TECHNOLOGY

Jewelry brand teams up with Mastercard on VR shopping app

BY Marianne Wilson

Another retail brand has entered the virtual reality game.

Swarovski has teamed up with Mastercard to launch a virtual reality shopping app for the brand's line of crystal home accessories, Atelier Swarovski. The app is designed to immerse consumers in a beautifully decorated home setting where they can virtually browse and purchase crystal artwork using Masterpass, Mastercard’s digital payment service, without ever leaving the VR experience.

Consumers can place their smartphone into a compatible VR headset to enter the experience, which lets them walk through the five areas of the virtual home to browse designs. Once in the VR environment, they are able to learn about the stories behind each piece, read through descriptions, see the pricing, and in some cases watch videos about its craftsmanship. Using Masterpass, consumers can check-out from within the VR experience without having to add payment details. For a video on the app, click here.

When they launch the app, users are prompted to log in with their Masterpass account credentials, enabling them to checkout by focusing their gaze on the Masterpass button that appears at the bottom of the product description.

The virtual interactive experience was created and developed by immersive technology company Youvisit. The app will be available for download from the iTunes app and Google Play stores in October.

“Atelier Swarovski Home is a masterfully crafted collection that is most dynamic when experienced first-hand,” said Nadja Swarovski, member of the executive board, Swarovski Crystal Business. “As our e-commerce business continues to grow, this partnership allows consumers a fully immersive shopping opportunity to interact with the product and then purchase seamlessly within the experience. The cutting-edge VR technology allows consumers to fully realize scale and engage more deeply with design details before making a purchase – anywhere."

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TECHNOLOGY

Kroger creates new website to help identify local product vendors

BY Michael Johnsen

Kroger on Friday launched a new website to welcome local and emerging brands to partner with the company.

"Kroger has always had a commitment to supporting small-business owners and local vendors," stated Mike Donnelly, Kroger executive VP merchandising and procurement. "Our business has a track record of successfully blending centralized and decentralized decision making to promote local products while also enjoying economies of scale. Since Kroger's day one, we have had a longstanding, 365-day-a-year commitment to support and source from local farmers, ranchers, food producers, wineries, breweries and product makers. There are tastes and products that are unique to every region."

Kroger's team of buyers continuously look for opportunities to purchase regionally that allow the company to expand its product portfolio for customers, stimulate the local economy and enhance product freshness. now vendors will be able to contact them through the new website, called Kroger.Com/WeAreLocal. Sourcing locally also supports the company's sustainability commitments, including Kroger's Zero Hunger | Zero Waste initiative launched earlier this week.

"Kroger has led the way for over a decade in making local, natural and organic products more affordable and accessible to America – especially for shoppers on a budget," Donnelly said. "We've always believed that our customers shouldn't have to pay higher prices just because a product is local, natural or organic. There are a lot of headlines about making local, natural and organic foods more affordable. The truth is, we've always been affordable. That's why we developed our Simple Truth brand, which today is the biggest natural and organic brand in the country by volume."

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TECHNOLOGY

The busiest online shopping day in history will be…

BY Marianne Wilson

Black Friday is still No. 1 when it comes to setting sales records.

Black Friday, which falls on Nov. 24 this year, will be the busiest digital shopping day in U.S. history, exceeding Cyber Monday (Nov. 27) for the second year in a row, according to a report by Salesforce.

Mobile traffic to retail sites will grow to 60% of total across the globe this shopping season (compared to 34% for desktop and 5% for tablets). Orders placed on phones will approach 40% on big shopping days such as Black Friday, according to Salesforce's 2017 Holiday Season Predictions report.

Consumers will only have 50% of their holiday shopping completed by Sunday, Dec. 3 and 80% completed by Friday, Dec. 15. Cyber Week (Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday) will see both the deepest discounts (average of 28% off list price) and highest rate of free shipping (86% of all orders will have it). Beyond Cyber Week, Monday, Dec. 11 will have the deepest discounts and highest availability of free shipping.

In other insights from the Salesforce report:

o The most popular online shopping time for website visits and orders is from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.

o Seven to 10% of all iPhone orders will go through Apple Pay.

o The most used channels for research before buying online include website (74%), email (43 %), social media (38%) and a retailer's mobile apps (36%).

o Voice-enabled digital assistants such as Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri and Google Assistant will be used by 40% of Millennials (ages 18-36) to research merchandise before buying online.

o Fifty-eight percent of consumers think that store associates need the ability to look up product details on-demand on a mobile device in order to help deliver an excellent customer experience.

o Over a third of Millennials (35%) say the ability to search merchandise in a physical store or online catalog using an image and receiving product recommendations based on the attributes of that image would be appealing.

o Millennials are also 2.5 times more likely (28% vs. 11%) than Baby Boomers (ages 53-71) to say personalized digital offers from retailers based on their purchasing history would appeal to them.

o Despite a desire for more personalized experiences, 63% of consumers feel like retailers don't truly know who they are.

o In addition, 61% believe that in order to help deliver an excellent customer experience, store associates need visibility into all available inventory at other stores or warehouses if an item is out of stock.

"Just like watching television, holiday shopping has moved from an appointment based activity to an on-demand activity," said Rob Garf, VP industry insights, Salesforce Commerce Cloud. "Salesforce expects to see continued growth not only in mobile orders and website visits, but also in newer technologies such as mobile payments and artificial intelligence. It's not too late for retailers to make adjustments today in order to meet consumer expectations and better compete this holiday season."

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