An Early Virtumall Failure and the Infinite Shelf

Via Raph Koster’s blog, a good example of how not to pursue a 3D immersive shopping experience.  There has been a lot of discussion about retailing in virtual worlds and, while direct, Raph (who is perhaps best placed to comment on such given his vast experience) seems to hit the nail on the head in his critique of Brookstone’s early attempt at a virtual storefront while pointing all future virtumall pioneers in the direction of a better visualization of the “infinite shelf:

“…a quick look at the pictures and I have to say, what’s the benefit of shopping in 3d if all the goods actually box-shaped, with exactly the usual sort of picture you see in any online retailer, just texture-mapped onto the cube? Come on, if you are going to shop in 3d, at least have 3d models of stuff to look at. You can’t even get a sense of scale with it right now.

Really, the reason why aisles are nice in real life is browsing: seeing related products right there — you can quickly and easily find other books by the author, other products competing in the same space, etc. Showing stacks of identical cubes is not maximing even the virtual real estate. A virtual store that mimics a real store too closely is going to miss out on what could make a virtual store great: a better visualization of the “infinite shelf.” After all, aisles exist in real life retailing as a simple form of categorization and recommendation engine.

Really, though, if I were trying to solve that problem, how about just having a carousel on Amazon, right where the pic of the product goes. Click on the arrows to the left or right, and be taken to the next related product, just like how they do their recommendations right now. That way I could find one book by an author, and quickly spin through all their other releases, or find one TV with my search criteria, and quickly see all the competing models. It’s basically about a more prominent, responsive and rich “people who bought this also bought” widget…”



This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 28th, 2007 at 2:02 pm and is filed under Blog.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. 

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