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Virtual Reality Experience Helps Bolster In-Store Sales

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It’s no secret that Cincinnati, OH-based Artichoke has been heavily influenced by technology. The store, owned by Karen and Brad Hughes, takes its design to the next level, for starters. Called, “the Apple Store for foodies,” the store has a large, long, backlit wall and displays that are sleek and sophisticated. The couple and their staff only put out one of each item for a clean, streamlined look, storing the rest in the basement.

However, it’s not just the merchandising that makes the 2018 Gourmet Insider All-Stars and the 2019 U.S. Global Innovator Award winner stand out from the pack – it’s also their commitment to technology. And, while the Hugheses are demanding of their vendors to create hi-def videos that are placed on iPads around the retail outlet, the couple have also made the investment in a virtual reality version of their store, which they prominently display on their website as part of their overall branding experience.

“It helps customers with understanding what your is before they come in. It can be the first impression our store makes,” she said.

And the investment, she said, is well worth it. It takes a small amount of the retailer’s time to produce the video and it can even be customizable to specific products and needs.

“They come in with a special camera and the whole thing takes about 30 minutes. However, no one can be in the store when it is running. But the outcome looks like you are really in the store. And, we were able to add vendor videos too. We have nodes that the viewer can click on to see videos of products, so it really helps with educating customers about the products we carry,” said Karen Hughes.

Hughes said that this enables potential customers to get a taste of what the store is like before entering and actually brings in more customers. Additionally, said Brad Hughes, it allows people to see what is next to and across from a certain product in the store for additional ideas and sales.

“I actually had a customer call me because they were purchasing something off a registry and she was looking at all the products the bride chose through the store tour on the website. And if our customers see something in the store they want, they give us a call and we mail it to them,” he said.

The tour also resonates with those customers that may have visited while they were in town, but don’t live within a distance that makes it easy to return.

“We use it also for the many out-of-town customers we have. They can ‘come back’ to the store to refresh their memory on the things they saw here, and call us if they want something shipped. It’s really an amazing technology,” said Karen Hughes.

Additionally, noted Hughes, there is the option to add e-commerce to the virtual reality tour, which will allow customers the option to purchase directly off the shelves. While Artichoke does not have an e-commerce site, she explained that it would be a benefit to those retailers that do.

“Someone can just shop your store and buy something with the click of a button, as if they were there,” said Hughes. “We’ve seen figures that say its made sales worth having it, but in our case, we just feel like it just sets us apart to have it.”

However, said both Karen and Brad Hughes, there are two major challenges to the virtual reality tour, they said. One, noted Brad, was that the store has to look pristine before having the procedure done.

“Karen was scrubbing everything for about a week because it needed to be perfect,” he said. “And you can’t have any price tags or any signage or specials, so there is a lot of physical work involved when it comes to getting the store ready.”

Another, added Karen Hughes, is keeping the tour up-to-date. While she said Artichoke has had theirs up for about a year and a half, she would prefer to do it more often.

“How many times you do it really depends on how static your store is. I would love to have it done every six months, but it is an investment so that may not be feasible,” she said.

Want to see the store in person? Check out the virtual reality tour here.


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