Day: August 3, 2007

Virtual Worlds and online shopping

We’ve had Sears and Circuit City as examples of what can be done with real world retail in virtual worlds for a while now. Essentially these stores attempt to replicate some of the real-life shopping environment, but with hyperlinks off to product pages on their website when a customer wants to know specifics about individual products. They have some other nice touches, too – check them out on IBM 10.

Yesterday, Jazzydee Raymaker showed me around the IWOOT sim in Second Life. This is the SL presence of I Want One Of Those, which is an online store for gadgets and goodies. I passed the recommendation on to epredator, who posted about it on eightbar.


The IWOOT store takes the virtual world <-> real world retail connection one step further. You pick up a cart, and can then walk around looking at the billboards. Click on an item, and a package appears in the cart, labelled with an image of the item you just added to it. This is synced up with the I Want One Of Those website, so it’s actually adding items to your shopping cart there too.


Oh, and if you go away from the virtual store and come back tomorrow, the cart is persistent and remembers what you’d already added, so when it rezzes a second time, the same items will still be there.

What’s the benefit? Surely all we did there was to go another step towards replicating a real world experience. Why bother?

Well, it’s a step up from a 2D web page for online shopping, and here’s why:

  • It’s a social experience, more like really walking into a store. Jazzy was on the other side of the planet, but I was able to hop on the side of the virtual cart and look around the store at the same time.
  • I was able to comment on the items in the trolley. You can’t do that on a website, as you don’t know who is already looking at the page, or what they have in their cart. You can do that in the real world. Apparently this is how supermarket singles nights are supposed to work, but obviously I wouldn’t know about that…
  • IWOOT doesn’t currently have one, but they could mix in a live adviser. Although some websites have a “chat to a customer service representative online now” option, most do not.
  • It would also be possible to mix in some of the special touches that Circuit City or Sears do have, like the couch that gets repositioned according to the size of the TV.

Is it better than a real world store? Well, maybe not. Could I have been in a real store with someone and also on the other side of the planet from them? Definitely not. But here, all the usual arguments for online shopping apply – you can stay at home, have stuff delivered, but also get the social aspect of being with friends and visual feedback. There are a range of other ways to get value from a virtual world – Jasmin Tragas describes some of them in a great recent post.

I found IWOOT to be an interesting new way of looking at online retail. It’s a well-executed store. Check it out.

(sorry about the screencaps. I forgot I had SL set to capture with the UI included… by the way, lighting effects by RenderGlow…)