting providers in the US, and 5X more energy efficient than other hosting providers in Europe. It is on track to be powered by 100% renewable energy by 2025. 
    • Our provider is heavily invested in sustainable innovation—from the chip designs of their servers, to the cooling systems for their data centers. Their latest chips use up to 60% less energy, and their latest cooling technology uses 20% less energy.
  • Content Delivery Network (CDN) for Obsess virtual stores:
    • Our primary global Content Delivery Network (CDN) provider has committed to powering its network of servers with 100% renewable energy and offsetting or removing all historical emissions associated with powering its network by 2025.

4) Daily Sustainable Practices

The full Obsess team is devoted to making positive choices that support a sustainable mission, particularly in our offices.

  • 88% of all Obsess employees commute into an office via either public transit or walking. The majority of remaining employees work from home and do not require transportation at all.
  • Our New York-based headquarters has eliminated the use of single-use plastics.
  • The office provider for our New York-based headquarters will be carbon neutral in 2023. It is 2.5X more energy efficient than a typical office.

Obsess is committed to a sustainable future. To learn more about how virtual stores and the metaverse can help the retail industry with sustainability, check out this post.

Top 5 Features That Drive Engagement in Virtual

Whether brands are creating virtualized versions of their IRL storefronts or building completely new virtual flagships on their e-commerce sites, virtual stores have been shown to generate greater engagement and foster deeper connections with consumers. By default, virtual stores provide a more immersive and contextual online shopping experience. And when virtual stores include one or more custom features, brands are able to create even stickier consumer experiences.

Explore the top 5 Obsess platform features that generate increased engagement.

1. Gamification

adding in custom gamification into a virtual store makes users 10X more likely to click add to cart

Adding features such as memory games, scavenger hunts, and quizzes promotes increased interaction and incentivizes product discovery.

2. Branded Avatars

including Branded Avatars into a virtual store experience increases propensity to checkout by 183%

Walking, talking, fully customizable avatars enable consumers to personalize their characters and feel even more connected to a brand.

3. Shop with Friends

the ability to shop with friends in a experiences increases time spent by 104%

Live group shopping brings community engagement and social proof into the virtual space.

4. Welcome Tutorial

including a welcome tutorial at the beginning of a virtual store encourages customers to explore 72% more pages per session

Guided navigation tutorials encourage consumers to explore a wider variety of virtual rooms.

5. Store Maps

including store maps increase the probability of a user completely exploring the virtual store by 3.8X

Maps facilitate more intuitive navigation and increase consumers’ likelihood to travel through a full virtual store.

To learn more about the Obsess virtual store platform features, and how they can be included in your e-commerce selling strategy—contact our virtual store specialists at contact@obsessvr.com and book a demo today.

Top 3 Ways Beauty Brands Drive Engagement in Virtual Stores

The beauty industry is consistently leaning into innovation by adopting new technologies. From VR/AR technology, such as virtual try-ons, to gamified experiences—modern beauty selling is customer-centric and focused on engagement. 

Obsess is home to the largest portfolio of virtual stores amongst beauty brands. These forward-thinking brands are changing virtual reality retail shopping in the beauty industry with interactive features in their virtual stores. Here are the top 3 features proven to drive engagement in beauty virtual stores.

  1. Branded Gamification
seek-and-find game featuring hair combs set in a chic virtual salon

Custom gamification flows such as seek-and-find games are primed for driving exploration and product discovery. On average, pages per session increase by 513% for our Beauty partners when they include a scavenger hunt game in their virtual stores.

Several beauty brands also opt to include discounts or gifts with purchase upon game completion—incentivizing shoppers to complete their transactions. For one brand, winning the scavenger hunt led to an exclusive gift, which had a 100% claim rate within the first week of launch.

  1. Custom Quizzes
personalized quiz providing product recommendations from the brand's beauty line

Custom quizzes allow brands to collect first-party data, which prompt shoppers to fill in their skin types, color preferences, and more. Shoppers are presented with personalized product recommendations in their results, similarly to how a sales associate would recommend products in a physical retail store. Quizzes can also encourage exploration by providing recommendations of rooms to visit in the virtual experience. 

