Mastercard and Next Retail Concepts have partnered to create a new online shopping experience that allows shoppers to virtually navigate a 3D simulation of a physical store, rather than scrolling through product pages using traditional category tabs and filters, according to a Mastercard press release.
Fred Segal is the first seller to use the new platform, which is premiering at Refinery29's 29Rooms experiential event this week in Los Angeles. Mastercard is the official payments and technology partner of 29Rooms.
Purchases are completed within the same simulated environment, which is intended to integrate seamlessly with a brand's existing e-commerce platform. For this week's event, the partners have worked with Refinery29 to create a curated collection of items available online. Shoppers paying with a Mastercard will earn a one-time loyalty reward to receive a $30 statement credit when they spend $200 or more on the collection.
One of the prevalent feelings of in-store shopping is discovery, and the ability to walk over and take a closer look — something that's hard to replicate with scrolling through product listings. Thus far, the retail sector has used 3D, and augmented and virtual reality technologies in small doses to enhance aspects of shopping. Mobile AR-enabled apps are one example — shoppers can move 3D items and see them in different ways in AR views. Retailers like Macy's have also added AR and VR shopping capabilities into physical stores.
For the most part, retailers and brands have stopped short of creating fuller and shopping experiences that would transcend its use as a marketing device. Anything approaching this level of immersiveness has been viewed more as a novelty than an extreme makeover of the current online shopping model, though some retailers have made efforts to create virtual stores in the past.
Mastercard and Next Retail Concepts have just such a makeover in mind. Online retailers and marketplaces have experimented with a variety of technologies to improve the online shopping experience — everything from richer search capabilities to personalization to gamification — along with 3D, AR and VR. But, some key features of the online shopping experience, including category tabs, search fields, filter fields, product pages with images wrapped in content and customer ratings, have remained relatively unchanged for years.
All of these tools are valuable, and often enable efficient and satisfying shopping experiences, but ultimately there is a wall between customers and the merchandise, which has been the traditional Achilles' heel to online shopping. Mastercard and Next Retail Concepts are looking to do something about that by using existing technology to create an online shopping experience that gives shoppers the same feeling they have when they are browsing through a physical store.