Virtual stores: the future of retail?

IADS Exclusive 13 January 2021 Louise Ancora

With the pandemic, the past year brought its share of new initiatives and the year ahead is going to be no different. Retailers in the world, which endured many weeks of closure in 2020 (up to 30% of total opening time) and are still threatened by further lockdowns in 2021, had to reinvent themselves to reach out to customers directly in their homes. 

Remote shopping played a significant part in retailers’ survival via new or upgraded digital tools, such as virtual stores. This new channel provides a more inviting shopping experience than a simple ecommerce and safer than physical shopping. For instance, on a webstore the customer scrolls and browses through a series of pages showing one article next to the other. By contrast, a virtual store is an immersive experience supported by interactive elements allowing customers to actually be in the store; which these are sometimes a perfect replica of the physical spaces. Customers navigate the store and see the products on the shelves, almost as if they were in the physical space. It is a mix between a webstore and a virtual reality experience. 

Brands have started to use this new format during lockdowns. After the pandemic it could very well be a valuable tool for department stores too.

Review of the strengths and limits of this format to determine if it could become a valuable option for department stores.


IADS provides its members with a weekly in-depth analysis on retail-oriented topics. This is an example of the themes the Association regularly addresses, and the topic of an article  from the IADS members-only newsletter date 13 January 2021.

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