Quizzes encourage upsells by enabling shoppers to effortlessly add all recommended products to their bag. One brand utilized the quiz feature to present its shoppers with a custom skincare routine, based on each shopper’s individual skin concerns and goals.

  1. Branded Avatars
Branded Avatar customization allowing users to customize their avatar with the brand's latest makeup looks featured in their campaign

Branded Avatar technology brings the best of gaming and the metaverse directly to your E-commerce website.

3D Branded Avatars enable brands and retailers to create their own metaverse directly on their websites and provide shoppers with an immersive, social, and branded virtual environment. One brand partner created glamorous avatars based on their campaign ambassadors—their shoppers could customize their personal avatars with full makeup looks and runway-ready outfits. 

Consumers that customize these walking, talking, bespoke brand characters spend more time in stores and have a higher propensity to proceed to checkout. This innovative new functionality further personalizes the virtual store experience and deepens customer relationships with the brand.

a seek-and-find game featuring animated butterflies set in a which bathroom housing a multitude of beauty products

Up-level your virtual store engagement with interactive features that have proven their impact in beauty, such as gamification, quizzes, and Branded Avatars. Email us at contact@obsessvr.com to meet with the Obsess team and learn more about increasing consumer engagement through virtual stores.

The Future of Retail: Trends in Retail Technology

In 2022, there was a lot of buzz around the metaverse as a way to create engaging and immersive shopping experiences for consumers online—combining the best of in-store with the convenience of online. 

Moving forward, retailers will continue to focus on creating exceptional experiences for their shoppers—in the metaverse, in physical retail, and on their own digital channels with new technologies paving the way to modernity and increased relevancy. Despite an uncertain economic outlook for 2023, a recent survey by Boston Consulting Group found that 60% of fashion companies plan to increase their retail tech investments in the coming year—it’s simply a matter of what those companies invest in (Business of Fashion, 2022). When faced with a recession, roughly 40% of consumers state that they will remain loyal to brands they currently shop from, decreasing the frequency of their shopping to fit their new budgets (Statista, 2023).

Emerging retail tech focuses on combining and connecting physical shopping experiences with digital, and producing a hybrid omnichannel shopping model that is increasingly gaining popularity. Customers turn to an average of nine channels to communicate with companies—78% have used multiple channels in their buyer journey to complete a purchase (Salesforce, 2022). According to a global survey conducted by IBM and NRF, 25% of consumers prefer to shop the hybrid way as their main shopping model (NRF, January 2022). 

Through new innovations in retail technology, brands are able to mimic various facets of in-person shopping online, and ensure a frictionless transition between digital and physical. The virtual store interface offers plenty of features and thoughtful details to mimic the offline browsing experience, enhancing the online experience to be efficient, experiential, and personalized.

Charlotte Tilbury, founder of Charlotte Tilbury Cosmetics, echoed this sentiment: “By launching this [Obsess] virtual store, we are truly operating as an omnichannel business and offering our customers an immersive, 360-degree experience whenever and wherever they come into contact with the brand. The Obsess platform has enabled us to seamlessly create a quick, easy and personalized way to shop for beauty, skincare and gifts with game-changing 3D digital innovation.”

Obsess has uncovered the top emerging retail technology trends that enable brands to upgrade their omnichannel shopping experience.

Making VR/AR Accessible to the Average Consumer

A popular trend in retail technology is the use of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR). VR/AR allows brands to offer an element of immersiveness on their own sites and elevate interactivity with products and brands for shoppers. From virtual try-on to 3D renderings of products, customers are able to engage with a brand or product sans physically being in a brick-and-mortar.

The use of VR/AR technology in retail has quickly escalated in recent years, fueled by different iterations and use cases as the technology continues to mature. The AR in Retail market, covering segments such as apparel, furniture, grocery, and more, was projected to increase by $9.24B during the forecasted period between 2021 to 2026 with 32% of this growth originating from North America (Yahoo Finance, 2022).

