The Center for Data Innovation spoke with Neha Singh, founder and CEO of Obsess, a startup in New York that creates immersive and interactive online stores for retailers. Singh discussed how brands are using augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) technologies to give consumers a unique online experience.
Gillian Diebold: How does Obsess use data to improve the customer experience?
Neha Singh: At Obsess, we create virtual stores for large brands and retailers, such as Coach, Tommy Hilfiger, Dermalogica, NARS, Charlotte Tilbury, American Girl, Sam’s Club, Mary Kay, and Nayomi. Utilizing our proprietary VR technology, we enable brands to serve highly interactive, visual, and creative online shopping experiences on their existing e-commerce site and offer their customers a beautiful, HD-quality, photorealistic virtual environment to shop from. We are the global market leaders in this arena, having created more than 90 virtual stores. We capture real-time user interactions within our virtual stores, which gives us a lot of insightful data into how users behave in these environments, the way they interact with products and branded content within virtual stores, the traffic sources, the device breakdown, average time spent, click-through rate from virtual store to client site, etc. And, we apply this learning to each new virtual store that we create to deliver high-performing, data-driven online shopping AR/VR experiences.
Diebold: What does success look like for Obsess?
Singh: We measure our success through the success of our retail partners with their virtual stores powered by Obsess. Virtual stores are becoming a permanent part of our clients’ sites. And brands globally are starting to realize that their dot com is their new flagship. Some of our clients have achieved up to 70 percent increased conversion rates from the traffic through their virtual store versus their e-commerce site, 10x increase in their virtual traffic compared to their retail store foot traffic, and 20 percent higher average order value through virtual store versus e-commerce. With this impact, brands are setting up virtual selling as their own distinct sales channel, beyond their retail stores and e-commerce sites.
Diebold: What kinds of challenges are brands facing as they integrate AR/VR technology?
Singh: One of the main challenges that brands are still facing today with implementing AR/VR technology is creating longevity behind the customer experience and going beyond thinking about AR/VR as short-term digital content. Brands are still struggling to create immersive AR/VR experiences that are a coherent part of their digital ecosystem, rather than a one-off campaign. As more brands understand that these technologies are now fulfilling a permanent customer need and treat it as a new digital sales channel and a permanent part of their omnichannel experience, they will begin to see strong results that are consistent over time.
Diebold: Customers have gotten accustomed to personalized online shopping experiences. How does your platform integrate this personalization in virtual stores?
Singh: Personalization is a big part of Obsess-powered virtual stores. We want users to feel fully immersed in their favorite brand’s world. They can be guided throughout the experience through the avatar of the brand’s icon. They can try on products from within the virtual store, speak with sales associates in real-time, and shop the experience with their friends and family to have a personal and memorable moment that they can also share on their social accounts.
Diebold: As the pandemic eases in the United States, what shifts do you anticipate in brand innovation?
Singh: In the post-pandemic world, brands need to fundamentally rethink their omnichannel strategy, or all the varying ways they can reach consumers. Pre-pandemic, this was very much about making products available across all channels, but the brand experience was limited to retail stores. As consumer behaviors change, brands would have to evolve their selling strategies as well. And, they need to meet their customers with a full brand experience wherever and whenever they want to interact with the brand, from their e-commerce to any other digital channel.