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As retailer set out to achieve omnichannel goals, they work to connect ecommerce and in-person retail. But consider each of the channels on their own, and it becomes clear that they both have advantages when it comes to the shopping experience.
Ecommerce boasts the convenience of getting an item delivered to a customer’s door, and a vast assortment. Brick-and-mortar stores allow shoppers to casually browse for items that stand out to them, and more fully visualize an item before buying it.
So the question is: How do you find a middle ground that offers the best of both?
Emperia believes virtual stores offer an answer. The company has put its platform to work with Bloomingdale’s, Dior, Ralph Lauren and Lacoste to create immersive experiences.
Accessible through a laptop, mobile device or TV, the virtual stores can be accessed anywhere, while offering shoppers the ability to move through a store and browse.
In the digital world, the in-store experience can also be taken to new creative levels, as untethering from the physical world can take shopping to new settings that accent a brand’s story. In the Bloomingdale’s holiday store, for example, the Ralph Lauren section was in a holiday forest, while Nespresso was at a Parisian cafe. Chanel’s experience took shoppers to the moon.
Emperia now has new fuel for its own rocketship. The company said Wednesday that it raised $10 million in a Series A round. This funding will help to grow its 40-person, 14-country team, and further develop its virtual store platform and corresponding data suite.
The round was led by Base10 Partners with participation from Daphni (via its retail fund Dastore), Sony Innovation Fund, Background Capital, Stanford Capital Partners and Concept Ventures.
Bloomingdale's Chanel store, on the moon. (Photo via Emperia)
Emperia was founded in 2019 by fashion and retail expert Olga Dogadkina and VR technologist Simonas Holcmann.
“While working in fashion, it became clear to me that e-commerce was the future, but 2D websites were merely a tool that enabled an online purchase, but were lacking the customer journey and story-telling that brands are after,” Dogadkina said. “The solution was to bridge that gap, with the aim of making virtual experiences into the future of brands’ long-term ecommerce strategy.”
Emperia’s platform provides the technology and visual infrastructure that architect the virtual stores. Importantly, it is all undergirded by data. This shows how a digital experience can change the data equation for retailers, even as they keep features of an in-store experience. Emperia tracks movement within the store, demographics, behavioral patterns, important steps of the purchase journey events and more. Analytics are used in layout, design, user experience and merchandise placement.
This allows Emperia to continuously optimize the virtual stores, all while measuring against the KPIs of brand and retail clients.
The result is that the virtual stores can become revenue drivers, Emperia said. The company said its platform increased conversion rates 73% when compared to regular ecommerce sites for its customers, and the average return on investment is 750%.
Following the funding round, Emperia sees a new opportunity to leverage virtual store data to provide retailers with new personalization tools. It is also working with partners in the ecosystem to bring a variety of virtual ecommerce capabilities under one roof.
Base10 Partners’ Luci Fonseca said the firm was “absolutely stunned” by the team and early traction.
“The more we spoke to customers, the more we saw that Emperia is on the edge of a global revolution on how consumers interact with retailers and brands,” Fonseca said. “One way to think about Emperia is through the lens of ‘web 2.5’—it is a device-agnostic bridge for brands to engage with a new generation of consumers while driving real commerce.”
What it means for ecommerce
Emperia shows that virtual experiences don’t have to require VR headsets. Offering access to stores through a mobile or laptop device brings immersive elements to customers where they already shop. Meanwhile, experience design elements that mimic in-store shopping offer a format that is familiar. The goal is the same as ever: to meet their needs and even delight them with the unexpected.
Trending in Shopper Experience
On the Move has the latest from Amazon, Lovesac and more.
This week, leadership is changing at GameStop, Sorel and Beautycounter. Meanwhile, key executives are departing at Amazon, Wayfair and Lovesac.
Here’s a look at the latest shuffles:
GameStop CEO fired
GameStop announced the termination of Matthew Furlong as CEO on Wednesday. A brief statement did not provide a reason for the firing.
With the move, Chewy founder and activist investor Ryan Cohen was named executive chairman of the video game retailer. Cohen will be responsible for capital allocation and overseeing management.
