Inabuggy, McEwan partner on 3D shopping experience

New online tool enables shoppers to virtually move through the aisles at the upscale North York food retailer

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Inabuggy has further refined its online grocery model, offering shoppers a virtual recreation of the in-store shopping experience, minus the hard-to-find parking and the long wait at the checkout.

Capitalizing on a growing virtual shopping trend, the online grocery service has partnered with Toronto grocer McEwan Fine Foods (Don Mills) to launch a shopping portal that enables shoppers to roam through a 3D representation of the North York, Ont. store.

The virtual technology features several user options, including an automatic walkthrough of the store with a pause button that consumers can use to shop within areas such as Prepared Sandwiches & Wraps, Pickled Goods & Olives and Specialty Cheese.

“It’s a full-circle shop,” said Inabuggy founder and CEO Julian Gleizer. “As soon as you enter the virtual shop, you can place your order and checkout within the virtual environment. It’s seamless.” More than 70% of the store’s inventory is currently available on the virtual platform, he said, with SKUs being updated in real time.

The 3D tool also provides users with a scrollable menu of individual departments within the store, or they can opt for either a “dollhouse” or a top-down view of the store’s floor plan, with clickable menu options for individual sections. Users navigate through the aisles using either their mouse or via their mobile device’s touchscreen.

Gleizer said his company had been testing the virtual shopping experience for several months, with an eye towards providing its users the “feel and sense” of being in the store. While Gleizer said it’s too early to determine what kind of impact the technology will have on factors such as basket size, he said the assumption is that it would lead to an increase in both the number of online shopping sessions and the duration of those sessions.

The tool could also enable brands to run 3D promotions within the app, said Gleizer. “It’s visually appealing to an individual when they’re in the [virtual] aisle to see that brand, or create promotions where those brands can stand out, versus having just images or descriptions on a store page.”

The virtual shopping experience will be the default mode for people shopping virtually at the McEwan Fine Foods store, said Gleizer, though users will be able to toggle between the 3D and “classic” Inabuggy storefront.