Do you at times feel you are leafing through a shopping catalogue when you are browsing through your favourite e-commerce portal? Do you find the listings too staid and the product photos all stacked the same way? While you do appreciate the convenience of online shopping, the fun of discovering something new just behind the next aisle seems to be missing.
Bangalore-based Preksh Innovations Pvt. Ltd, an augmented reality solutions startup, promises to bring back the zing into online shopping. It has built a technology solution which allows customers to virtually walk through brick-and-mortar stores, select their favourite items and buy them online. The technology uses Google Street View and Magento, the open source e-commerce software used by most online marketplaces, to combine the best of online and offline shopping.
"An online consumer is provided with two search and discovery options -- text search or menu-driven search," says Saikat Sinha, co-founder and chief marketing officer, Preksh. "However, in the real world, people search and discover products by looking around. The entire visual experience of looking around is missing in online shopping."
How it works
On clicking on the website of such a virtual tour-enabled store, the customer finds herself right in a middle of a brick-and-mortar like store, with a 360-degree view of the entire shopping area -- racks laden with products, mannequins, posters, and even the cash counter. She can also virtually walk through the store by following the arrows on the site. For a closer look at a product, she can click to zoom in. The AR solution also allows her to interact with the store by sending a snapshot of a particular product or even share it in social media, and do specific actions, such as placing the product in the shopping cart or making the final purchase.
Preksh offers two variants of its AR solution "the premium retail solution which also enables shopping and the stripped down version which gives only the visual experience. The latter can be used by real estate companies, hotels and tour operators, educational institutes and malls to give a virtual tour. It has applied for two patents for its AR solution.
The business model
Sinha believes the solution which brings the benefits of visual merchandising to the online world will have its takers.
"When vendors sell on e-commerce websites they lose their unique value proposition and margins are also squeezed. Using the solutions offered by Preksh they can showcase their actual store and create their own customer base," he says.
Preksh levies a fee for the photoshoot after which retailers have to make a monthly paymentbased on the subscription package they opt for. Photoshoots are conducted periodically based on the frequency at which the inventory in the showroom is changed.
"Retailers need to provide us details such as the size of the showroom, how frequently they change the setup of the showroom and the kind of inventory they want to showcase," says Sinha.
Preksh is currently running pilot projects for apparel brand VanHeusen and baby care products e-tailer BabyOye. It has also tied up with 22 retailers. In the long run, it aims to offer its AR solution to different business segments, including apparel and accessories, furniture and home dÃ©cor, by partnering with established players. It is also looking for partnerships with retailers in the Middle East, North America and East Asia.
"We will be launching our own application for AR/VR gadgets. We intend to drive seamless omni-channel shopping experience for consumers across offline, web, mobile and VR gadgets," says Sinha.
The startup was founded in June 2015 by M.A. Kodandarama, Saikat Sinha, Sathvik Muralidhar and Sharath Chandrashekar. Kodandarama comes with more than 20 years of experience, having worked in various companies including Wipro, Texas Instruments and Nokia while Sinha has more than six years of experience in marketing, product management and analytics in Accenture and Citibank. Muradlidhar and Chandrashekar have worked at companies such as L&T, Mahindra Group, Harman and Sasken. The startup is currently bootstrapped.
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