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When COVID-19 plunged the world into lockdown in 2020, physical stores were no longer accessible. The world went online to use online virtual stores. 

But as convenient as online shopping is, scrolling through endless amounts of 2D images can get boring fast. 

There’s nothing quite like the immersive, social experience of being in a brick-and-mortar store: Exploring a perfectly curated environment that embodies the essence of the brand… 

Or is there? 

‘Virtual Stores’ don’t just exist in science fiction novels. They exist now, and they’re the perfect combination of physical and digital storefronts—they’re phygital! 

But let’s go back a little bit…

What exactly is a virtual store?

A virtual store is an online experience that replicates the experience of shopping in a physical store through immersive and interactive technology. 

They combine brick-and-mortar stores’ immersive, engaging atmospheres with the ease and convenience of online shopping. 

But what does this actually look like? 

We’ll show you! 

Read more: Why 2024 is the year of the virtual store…

What are some of the features of virtual stores?

Let’s take a little look at some of the unique features of virtual stores, using our virtual store Shopify plug-in Odyssey3D as an example.

1. Crazy locations

There’s no limit on where your virtual store can be. 

Unlike their brick-and-mortar counterparts, virtual stores aren’t restricted by any physical constraints. 

Want your store surrounded by stars?

The sky’s the limit! (Except it’s not. Because you can go even further!) 

How about having a giant swimming pool in the centre of your store to showcase your new summer collection? 

You won’t even need to hire a lifeguard! 

Virtual stores offer unparalleled freedom to transform any retail space into captivating, crazy destinations that leave customers in awe. 

What better way to keep customers coming back?

2. Sociable experiences

Unlike physical shopping, online shopping is a solo experience—there’s no human interaction. For some, this is far more ideal. But let’s be honest: Having someone there to bounce opinions off (and stop you from making terrible purchasing decisions!) is a benefit.

Odyssey3D custom virtual stores can have integrated social features like voice channels and avatars. 

That means when your customers enter your virtual space, they’ll be able to see and interact with each other’s digital personas. They could even invite their friends. That’s free, organic word-of-mouth marketing! 

Having these social experiences transforms the online shopping experience. Simple, spontaneous visits online become memorable and opportunistic! 

Who would you visit a virtual store with?

3. Interactive product displays

Instead of static product images, virtual stores allow customers to get a better, more interactive view of your products. 

How?

3D models.

Odyssey3D Forge lets you upload 3D models of your products. Customers can explore your products from all angles and enjoy a more enriching experience. 

Want to take inspiration from Jaquemus and present giant bus-sized versions of your products? Why not! Anything is possible.

Using 3D models also reduces your return rate. Why? They allow buyers to be more confident in their purchasing decisions. If they already love your product in a 360-degree view, they’ll love it even more in person. 

Benefits that virtual stores bring…

We’ve spoken about some of a virtual store’s more unique features, but what about their benefits? 

1. They’re super sustainable

That’s right! Virtual stores can significantly reduce your carbon footprint. That’s the carbon footprint associated with traditional retail operations. 

Brick-and-mortar stores require many energy-intensive activities, such as heating, cooling, lighting, and maintenance. Virtual stores, on the other hand, operate entirely in the digital realm. They minimise energy consumption and resource usage. 

Additionally, they completely reduce your store’s reliance on paper-based materials like catalogues, flyers and receipts. Paperless transactions promote the reduction of deforestation. Save those trees! 

2. They’re global

Like a website, virtual stores transcend geographical boundaries. Customers can visit your virtual store from anywhere in the world. Seriously, anywhere

With in-person stores, expanding into new markets often involves significant investment. But Odyssey3D Roam is free

You can connect with customers across continents in a couple of clicks! 

3. They’re 24/7

Speaking of accessibility, did we mention that they never close? 

No more fixed operating hours. Virtual stores cater to the needs of your customers with diverse schedules and lifestyles. Customers can explore your store at any time of day or night, regardless of their location or time zone. 

And what’s the benefit of this? Virtual stores capture sales opportunities that might otherwise be missed during non-business hours. 

More sales for you and happier customers!

4. They’re cost-efficient

Virtual stores don’t require any heavy investment in real estate, lease agreements or physical infrastructure. 

And staffing costs? They’re non-existent. Virtual stores don’t require sales associates, security personnel or support staff! 

Wrapping up…

From crazy destinations to absolute convenience, virtual stores are the next big thing in e-commerce. 

They combine the best aspects of the physical and digital worlds and are the key to setting your business apart from the rest. 

Are you interested in owning your own virtual store?