Luxury retailer Kilkenny Design has officially opened a new virtual reality store as ongoing travel restrictions, especially from the US and Japanese markets, impact its important international customer base.
The virtual store aims to give potential shoppers worldwide an immersive in-store experience. It was developed in response to growing traffic to the retailer’s site since the pandemic began.
The virtual store offers customers a similar shopping experience to browsing in-store, and is based on the company’s flagship store in Dublin’s Nassau Street.
“Covid has changed how we shop and, in response, we have established a really strong omni-channel presence,” says Emer McCarthy, group strategy and ecommerce director with 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.”
The virtual store, which went live at Kilkennyshop. com earlier in July, is the first major initiative of recently appointed chief executive Evelyn Moynihan.
Before she succeeded Marian O’Gorman, the driving force behind the business over 22 years, Ms Moynihan had spent the early months of the pandemic expanding Kilkenny’s online business.
International tourists had accounted for about 30 per cent of the €34 million in sales at the luxury group before Covid-19 struck. Ms Moynihan has said previously that the pandemic wiped 45 per cent off revenues at the group’s 16 outlets.
“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,” Ms McCarthy said.
Customers can access the full immersive browsing experience using a VR headset and handset controls, such as Oculus, or on their smartphone, using a Google Cardboard VR headset.
Shoppers have a panoramic view of the shop floor, and can move between different sections, with products displayed on virtual racks and shelves.
VR mode allows customers to browse in-store but they cannot purchase items or access detailed product information.
Those without headsets can access the virtual store through desktop and mobile browsers to view detailed product information and purchase items, making it accessible to a wider audience.
“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,” said Ms McCarthy.
“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.”
Although the pandemic has made the virtual browsing experience more topical, Kilkenny Design said it was already exploring the VR option before it hit. Ms McCarthy said the current virtual store was “phase one”, and there are plans to develop it further based on data gathered in the months ahead.