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Zola enables iPad users to explore real-world wedding registry showrooms

Wedding registry marketplace Zola is attempting to merge offline and online shopping by enabling users to view items in a real-world showroom via an iPad application and register those they like.

The 360-shopping experience aims to allow engaged couples to shop from Zola’s New York City-based showroom via their mobile devices, as if they were there in-person. Customers will now be able to view products in a real-life setting and can virtually explore the showroom, a feature which may help in whittling down decisions about which products to register for.

“The Zola couple is highly educated, tech-savvy, and always online,” said Shan-Lyn Ma, co-founder and CEO of Zola, New York. “Being prominent on mobile is not only important for attracting customers, but in keeping them actively engaged with their registries.

“Couples love that they get a mobile alert when a gift has been purchased for them, and they can decide on the go whether to have it shipped immediately or hold it for a later date,” she said. “They also love the ability to add gifts without even needing to open a laptop.

“And many guests wind up purchasing gifts on their phones, so it’s important that our mobile site is beautiful and simple to shop. Especially because many of those guests wind up as our future couples!”

Reinventing registering
Zola’s new iPad app could potentially reinvent the experience of registering for wedding gifts, particularly for mobile-savvy millennial couples. While some consumers may prefer to visit a store such as Williams-Sonoma or Pottery Barn to scan desired items, others may appreciate having the ability to browse products via their tablet devices from the comfort of their home or office.

The 360-degree panoramic views enable guests to virtually explore the products to see how they fit in certain rooms or how they are used.

Three shopping spaces will be available for virtual walk-throughs at launch: Zola’s Canvas Home showroom, a rooftop party and a newlywed couple’s apartment.

“Our vision was to create a virtual shopping experience that merges digital and physical by allowing couples to register in real-world settings, directly from their iPad,” said Nobu Nakaguchi, co-founder and chief product officer of Zola. “The Canvas Home store was an ideal location given the gorgeous space and beautifully curated products.

“The 360 view was achieved by attaching a fisheye lens to a camera, fixed onto a panoramic tripod head,” he said. “The group of images was then stitched together.

“The app converts the final image into a texture and renders it to a sphere in three dimensional space. When the user interacts with the 360 view, they’re manipulating this sphere that creates an effect of being at the physical Canvas store.”

Zola claims it is the first wedding registry to integrate with a virtual shopping experience, possibly paving the way for others to follow.

Mobile focus
Zola has been ramping up its focus on mobile as of late. Last September, the registry marketer took advantage of the release of iOS 8 by integrating gift tracking and Web capabilities to its mobile application (see story).

The brand has experienced a high volume of browsing sessions on its iPhone app and over one million swipes on its Tinder-like swiping feature, Blender.

Users will likely enjoy being able to view products in a real-life setting, as it can offer up ideas on proper placing or lighting, and show items to scale. This feature may in fact drive more revenue, as consumers can feel comfortable in having seen the products as they actually are.

It builds transparency among customers, especially those who may at first be wary of registering online or on mobile.

“ was been built with mobile in mind since day one, so it’s always been easy to use it on an iPad,” Ms. Ma said. “But the iPad App takes ease and functionality to a new level.

“When couples are creating their registries on the iPad app, they can upload photos directly from their camera roll to personalize their registry page,” she said. “And with 360, they can get a preview of how the gifts will look in real-life settings before they add them to their registry.

“Planning a wedding is tough work, and we’re happy that we can at least make registering simple and enjoyable.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York