Evolution of virtual stores

Top retailers are leading the future of retail with these virtual shopping examples.

In the age of the pandemic, e-commerce is king. In the last two years, retail has taken a dramatic leap into the digital space, offering consumers an accessible, immersive, and seamless way of purchasing products and taking part in new customer experiences. While the pandemic posed detrimental effects upon the retail industry, the adoption of virtual shopping gave brands the opportunity to not just survive, but thrive. Through the implementation of virtual stores, brands are able to provide a true, omnichannel experience and bridge the gap between traditional online shopping and in-store interactions, providing them with real-time sessions with sales assistants and products and the ability to access it anytime, from anywhere in the world. 


Despite experiential retail being a relatively new concept, the pandemic has triggered a rising demand for XR technology, with the industry projected to be worth 125.2 billion USD by 2026. Retailers and brands have come to recognize the value in joining the digital transformation and adopting a digital-first strategy, with virtual stores and showrooms paving the way for personalized shopping journeys with the highest levels of 3D visualization. In the last two years, virtual shopping has evolved from a gimmick or add-on feature of brands’ online presence to an innovative industry standard. But with an increasing number of big-name brands investing in XR programs, companies are trying to find new ways to engage customers, disrupt the industry, and give them a competitive edge. 


Ralph Lauren



In 2020, iconic luxury fashion brand Ralph Lauren took a leap into the digital space with the announcement of the RL Virtual Store Experience. Merging their flagship brick-and-mortar retail spaces in New York, Beverly Hills, Paris, and Hong Kong, with an online shopping experience, their clothing showroom brought their timeless designs to life, allowing customers to take a step into their virtual world. Ralph Lauren focused on a strategy prioritizing the new, tech-savvy generation of consumers. In the U.S, Gen Z now make up 40% of consumers and are expected to surpass millennials as the largest consumer base by 2026. Using different touchpoints to target this young demographic, Ralph Lauren made their virtual store accessible through a bespoke Snapchat lens, encouraging consumers to make purchases and explore the experience from their smartphone and embedded a virtual game to interact with the brand in different ways. 


  • Ralph Lauren set out to target Gen Z and Millennials through digitized shopping

  • They catered to a younger demographic and adapted their digital strategy to accommodate the new age of consumers

  • By allowing access through social media, their target demographic could easily access the virtual stores and check out with products in one place

  • Seamless transactions through the app increased awareness, revenue, interaction and modernized the brand 


Tommy Hilfiger


In 2015, Tommy Hilfiger was one step ahead of the competition as they incorporated VR headsets in their stores where customers could watch their fall fashion show in New York. Fast forward to 2019; the major retailer scaled up their VR efforts to drive sales, revenue, and engagement through digitally rendered experiences showcasing their summer collections, accessible through any device. Available in daytime and nighttime settings, customers could virtually explore the Hilfiger branded pool party and click on 3D products brought to life with camera-based AR. In 2020, Hilfiger extended their use of virtual reality stores for their holiday collections, transforming their pop-up store collaboration with Zendaya into a fully digital experience. Targeting Gen Z through the actress’ endorsement and the use of social media and digital shopping, Tommy Hilfiger had a recipe for success.


  • Hilfiger’s new showroom concept reimagined traditional shopping and expedited sales processes

  • Sales experiences are streamlined for the new age consumer who desire instant gratification in their purchases

  • Hilfiger were able to deliver a personalized experience to each consumer and tailor preferences to each client

  • Social media interaction provided Hilfiger with immediate insights directly from consumers




Automotive companies have incorporated sophisticated, realistic, and accessible XR to give customers a try-before-you-buy opportunity. BMW recently invested in a new virtual showroom whereby prospective customers can delve into an interactive experience that showcases each vehicle using 360-degree videos and photos of interior and exterior. Completely customizable, customers are invited to design every aspect of the BMW, from colors, wheels, and finishes, to any additional features and specs they may desire. The fully immersive experience can be accessed from anywhere, and BMW has taken customer service to the next level by embedding a video and text chat within the program. Available 24 hours a day, sales consultants are on hand to answer any questions customers may have and enable them to reserve a vehicle from the comfort of their homes. With innovation at the heart of BMW’s brand, the virtual showrooms were the logical next step for the automotive company.


