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Obsess offers solution for brands to build virtual stores

An illustration of a shopping bag with a hand icon, representing the intersection of digital and real-world commerce.

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Obsess, an e-commerce platform that provides real-life shopping experiences online, is now offering a solution that lets brands build their own virtual stores, CEO Neha Singh tells Axios.

Why it matters: With e-commerce sales slowing and incentives such as free returns being curbed, retailers need more carrots to entice consumers online.

Details: The tool, which Obsess calls Ava, consists of a self-serve content management system that provides 3D editing and rendering technology.

  • Brands can add and place products (particularly, affordable 2D images), embed media content, and customize merchandising and styling in their own virtual stores.
  • Brands access the backend by paying an annual subscription fee — competitive with the cost of a single marketing campaign, Singh notes.
  • The startup works with companies such as Ralph Lauren, Charlotte Tilbury, Coach, L'Oréal, Crocs, Disney Music Group and NBCUniversal, among others.

Between the lines: Before the launch of the tool, Obsess created brands' virtual stores for them.

  • But by letting them build their own 3D experiences online, brands can update their stores at a more frequent pace throughout the year.
  • In addition, brands can integrate SKU data and product imagery from their e-commerce sites into the stores.

Zoom in: Virtual stores let consumers browse for products and experiences rather than be directed toward them, which is what e-commerce largely consists of today.

  • When Singh started the company in 2017, she wanted to incorporate the kind of 3D graphics you find in gaming into the online shopping experience.
  • And like gaming, it could still be accessed via a mobile phone or desktop browser (as well as via Meta's Oculus Quest VR goggles).
  • Singh says she also saw how luxury brands, which would spend $1 million on a live event, struggled to build their online presence.

By the numbers: The startup has 11 million unique users in its virtual stores, which so far have accounted for 100 million interactions.

  • "We are a SaaS platform and our margins are in line with that," Singh adds, declining to disclose revenue.

Catch up fast: Obsess raised a $10 million Series A round in 2021 led by Jump Capital, with participation from the Venture Reality Fund and WXR Fund, bringing its total to $13.4 million.

  • It has no plans to raise money in the near future, though, Singh says.

Of note: Singh is both a graduate of MIT and a former head of product at Vogue magazine, bridging the worlds of fashion and engineering.

The bottom line: "Our thesis was never to be a replacement for retail stores, it was how to make online shopping better," Singh says.

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