Israel’s Tridshops just may be about to hammer another nail into the coffin of “brick-and-mortar” retail stores, at least for the ones selling items like shoes, toys and electronics.
Using advanced algorithms that take advantage of high-speed Internet and advanced graphics tech, the company has created a platform that allows retailers to quickly set up an easy-to-navigate on-line store that convincingly mimics the actual buyer experience, with shoppers “moving” on a virtual walkway past 3D renderings of products which they can pick up, examine and manipulate from a 360 degree point of view.
The system is almost ready for prime time, according to Dror Sorek, the founder and CEO of Tridshops. The company — developed together with Israeli software house OneCode — is putting the finishing touches on a deal with a large Israeli retailer, which after the summer, will set up a virtual store using the technology. If that works out well, the company will begin setting up stores for retailers abroad.
“We are negotiating with a number of leading brands about the use of our platform,” said Sorek. “We believe that a growing number of leading retail chains will soon adopt out platform.”
Retail, the consumer-facing business model that is a main feature of city centers and malls the world over, is facing a situation that has been described as anything between a crisis and death spiral. The number of retail customers (“foot traffic,” as it is called in the industry) was down by more than half from 2010 to 2013, according to a 2014 study by ShopperTrak, which keeps track of store visits at 60,000 large retailers and malls in the United States. A separate study by CoStar Group, which reports on how mall and retail space is used, said that in 2008, a total of 300 million square feet of selling space was opened in the US; in 2013, that number was down to 43.8 million.
Where have all the shoppers gone? On-line, according to industry experts. According to Forrester Research, a top commerce data analyst, the Internet will account for 11% of all US retail sales in 2018, up from 8% in 2013. However, in dollar terms, sales will jump 57%, as consumers increasingly buy more expensive – and profitable – fashion clothing and electronics on-line.
On-line shopping has many advantages over in-store buying; there’s no hassle of driving and looking for parking “downtown” or at the mall, it’s easier to compare prices and find the best deal, and consumers can shop any time, day or night. Of course, sometimes consumers want to go to the mall, to see people, soak up the “holiday spirit” (especially during the November and December “shopping season”), and – perhaps most importantly — having the experience of actually seeing what they are buying, and checking it out close-up.
But Tridshops poses a formidable challenge to those advantages. Tridshops’ platform, which is patent protected, allows retailers and storeowners to choose the type, model, design and color of their virtual shops and easily fill their shelves with goods. Users can move through the store using their mouse (or finger, on touch-enabled tablets and phones) and even embark on a virtual voyage to navigate throughout the store, as they would in a real store. And in contrast to an ordinary store, the platform creates a unique experience, allowing designers to integrate video clips and rich media content connected to their products.
The platform offers additional information about the goods, and makes it possible to examine them closely and examine them from all angles – front, back, top and bottom. While the platform does not provide the experience of holding the item, of course, it does provide a full visual experience.
And the platform allows for social shopping, as well. Shoppers can invited friends on Facebook to join them in on-line stores, and communicate in real time, asking for opinions on whether or not to buy. Users can also contact the sellers directly for support through a user-friendly help screen.
Of course, malls aren’t going out of business anytime soon (although more of them are closing down altogether than ever), but it’s clear, said Sorek, that the tide has turned to on-line shopping – and with Tridshops’ platform, the move from brick-and-mortar to e-retailing is likely to accelerate.
“Tridshops is the first company in the world to achieve what others have tried and failed to do: a full and smoothly working 3D social shopping platform,” he said.
“Shopping in 3D at a virtual store creates a unique experience, enhancing consumer confidence and reducing calls to the service center and the return of goods,” Sorek added. “This technology improves the 3D virtual store’s conversion rate and boosts customer loyalty and satisfaction. It also raises brand value, increases time spent on the site and the likelihood of consumers sharing favorable opinions compared with other shopping, and creates a full ability to examine shoppers’ habits and consumer preferences. This will be a turning point in the retail sector.”