In a move that thrusts Kilkenny Design to the forefront of global e-commerce trends, the retailer has revealed a 360-degree virtual reality store.

Kilkenny Design’s new virtual reality (VR) store is designed to give customers everywhere access to an immersive in-store experience from the comfort of their own home.

The platform gives customers a new way to browse and buy fashion, jewellery, homeware, giftware, textiles and crafts, both Irish and international.

“We had already started researching our virtual store pre-Covid, because this is very much where the future of retail is heading, but the pandemic really necessitated the move to new ways of giving people access to our brand and products”

The VR store went live on Kilkennyshop.com in early July following a significant increase in online traffic to the site since March 2020.

“Covid has changed how we shop and, in response, we have established a really strong omni-channel presence,” explained Emer McCarthy, Group Strategy and E-commerce director, Kilkenny Design.

“Our virtual store gives our customers a new way of connecting to our in-store retail experience anytime they want and from anywhere they like.”

A different experience

Unlike the standard e-commerce experience, which favours speed and efficiency, Kilkenny Design’s virtual store offers customers browsing online an engaging, discovery-driven, experience. 

“Customer experience is at the heart of everything we do. It is incredibly important to us, and our new VR Store allows our customers to engage with the Kilkenny Design brand in a completely new and unique way at a time when the way we shop has undergone such a dramatic shift,” says McCarthy.

The design and layout of the Virtual Store is inspired by Kilkenny Design’s flagship shop on Nassau Street in Dublin.

Visitors who click on the ‘Virtual Store’ link on Kilkennyshop.com are greeted with a panoramic view of the shop floor. They can move between different sections — such as jewellery, gifts, wellness and homeware — selecting products displayed on virtual racks and shelves, just as they would in the real world.

“This is about bringing the benefits of the physical and digital worlds together and, as such, creating a new world — the ‘phygital’ world — which you can shop at your own pace, at a time that suits you and from anywhere in the world,” says McCarthy.

Wider audience for an Irish brand

Customers can experience the Kilkenny Design Virtual Store in one of three ways. They can use desktop and mobile browsers to explore the shop in a non-immersive setting, accessing detailed product information and purchasing items (for the best experience, users should use Chrome or Firefox). 

Alternatively, they can experience an immersive 360-degree view of the store using a VR headset and handset controls, such as Oculus, or on their smartphone, using a Google Cardboard VR headset. In VR mode, customers can browse sections and products in the store. They can’t purchase items or access detailed product information.

“We’ve approached the new Kilkenny Design VR Store with different customers in mind. You don’t need a VR-friendly device to experience it. You can still access it as a virtual shop on your desktop or mobile. You can walk through it, shop it and add to your cart,” says McCarthy.

“This means it is accessible to a much wider audience, which is extremely important to us, because we understand that virtual reality is a relatively new consumer technology that not everyone will have access to.”

Cross collaboration

The Kilkenny Design Virtual Store has launched following a year in development involving cross-collaboration between different divisions within the retail group. 

“We had already started researching our virtual store pre-Covid, because this is very much where the future of retail is heading, but the pandemic really necessitated the move to new ways of giving people access to our brand and products,” says McCarthy.

“We had the vision to grow our market share by adapting VR technology, which really puts us at the cutting-edge of emerging trends in retail globally, and allows customers, new and existing, to shop our unique Irish design offering in locations where we don’t have a physical presence.”

Kilkenny Design is always looking at new channels, and new ways to serve customers, says McCarthy.

“We see this launch very much as phase one of our VR Store. We will be watching carefully in the months ahead, keeping a close eye on the analytics and using the data to learn and inform how we move forward with our wider e-commerce strategy,” McCarthy said. 

By John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 22 July 2021

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