VR/AR helps shoppers get a more accurate understanding of a product prior to purchasing—from 3D product visualization, to detailed information about products in contextual environments. Allowing consumers to visualize how products look, feel, and fit prior to purchasing, decreases online return rates and overall customer dissatisfaction. 

Obsess blurs the line between digital and physical by enabling brands and retailers to digitize their existing retail stores or create fantastical, discovery-driven, shoppable virtual environments that resemble the offline shopping experience using VR/AR technology. Obsess enables brands and retailers to create virtual stores with a multitude of innovative features that make their virtual stores more engaging and immersive such as photo filters, virtual try-on, gamification, Branded Avatars, and more. 

Doubling Down on Loyalty Efforts

Brands must establish efficient touchpoints with potential customers online and offline to gain their attention, business, and loyalty. They must also ensure that the transition between digital and physical is seamless. 71% of shoppers have switched brands at least once in the past year, with consumers citing better deals, product quality, and customer service as their top three reasons for exploring competing brands (Salesforce, 2022). According to Twilio, 38% of shoppers say they will shop with a brand again if they’ve had a good experience, even if there are cheaper or more convenient options (Twilio, 2022). 

Brands and retailers have turned to social technologies in order to strengthen consumer connections, build trust, and provide meaningful customer service. Technology such as chatbots enable brands to provide tips and assist shoppers online, just like a sales associate would in store; shoppers can interact and converse with the bot, asking questions before making a purchase. 94% of customers say an excellent customer service experience makes them more likely to purchase again (Salesforce, 2022). 

Virtual stores provide brands with an opportunity to not only showcase their products but also the various services that were previously only available in-person. With the Obsess virtual store platform, brands can implement innovative features that improve customer loyalty. In addition to the ability to integrate live chatbots with experts into virtual stores, brands and retailers are also able to improve customer service by offering their shoppers one-on-one consultations via video chat, and curated recommendations through quizzes and gift guides. Brands and retailers can increase brand engagements and retention through our core virtual customer service features. 

Using First-Party Data to Increase Personalization

The future of shopping will be increasingly personalized. Today’s consumers expect companies to be able to understand and anticipate their unique shopping needs. Personalization strengthens your brand’s connection to your shoppers. When brands do not embrace personalization, they become more vulnerable to failure against competition—particularly, during questionable economic periods. 62% of consumers are ready to explore other options and rescind their loyalty if a brand delivers un-personalized experiences (Twilio, 2022). 

A great shopping experience means your customers are more likely to buy more, be more loyal, and refer you to their friends and family. 88% of consumers claim that a company’s ability to provide a personalized experience is as important as its product or service (Salesforce, 2022). Consumers spend 34% more on average when their experience is personalized (Twilio, 2022). 

A critical element of personalization is data—high-quality and real-time data—and the ability to derive consumer insights while respecting consumer’s privacy. 40% of companies find obtaining accurate customer data to be a challenge. Traditionally, companies would gather customer data through third-parties. However, with regulatory changes regarding privacy and shifts away from “cookies” by tech giants, companies are turning to first-party data. Business leaders are investing in technology to better manage customer data—37% of brands claim to exclusively use first-party data in their personalization strategies (Twilio, 2022).

Virtual stores are new first-party channels that allow brands to collect a vast set of valuable customer behavioral and demographic insights. With the Obsess virtual store platform, brands are able to evaluate how shoppers move through their virtual spaces and make optimizations in real time. Brands gain a deep understanding into product and content interactions, and can make informed decisions based on consumer behaviors, to create a store that’s more tailored to their audience. Information on shopping behavior can be used to create highly personalized experiences inside and outside of virtual stores. 

Conclusion

The modern consumer places experience above all else, and expects a seamless experience on all channels and in various stages of the buyer journey. New hybrid functionality has exponentially increased during the past few years, offering solutions that streamline services—increasing shopper convenience and flexibility. 

