Virtual Reality Helps ‘Click & Mortar’ Survive Hurricane Amazon

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Virtual Reality Helps ‘Click & Mortar’ Survive Hurricane Amazon

Main Street bears the scars of Hurricane Amazon. Boarded windows, ‘For Lease‘ and ‘Liquidation‘ signs testify to the slow death of urban retail. Not everybody is riding the long black train, though. Morph a ‘Brick & Mortar’ model into a ‘Click & Mortar’ one… Add Virtual Reality… and you get a basic recipe for survival.

In the sleepy cowtown of Tucson, AZ, the owner of Renegade Classics Tucson spends 4 days a week in his store selling motorcycle gear to the local biker community. The rest of the week he’s at home… meticulously planning his online and offline marketing.

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A Modern Store Owner In a Cowtown

A brick & mortar guy with a long career in the radio business, Allan has successfully morphed into a click & mortar geek. Tackling the threat of e-commerce head-on (his niche is rife with giant operators), he manages a well-known website, a second site focusing on local biker events, a Facebook page with 1700+ followers, and an e-mailing list of 9,000+ clients for a biker population of 16,000…

Allan just added virtual reality to his website. Consumers want to see inventory before going to a store. The new 3D virtual tour shows a very large inventory of motorcycle gear. It is immersive, it clearly shows the store is a ‘treasure trove’ for bikers.

Click on the photo below to take the 3D Tour.

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Local riders have responded positively and are taking the trip. So far, 2017 looks like a bumper year for Allan.

Allan’s recipe for success: Making sure a
large inventory of
appealing products is
highly visible online, offering
attractive prices, and keeping a track record of
excellent customer service. As well as having a
great location.

By the way, Allan does not have an e-com site. Most local retailers don’t have the financial wherewithal to compete in the e-com arena. Over the years, I have seen many lured by the e-com mirage fall flat on their face after raking up $50K of additional debt.

Note: There is definitely a place for e-com in a small retail strategy IF you have a unique product, low shipping costs, a proven sales record in your local market, and the $$ to spend pushing your product in social media and online advertising. Otherwise, stay clear and keep your money for what already works.

Promoting the Brand in Northern California

Allan’s success story has an even stronger echo in Northern California where his business partner is making a killing with two Renegade Classics stores.

Nine years ago, Troy Rowsey opened a location in Sacramento, CA. Two years later; a second one in Modesto, CA. Troy is the main owner of the Renegade Classics brand and its most ardent evangelist.

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A born promoter and an early adopter of best practices on the web, Troy currently manages 2 separate websites for his stores, 1 biker community site, several Facebook pages with 8,000+ followers, and a beefy e-mailing list of 15K+ subscribers…

He is also the founder of the Renegade Classics Annual Rendez-Vous, a major biking event held once a year at the Dixon Fairgrounds, CA.

Featuring top-notch regional rock bands and TV-famous tattoo artists, supported by large sponsors and heavily promoted in social media, this 1-day event attracts 12,000+ bikers each year and creates a buzz for Renegade Classics for months.

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Following Allan’s trail and for the same reasons, Troy recently added virtual reality to his store websites. It gives potential clients a taste of what their store experience will be, and shows them a wealth of biker gear. The perfect candy store for grown-up people on two wheels.

Click on the photo below to take the 3D tour…

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Just like Allan, Troy seems positioned to have his best year ever in 2017.

Troy’s recipe for success: Firing on all cylinders both
offline and
online.
Promoting the brand unabashedly, using
all possible tools to get exposure. Deliver
great products at the right price for yourself and the client.

The Logic of 3D Virtual Reality for Brick & Mortar

3D virtual reality matches consumers’ desire to ‘know before they go‘. Time is precious, and in a world of instant gratification, shoppers will travel to a retail spot IF they are fairly certain to find what they need at relatively competitive prices.

Brick & mortar retail offers benefits that online can’t match: (a) full perception of the product; (b) the possibility to try it on, being sure of its fit, and going home with it; (c) human interaction.

The first two benefits are rooted in the desire for instant gratification and the avoidance of disappointment. Returning an ill-fitting product is pain. Waiting for the product to arrive in the mail is pain. Receiving a product that doesn’t look at all like the image on the website is pain.

Virtual tours, when showing inventory in good details, give potential shoppers a reasonable certainty they will find what they need there. A phone call to confirm it. These are elements of a comfortable experience that increase a shopper’s likelihood to take the trip.

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Any retail operation that has something to show (inventory, showroom, a great environment) will benefit from a 3D virtual tour if it used as a complement to an well-planned online strategy.

The Med Tech Case

The next 3D Tour was created for Med Tech, a store specializing in medical implements, supplies and life-aids for senior citizens. I had made a full shoot of the store facade before, and the traffic on Google Maps had substantially increased.

The store has a small e-com shop and the owner was thrilled to add a virtual tour to his online presence as most of the calls received at the shop asked if they would carry such or such product. There was a basic logic then to showing the scope of inventory.

Click on the photo below to take the 3D tour…

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The 3D tour was also created at the right time for the store. They had moved to a new location a few months before and sales had dropped. It was urgent to regain some visibility and show their clients the new location carried even more inventory and was very pleasant to visit.

Just a few months after installing the 3D tour on their website, it garnered 1900+ impressions and 800+ clicks. The 45% conversion ratio shows once again that consumers want to ‘know before they go‘.

Likewise, car dealers, florists, custom framing shops, thrift stores, shoes stores, cosmetic stores, auto repair and body shops, small hardware stores… Any of these retailers and on-location service businesses would benefit from virtual reality when used as a complement to their web presence.

So, What’s a Good Virtual Tour?

The question zeroes in on why shoppers/consumers would take the trip to a store or showroom. In retail, the answer is obvious: do you have the inventory I need to have a choice? Will my trip to your store be fruitful?

In a designer’s showroom situation, the answer would be a composite of choice and taste. An interior designer can’t satisfy all tastes: some won’t like a design style, some will. A virtual visit of a showroom would avoid disappointments by helping people who do not see their homes in the style proposed to avoid taking the trip.

The same would apply to an art gallery.

Showing diversity could also be an angle: a clothing store would make sure their virtual tour show not just clothes but also accessories, and if applicable, handbags.

Importantly, the store must look clean and well-ordered. Dust on the shelves will show, and racks with items clumped together or improperly aligned are likely to turn off potential shoppers. When we created the virtual tour of Renegade Classics Tucson, the staff spent 3 hours on a Saturday evening and an early Sunday morning to make sure the store was shipshape.

There are other factors, both endogenous and exogenous, that make a virtual tour of a store a successful one. This will be the subject of another article.