How This Virtual Store Is Getting Very Close to the Real Thing
First, we had traditional stores shifting to e-commerce. Then, we saw innovations in personal shopping, home deliveries, and curbside pickups. Now, in the continuing saga of getting the goods without leaving your home, there is the arrival of the very convincing virtual boutique.
Entering the Virtual Store
Tumi, the global travel goods company, one-ups everyone by adding another dimension to the online shopping experience: the feeling of space. Clicking on the Tumi Virtual Store, which recently opened its digital doors in the region, you’re presented with a simulation of a brick-and-mortar shop down to the landing page, which is rendered as the marble façade of a glass-enclosed store.
From there, an arrow warps you inside, giving you a commanding view of the tidy interior, as if you just crossed its threshold. Tumi says it’s important to present a familiar environment and thus the Virtual Store looks like its physical shops, specifically a luxury boutique in Shanghai. There’s even a cashier at the far end even if you don’t need it to complete a purchase.
On a laptop, with your mouse (hold and drag), you can look up and down and left and right and all around. And once you’re done making yourself dizzy, you can click on more touchpoints to bring you closer to the merchandise neatly arranged at center and on both walls.
Playing with 3D ploppables
Here is where the magic happens. Another important goal for the virtual experience is communicating the products clearly. Say you are interested in the new Infantry 2-in-1 Backpack: You click on the gray sphere (a little nub at the bottom of each bag) to bring up the dedicated menu, on which, apart from the traditional slideshow of images, options for 360° 3D and AR views appear.
The 360-degree view allows you to spin the bag in various ways to inspect it in all manner of angles, while the more exciting AR option leads to a QR code that, upon scanning using an iPhone, plops a virtual copy of the olive-colored backpack on your messy desk. And then you’ll see how big the backpack really is as it can be scaled to 100 percent of its size.
AR was incorporated into the store because Tumi’s sales team couldn’t fully express the true size of the bags to customers. Now, with the tech, you can project the bag beside, say, your laptop for comparison.
Trying (or skipping) the extras
Tumi also touts a couple of activities, including a silly Instagram racing game, where your head is superimposed onto a motorcycle rider who collects bags across the city, as well as the Magic Mirror Selfie, which is self-explanatory.
We tried the former and skipped the latter because, well, the primary purpose for virtual shopping is browsing the goods and then convincing yourself that, yes, you do need the 19 Degree Aluminum Rolling Trunk even if you have nowhere to go. Maybe you can use it as extra storage in your room? Maybe it can serve as a piece of art?
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Thinking on the good stuff
That’s the best thing about virtual shopping. You can ruminate on your would-be purchase for as long as you want. There are no sales associates breathing down your neck (though they are accessible via Facebook Messenger chat for questions). And, even if there are hundreds of people browsing the shop at the same time, the virtual store always appears peacefully empty.
While there are still things to improve—the AR view only works with an iPhone (sorry to the millions of Andriod users), the gray touchpoints can be much bigger, and the registration pop-up should be reconsidered (it is mildly vexing)—the Tumi Virtual Store is step up for e-commerce.
E-retailers had been proclaiming how the experience on their shopping portals is similar to the real thing but, in reality, most feel like tooling around a website. You click on words and images in a flat environment. You swipe on a gallery of photos to figure out if this shirt will fit your mangled body. They get the job done but they’re not mirrors of a trip to the shop as promised.
For those looking for the closest approximation of the on-site shopping experience, this is the one (for now).