Moving into 2023 and beyond, brands will continue to invest in immersive technologies that provide enhanced online shopping experiences for their shoppers, incorporating elements found in in-person shopping plus online gaming and VR/AR. 

Obsess virtual stores are immersive shopping experiences that incorporate multi-sensory inputs, such as music and aesthetics, into their designs. Virtual stores integrate with brands’ existing e-commerce sites for accurate pricing and live inventory availability. Through the strategic implementation of innovative features, brands and retailers are able to bring in various elements of in-person shopping, such as visual merchandising and curated service, to elevate their online experiences. To learn how the Obsess virtual store platform can enable your brand to create immersive and engaging virtual shopping experiences that build brand engagements and long-term loyalty, email us at contact@obsessVR.com.

Citations:

Bain, M. (December 2022). How to Invest in Technology During a Recession. Business of Fashion.

Faria, J. (January 2023). Consumers’ perception on brand loyalty in the face of a recession in the United States as of August 2022. Statista.

NRF (December 2022). 2022 Retail Returns Rate Remains Flat at $816 Billion.

NRF (January 2022). Consumers want it all.

Salesforce (May 2022). Fifth Edition State of the Connected Customer.

Segment (June 2022). The State of Personalization. Twilio.

Yahoo Finance (December 2022). Augmented reality market size to increase by USD 157.21 billion: 37% growth to originate from North America.

Why Your Virtual Store Should be Refreshed to Align with Your Marketing Calendar

Brick and mortar retail displays are updated regularly to mirror new collection drops, holidays and seasonal changes, and special promotions in an effort to increase sales and keep in-store experiences relevant. Just like in retail, it’s important to frequently refresh your virtual stores so that your shoppers have access to your most up-to-date content. Virtual stores serve as both an incremental brand engagement touchpoint, and an additional distribution point for your promotional campaigns. Updating your virtual displays permits ongoing optimizations based on consumer data from previous store iterations, and keeps your customers coming back time and time again. 

Refreshing your virtual store allows for long-term evolution, along with your growing brand and business needs. Plus, compared to traditional retail—virtual store refreshes are fast (no heavy-lifting or employee training required), cost-efficient (store refreshes come standard when working with Obsess), and sustainable (no more continuously buying and throwing out fixtures).

Roll out new products and collections.

It’s important to continuously adjust and improve product placements to increase sales and optimize customer experience. Switch out your inventory and exhibit your latest collections by creating new eye-catching virtual displays. Showcase your most recent collections by expanding your virtual store, creating new rooms, swapping out shelves, or moving new products to the front. 

For example, American Girl updates their virtual museum experience each time they launch a new doll. With every product launch comes a new exhibit spotlighting the doll’s story in an environment that perfectly fits her personality.

The American Girl Museum’s most recent addition is a room dedicated to Claudie Wells, a doll from the 1920s Harlem Renaissance, who dreams of being an artist. You can meet Claudie in the interactive bakery where her dad works and learn more about her background.

Decorate to reflect different holidays and seasons.

Deck out your store for the holidays and other seasonal campaign events. Leverage visual merchandising to increase sales by matching the store’s ambience to different collections and seasons. 

Without the added manual labor of redecorating and deconstructing, it’s easier to take on a virtual design refresh than a physical one. Another bonus? It’s cheaper and more sustainable than having to buy decorations every few months, throw them out, and then buy them again for the next year. 

For the 2022 holiday season, Crocs chose to do a total revamp of their virtual store with added glitz and glam to showcase their texture-inspired holiday collection. Meanwhile, The Honest Company added subtle design tweaks to their virtual store, including snow-frosted trees and bow-wrapped wreaths for a festive touch. 

Expand your virtual real estate over time.

Don’t just revamp your virtual store, grow it.

Create value for your customers by aligning your IRL and e-commerce activations with their virtual counterparts. Virtual stores can be tweaked throughout the year to highlight your marketing calendar events and dynamically reflect your business priorities. 