It came as the company reported a 10% year-over-year decline in net sales for the first quarter. Meanwhile, the company’s net loss improved by 62%.
In an SEC filing, GameStop further added this “We believe the combination of these efforts to stabilize and optimize our core business and achieve sustained profitability while also focusing on capital allocation under Mr. Cohen’s leadership will further unlock long-term value creation for our stockholders.”
Cohen was revealed as GameStop's largest shareholder when he disclosed a 10% stake in the retailer in 2020. GameStop went on to become a leading name in the meme stock rise of 2021.
Sorel president steps down
Mark Nenow is stepping down as president of the Sorel brand in order to focus on his health.
After rising to the role in 2015, Nenow spearheaded a transformation of Columbia Sportswear-owned Sorel from a men’s workwear brand to a fashion-focused brand that led with a women’s offering of boots, sandals and sneakers.
“Mark led the brand to sales of $347 million in net sales in 2022,” said Columbia Sportswear CEO Tim Boyle, in a statement. “His leadership has been invaluable to this company, and we wish him the very best.”
Columbia will conduct a search for Nenow’s replacement. Craig Zanon, the company’s SVP of emerging brands, will lead Sorel in the interim.
Beautycounter appoints interim CEO
Beautycounter appointed board member Mindy Mackenzie as interim CEO, succeeding Marc Rey. According to the brand, Rey and the board “mutually decided to transition to a new phase of leadership for Beautycounter.”
McKenzie, a former executive at Carlyle, McKinsey and Jim Beam, will lead the company as it conducts a search for a permanent CEO. Additionally, former Natura & Co CEO Roberto Marques will join Beautycounter’s board as chair.
As part of the transition, Nicole Malozi is also joining the company as chief financial officer. She brings experience from Tatcha, Nike, and DFS Group Limited.
Amazon’s North America fulfillment chief departs
Melissa Nick, a VP of customer fulfillment for North America at Amazon, will leave the company, effective June 16, CNBC reported. Nick joined the company in 2014, and oversaw a region that included nearly 300 fulfillment centers. After doubling its supply chain footprint during the pandemic, Amazon recently reorganized its fulfillment operations to take a regional approach, as opposed to a national model that often resulted in items shipping across the country.
Wayfair’s chief commercial officer to retire
Jon Blotner (Courtesy photo)
Steve Oblak will retire from the role of chief commercial officer at home goods marketplace Wayfair. With the move, Jon Blotner will be promoted to chief commercial officer.
"Steve has served as a critical part of our leadership team and played a pivotal role in Wayfair's growth, helping us grow from a $250 million business when he joined to $12 billion in net revenue today,” said Wayfair CEO Niraj Shah, in a statement. “He oversaw countless milestones, from helping to launch the Wayfair brand as we brought together hundreds of sites into a single platform, to launching new categories, business lines, and geographies while overseeing our North American and European businesses, to leading our debut into physical retail.”
Blotner previously oversaw exclusive and specialty retail brands, as well as digital media at Wayfair. Before joining the company, he served as president of Gemvara.com prior to its 2016 acquisition by Berkshire Hathaway.
Lovesac announces CFO transition
Furniture retailer Lovesac said Donna Dellomo will retire as EVP and CFO, and move to an advisory role, effective June 30. Dellomo was with Lovesac for six years.
Keith Siegner was appointed as the next EVP and CFO. He brings experience as CFO of esports company Vindex, as well as executive roles at Yum! Brands, UBS Securities and Credit Suisse.
Additionally, Jack Krause will retire from the role of chief strategy officer, effective June 30. His responsibilities will be divided between CEO Shawn Nelson and president Mary Fox.
“Since joining Lovesac, Jack has played an instrumental role in transforming the Company into a true omni channel retailer by helping expand our physical touchpoints and digital platform as we continue to disrupt the industry,” said Nelson, in a statement.
NRF adds board members
The National Retail Federation announced the addition of five new board members. They include:
- Marguerite Adzick, founder and CEO, Addison Bay
- Harley Finkelstein, president, Shopify
- Ian Kahn, partner, PwC
- Sharon Leite, CEO, Ideal Image
- Carrie Tharp, VP, strategic industries, Google Cloud