For younger generations just online shopping is not enough. They are attracted by immersive and interactive 3D virtual experiences, including exciting games. But how can companies and brands create such experiences in the metaverse? One of the frontrunners is ByondXR, a retail-tech company that has created virtual interactive stores and showrooms for international brands like Mitsubishi, Armani and Lancôme.
"This technology will impact retail enormously over the next few years. It is now still like scratching the surface of this immense potential of what can happen to retailers. E-commerce has not changed so much in the past decades. We see these tedious feeds with visuals. But when you visit a brick-and-mortar store you are part of an experience and we also want to see that in an online virtual world," says Noam Levavi, CEO of ByondXR, during a talk at the WPP – Alibaba Festival. "We create virtual spaces. We can build something that is similar and yet much richer than the real world. It can add a lot to the buying experience like gamification or buying with celebrities," CTO Eran Galil of ByondXR, explains to i24 News. "All brands are fighting for attention of the younger generation. They can make the experience so much more engaging."
Virtual interactive showrooms
ByondXR has developed an extended reality (XR) platform for brands that produces virtual spaces mimicking physical stores, showrooms and homes, using photorealism and comprehensive cloud engines. The company, with offices in New York and Tel Aviv, wants to transform the e-commerce experience using its proprietary 3D engine that creates virtual worlds. Customers can have in-person retail experiences in a virtual store, try products in their home environment and purchase goods. In a corporate video ByondXR gives an impression of the virtual showrooms and stores as well as possible interactions. 'It makes the e-commerce experience more natural, less digital, more human', as magazine Forbes is quoted.
For Levavi it all started thirty years ago. "When I was a teenager I went to one of the biggest malls in Tel Aviv. There was a kind of VR headset that people could try. It was heavy with poor graphics, but it gave me inspiration to think how this type of technology could evolve. (…) In my previous venture we created customer experiences with very large screens. A couple of years later we founded ByondXR with the idea of helping companies to create content for VR headsets, which is really challenging. We want to create better content and better experiences."
Bridging the gap between brands and Gen Z
Reaching younger generations has always been a challenge for brands. "We are bridging this gap between brands and Generation Z. Young generations like Gen Z are used to playing games on their mobile phones. They are used to this type of interactive and immersive environment," Levavi elaborates. "It is much easier for them to connect to a new type of shopping experience than just a regular feed. What we see is that younger generations love gamification features as part of their shopping experience."
One of the challenges today is to make VR headsets more convenient. "Many of us have played around with Google Glass and it made us all look like idiots in a sense. But the technology is going to change. Technology companies are working on their own platforms. Maybe a tech company like Apple, Microsoft, Google, Samsung or Alibaba will be able to make these kinds of glasses cool. They are working on their platforms. The technology is advancing. A few versions from now it will be more convenient. It will work with very small glasses like the ones people are already wearing, and that have all the AR and VR capabilities inside."
The emergence of virtual store platforms
In virtual worlds influencers can play a role as an avatar. "They have many fans that follow them into the stores on a specific time. They can promote different types of products they care about. In the near future we are going to see a better embedding of those influencers through their avatars in metaverse environments. As a visitor you can feel like you are there together with the influencer and not just watching a screen. It is a much more immersive type of experience."
It is expected that in the near future more virtual store platforms will be established. There are already some other platforms like Obsess, but the branch is still new. Noam Levavi of ByondXR is convinced that virtual 3D stores are the future. "Virtual experience technology bridges the gap between brands and customers, bringing online shopping to life. We want to create a personalized and memorable interactive experience for users, which we believe is critical in helping brands connect with their customer base, increase loyalty and engage a younger audience."