To align with the growth of their annual live fan event, Bravocon, Bravo significantly expanded the size of their virtual Bravo Bazaar over the course of one year. The brand added several rooms throughout the year to continue engaging Bravoholics with the latest “Real Housewives’” swag, “Top Chef” recipes, and “Below Deck” destinations. Bravo continues to regularly update the design of each of its rooms seasonally.

Rethink your virtual store refresh strategy.

An Obsess subscription allows you to create different iterations of your virtual store throughout the year.

Whether you want to change the décor, include a new game, add in Branded Avatars, or build a new room—there are several different ways to make your virtual store more dynamic. And the best part? The initial lift of creating a virtual store wraps just as soon as the store launches, so it takes minimal effort to refresh your virtual vision as the year progresses.

Email us at contact@obsessVR.com to learn more about our subscription plans and how you can continuously engage your customers through your virtual store.   

Powering Donations Through Virtual Stores

Charitable organizations launch some of their biggest donation campaigns during the holidays, but the need for mission-driven marketing persists all year round.

With 18% of annual donations happening in December—the holidays, in particular, present brands with the chance to embrace impactful innovation, which drives fundraising and encourages giving (Blackbaud Institute, 2022). The fundraising formula is ripe for modernization as new digital initiatives are popularized for differentiating campaigns during the holidays and beyond. 

For the 2022 holiday season, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital launched a cozy, cheerful, donation-driven virtual experience through the Obsess virtual store platform. The St. Jude Winter Village proved to be an ideal illustration of how Obsess can power a virtual hub for mission-centric messaging and consumer-led donations.

Explore the intricacies of St. Jude’s virtual winter wonderland, and see how the brand powered donation efforts by creating an accessible donor journey, discovery-driven navigation, and an immersive gift shopping experience.

Donation Through Exploration

The St. Jude Winter Village allows visitors to virtually explore a cozy and festive 3D environment including the Ice Shop, the Ferris Wheel of Hope, and the Donation Station. Visitors can use the map to easily travel from one area of the experience to another. Similarly, users can follow the branded signs within the store for a guided, discovery-driven trek through the snow.

The Winter Village’s map and signage both encourage exploration—ultimately leading to multiple calls to donate to St. Jude. Each call to donate is accompanied by immersive 3D visuals and powerful storytelling to illustrate the brand’s mission. 

The experience also makes it easy to donate thanks to the persistent donation button in the bottom navigation menu. No matter where a user travels within the virtual experience, they can always access the donation portal by clicking on the hand and heart icon.

Bringing Patient Stories to Life

Placed throughout the virtual experience are several pieces of artwork from real St. Jude patients. Each piece of artwork is clickable and unveils the artist’s unique story.

For example: when clicking on a giant, 3D replica of patient Coraliz’s art, you unlock the story of her journey with osteosarcoma. The story reveals how St. Jude helped Coraliz overcome the disease, and eventually regain strength and mobility in her leg. A separate artwork spotlights the story of a patient with a rare form of eye cancer, who practiced art to occupy himself while recovering from a life-saving surgery provided by St. Jude.

After reading these inspiring stories and viewing each patient’s artwork in virtual reality, users are prompted to donate art supplies or other gifts to children in the hospital. Adding context and content to the 3D visuals further immerses users in the stories of St. Jude patients, and makes brand interactions more purpose-driven and meaningful.

A Multilingual Experience

The St. Jude Winter Village was created through a lens of personalization for a diverse set of audiences.

The brand wanted to make the store accessible for multiple markets, beginning with both English and Spanish-speaking locales. The store’s translation feature can be found in the upper right-hand corner of the virtual experience.

At any point, the Winter Village can be translated from English to Spanish, or vice-versa. All donation buttons and virtual signage in the 3D environment are readily available in both languages, enabling a larger population to understand and support the St. Jude mission.

Accessibility for All

St. Jude ensured that their virtual store was easy to navigate for users of all abilities.

