Oxford Street in virtual reality

The battle between online and high street retailers has been waging for years, with online retailers going from strength to strength as their bricks and mortar equivalents struggle to keep afloat.

Now there is a new digital rival for the high street to contend with. NearLondon, a 3D online version of London’s Oxford Street has launched this week.

Where NearLodon differs form ordinary online shopping, is that it allows customers to virtually walk down the shopping streets and around the stores. Think Second Life meets John Lewis online.

The aim is to recreate London’s West End shopping district in 3D so that Shoppers get the full shopping experience, without the associated stress of actually visiting Oxford Street.

Being based in offices just off Oxford Street, and having to face the thronging crowds everyday, I can fully understand why this might appeal.

It aims to be fully integrated with each shop’s online operations providing a virtual world where users can browse the shelves as if they were in-store.

It’s also interesting for marketers and advertisers as NearLondon offers virtual equivalents of real life advertising opportunities, such as outdoor poster sites and in-store marketing.

It could also potentially expand to take in other cities, opening up global shopping hot spots such as New York to shoppers around the world.

It may be the next generation of e-commerce combined with social networking and high quality gaming graphics but I am not sure that consumers are ready for it.

NearLondon has huge potential for consumers and marketers, but some retailers still have not fully mastered e-commerce, and some high street stores offer a woefully disappointing experience.

Is 3D virtual reality really the way to go?

Marks & Spencer, John Lewis, Liberty and American Apparel all seem to think so.

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