  • By removing the need to visit a physical showroom, BMW were able to increase sales, generate interest and improve community engagement

  • The virtual showroom served as a meeting point for dealers and clients who could customize a vehicle before proceeding in the sales process

  • BMW constantly update their virtual showrooms with innovative features to increase their digital footprint and improve customer experience



The future of beauty retail is here, and it also comes in the new form of experiential retail – extended reality technology. French cosmetics and beauty house Lancôme were among the first leading names to transform their luxury beauty store into a mesmerizing digital experience. A 3D, 360 rendering of their Paris flagship became the digital focal point for the brand where customers could browse 3D makeup and skincare products or take part in live beauty panels led by industry experts. Lancôme set out to provide customers with the experience they wanted, with dynamic elements that they didn’t know they needed. The interactions with sales assistants, the ability to seamlessly navigate the life-like virtual store generated staggering engagement rates, with shopping sessions in specific hotspots significantly greater than the average time. Setting out to enhance customer experience and provide them with the same level of service expected from the luxury sector, Lancôme was able to retain brand prestige, strengthen relationships with consumers, and uphold core values. 


  • Lancôme’s virtual store mimicked the in-person experience and alleviated any feelings of absence for consumers

  • The investment into the technology left a lasting impression on customers who valued the interactive and innovative experience which in turn increased sessions, revenue, and customer loyalty

  • The educational elements within the immersive environments empowered consumers and connected them to the brand

  • Lancôme recorded a jump in sales as a result of the virtual stores and pop-ups


Delta Galil

The buying process for retail manufacturers and wholesalers has been flipped on its head by the introduction of A virtual showroom. As more retailers invest in 3D visualization in virtual environments to join the digital transformation of fashion, manufacturers and retailers have also been given a valuable opportunity to move into the digital arena. Israeli-based manufacturer Delta Galil was able to bring their concept board to life and presented their apparel in 360-degree clothing showrooms, with the highest standards of photorealism, emphasizing the visual textures. Not only do the virtual showrooms tell a brand story, but they are also meticulous in their functionality. Buyers have the ability to interact with line sheets and build assortment and orders within the program, thus expediting the remote sales process, reducing sample production, and gaining the ability to make real-time orders from updated catalogs. The addition of a virtual showroom gave Delta’s buyers a sense of presence, despite the geographical limitations, and the customizable showrooms presented them with a personalized experience. While the current landscape has halted physical buying, there is immense value and significant return on investment from virtual showrooms that can give manufacturers a competitive edge and headstart into the digital future of fashion.


  • The introduction for virtual showrooms for buyers provided them with a different angle and interest into the brand

  • Convenience, important data insights and expedited ordering processes were a significant selling point for B2B buyers who recognized the immense value in the experience

  • Buying has remained relatively stagnant over the last few decades and the digital transformation has generated new excitement around it

  • Instant interaction and ordering processes between manufacturers and buyers expedited the process and reduced time to market 

  • Manufacturers and buyers were both able to reduce expenditure and create highly customizable experiences at a low cost




Until now, the home renovation and interior design process have heavily relied on the physical presence of a contractor or a visit to a showroom. Through the home visualizer, which is really, a virtual kitchen designer, customers can browse, personalize and purchase countertops directly from their own device in the comfort of their homes. Similar to virtual stores and showrooms, the home visualizer gives customers an interactive and immersive experience that elevates the process and makes it completely seamless. Caesarstone’s quartz countertops can be viewed in high-definition and customized, eliminating the need for physical samples and giving customers an accurate depiction of living spaces, thus bringing their vision to life. The user-friendly interface allows Caesarstone team members to navigate the system effortlessly and present products to customers as if they were in a physical showroom. 


  • The 3D visualization tool provides an interactive, photorealistic experience

  • Shortens the time between design and installing in the home

  • Eliminates the stress from the home renovation process

  • Digital-friendly interface allowing for seamless interaction between managers and customers  

  • Multilingual and multi-region catalogs increased outreach and catered to a new demographic of consumers

The breadth and impact of XR technology is unparalleled. Businesses across a number of different industries have been given the opportunity to rethink how they present their company and engage with their customers on a whole new level. The digital programs allow businesses to break away from physical constraints and adopt a new, digitized strategy in order to generate greater outreach, seamless transactions, and improve customer experience. In the past two years, virtual reality programs have recorded unprecedented growth and demand and as this trend continues to gain traction and evolve, more industries will have no choice but to join the digital transformation in the near future.

Read Next

Data-driven UX Optimization