- Luxury retailer Barneys New York kicked off its spring marketing campaign on March 6 with a virtual reality (VR) experience that blends fashion, technology and contemporary dance, according to a press release by the company. The Mantle experience features a short film of performers from the Martha Graham Dance Company wearing designer apparel.
- Fashion labels Prabal Gurung, The Row, Rick Owens, Loewe and Craig Green are featured in the VR experience, which can be viewed in some stores with Oculus' Gear VR headset, the Samsung VR app and on the Barneys website. The in-store experience is available at the retailer's Madison Avenue and Chelsea locations in New York and its Beverly Hills store.
- The video, filmed with 360-degree tech, features dancers who embody character archetypes representing parts of the human psyche: power, ethereal, possessed and the cleaner. The dancers' wardrobes will be displayed in the windows at Barneys New York's Madison Avenue flagship.
Barneys New York understands the power of theater and immersive storytelling to enhance the experience for many shoppers, from its store window displays to its VR experiment showcasing spring fashion. While the Mantle film is difficult to view on a smartphone — it requires a pricey VR headset that few consumers own — it appears to be more powerful when experienced with in stores wearing a VR headset to give the sensation of being truly immersed on the stage with the dancers. Whether the VR experience helps to drive foot traffic and sales remains to be seen, but the novelty of the technology may help to drive buzz and engage shoppers in something new and different for the legacy retailer.
More broadly, retailers are beginning to take a greater interest in VR tech as a way to enhance the in-store experience for shoppers. Walmart's tech incubator Store No. 8 last month acquired Spatialand, a startup that develops VR content, as part of its larger effort to experiment with new tech that's expected to change the way consumers learn about products or see them demonstrated in stores. As retailers seek ways to cut expenses amid rising labor costs, many are growing more dependent on bleeding-edge tech to take the place of salespeople, checkout attendants and customer service representatives.
While VR certainly can enhance the shopping experience, retailers need to be mindful that they're not putting resources into the technology just to demonstrate technical prowess. At their core, retailers must remember their bottom line of meeting customers' merchandise needs and not get distracted chasing the next "shiny object" for the sake of novelty.