For instance: all donation buttons within the store are accompanied by descriptive text, which allows for users with screen readers to easily access the donation portal. Likewise, the full Winter Village experience can be accessed either via mouse click or keyboard on desktop. 

By increasing accessibility and navigation options, St. Jude embraced inclusivity, and in turn—increased overall donations from their virtual store.

Gamification and Livestreaming

Immersive giving takes on a whole new meaning in the Winter Village, with the addition of AI-powered gaming and livestream shopping.

On Giving Tuesday 2022, five different St. Jude celebrity ambassadors hosted a live stream via video chat directly from the virtual experience. The livestream functioned to raise additional awareness and support for the hospital.

The general public was able to join these live sessions through a unique URL, which transported them directly into the virtual showcase. Users were able to listen to ambassadors in real-time, while simultaneously exploring the Winter Village. Live chat for Q&A with each celebrity was open throughout the duration of the livestream, enabling real-time interactions for up-leveled brand engagements.

The Winter Village also employs always-on gamification features for increased interactivity. The experience features a massive Connect 4 board that users can play to unlock shipping discounts.

Integrating E-commerce

In addition to serving as a fundraising platform for direct donations, the virtual experience also functions as an extension of St. Jude’s e-commerce experience—doubling down on its donation power. Users can purchase merchandise and memorabilia that ultimately benefit the children of the hospital, helping fund future treatments and research. 

Just like the St. Jude e-commerce site, the gift shop within the Winter Village displays product details, sizing, and pricing for all of the brand’s not-for-profit merchandise.

Amplifying Brand Mission through Virtual

By creating an immersive, discovery-driven, fantastical, and highly accessible experience—St. Jude was able to create an interactive destination for donations and brand engagements.

St. Jude’s virtual store included a variety of features that any mission-based brand can add to their virtual campaign playbook. For instance, organizations taking a stance against climate change can leverage virtual storytelling and e-commerce integrations to build awareness for their cause and increase education on their sustainability efforts. The same is true for any other brand that wants to amplify its mission using the Obsess virtual store platform.

To learn more about how Obsess virtual stores can inspire more donations and bolster your brand’s mission, contact our team at contact@obsessVR.com

Citations

Longfield, C. (2018, February). Charitable Giving Report: How Fundraising Performed in 2017. Blackbaud Institute. www.institute.blackbaud.com

How to Market Your Virtual Store to Scale Traffic & ROI

Virtual stores serve as a new commerce channel for your brand. And as with any new selling channel, more promotion leads to more awareness—which is why it’s so important to promote your virtual store as part of your regular marketing mix. Based on data from 150+ virtual stores, we’ve compiled a list of the top marketing channels to promote your virtual store in order to increase traffic and drive up ROI. 

Generally, visual channels outperform text-based channels when it comes to virtual store promotion. Visual channels provide an opportunity to insert a video or an image of a store and set user expectations from the onset. Between social media, press, email marketing, offline marketing, and more—there are a number of visual marketing channels that Obsess customers have used to market their virtual stores.

1. Social Media

Social media is a great platform to introduce new users to your virtual store. There is a lot of potential to reach new and existing shoppers, as content is constantly created and shared. With so many different platforms, brands have plenty of creative freedom to decide how to promote their stores—from organic Posts and Stories, to Paid Ads and Influencers.

Obsess partner Stephanie Gottlieb used Instagram Reels to promote her Gem Palace virtual store, driving awareness at mass scale. She continuously engaged her impressive IG following via Stories and Reels—providing intel into new games, special promotional codes, and guaranteed early sale access.

In her Reels, she used the Instagram Green Screen feature—which allowed her to input photos and videos of her brand’s virtual store into her social background. While Stephanie included a series of images that emulated the look and feel of her virtual store, other brands have opted to provide their viewers with a tour of the full virtual experience using the Green Screen feature. 

Disney Music Group was another brand that utilized the Green Screen feature, with posts featuring content creators that walked viewers through a video demo of their virtual experience. The brand housed all of their virtual experience posts on their Disney Music Emporium social account, which linked out to their experience directly from their account bio.

Social content creators allow for credible commentary and opinions on store usability, feature functionalities, and detailed in-store highlights that others can refer to before entering the store.

2. E-Commerce Site

Promote your virtual store on a platform your customers already visit with the intent to buy or browse: your existing e-commerce site.

From a dedicated landing page to promotional banners that span the length of your site, there are many different ways to utilize your e-commerce site to promote your virtual store. 

Using an auto-play video or a GIF on your website homepage will catch your audiences’ eyes and entice them to enter your virtual store. These visuals also help to shape your shoppers’ expectations of a virtual store and give them a better sense of how and why to navigate the space. 

You can also promote your virtual store in your site’s navigation bar for easy consumer access. On the American Girl website, the brand lists their virtual store alongside their physical store locations—so shoppers can easily find virtual experiences when searching for boutiques. Even when consumers are not physically close to a retail store, the AG virtual store is always readily available.

3. Email Marketing

Email marketing tends to perform well for virtual stores because the target audience is already familiar with your brand and they are more likely to be loyal shoppers—making it easier to convince them to engage with new content on a new channel.

Many Obsess customers send dedicated email blasts about their virtual stores—typically around store and new feature launches. Some brands also include always-on promotional callouts for their virtual stores in their regularly scheduled emails. 

Maybelline sent their mailing list an email dedicated to the virtual experience, complete with GIFs that showed the interior of the store, and links to specific rooms within the store. In the banner section, they strategically placed a GIF of the store’s entrance and highlighted the game directly below.

Emails are a great way to engage your most dedicated audience, showcase your virtual store through imagery and video, and guide potential customers to the experience. Email marketing can also increase the longevity of your virtual store by reinforcing messaging to revisit different sections of the store.

4. In-Store Promotions

One of the best assets to promote your virtual presence? Your IRL retail locations.

As part of their virtual store marketing strategy, Ralph Lauren used physical stores to help drive digital traffic. With brick-and-mortar stores in prime shopping locations such as SoHo in New York City, Ralph Lauren was able to use their existing IRL footprint to capture online shoppers. 

Ralph Lauren included a QR code on their retail displays, which led to the virtual twin versions of their retail stores. The QR codes allowed Ralph Lauren to retarget customers through virtual after they left the IRL experiences—prolonging customer communications and relationship management.

5. Offline Marketing

Offline marketing can drive buzz at scale for virtual stores.

Prada Beauty expanded beyond digital with the addition of billboards to their virtual store marketing stack. The billboards were a way for the brand to generate mass awareness and interest around the virtual store and products.

From IRL to URL, potential customers could find billboards and posters plastered around the world—each containing a QR code that led shoppers to the Prada Beauty virtual experience.

Ralph Lauren also opted to include some offline channels in their virtual store marketing mix, such as print ads, to raise awareness around their various virtual stores. The ad introduced readers to the virtual experience through vivid imagery of the interiors of each store.

6. Press

Many brands use press as a way to market their virtual stores. Press is used to generate interest surrounding an initial store launch, or launches of new products and features. Press articles efficiently summarize the benefits and core features of a virtual store—plus, they serve as a backlink to improve SEO. Quality backlinks can increase virtual store ranks on search engines by building credibility.

For example, when WWD covered Crocs’ holiday store launch, Crocs effectively introduced their virtual store to WWD’s reader base while increasing their own online credibility and authority with a reputable backlink. 

The more regularly you promote your virtual store, the more familiar your potential customers will be with the concept. There are many ways to take advantage of marketing to raise awareness around your virtual store, set user expectations, and increase traffic. It’s critical to test a variety of channels, and then optimize toward the channels that your audience responds to best. 

Our advice to you: test and learn, show lots of visuals, and take advantage of storytelling to set the tone of your virtual store.

If you’re interested in learning more about raising awareness and improving the traffic of your virtual store, contact the Obsess customer success team at contact@obsessVR.com.

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