Brookstone to launch 3-D online store

Kinset software to provide look and feel of a real store, retailer says

If you're dreading making the trek to crowded malls this holiday season, but you're not a big fan of the static Internet shopping experience, Brookstone is offering a compromise -- a 3-D virtual store that it say looks just like its physical stores.

The 3-D store, set to launch before Thanksgiving, will give shoppers an in-store, interactive experience right from their own homes.

Brookstone is using Boston-based Kinset's 3-D Store technology to create what it calls an online 3-D store that provides the same look and feel as its physical stores, said Greg Sweeney, vice president and general manager of direct marketing at Brookstone in Merrimack, N.H.

"Kinset approached us with the idea of taking 3-D technology and applying it to retailing on the Internet because as a multichannel retailer, one of the things we really pride ourselves on is the in-store interactive experience," Sweeney said. "And this felt like a great technology to bring the Internet experience, which tends to be two-dimensional and a little too task-oriented, to more of an experiential Internet shopping experience. Our hope is it brings a little more discovery and a little more fun to the experience."

"Powerful personal computers and fast broadband Web connectivity allowed us to build the first software technology that can present realistic online stores in 3-D," said John Butler, CEO of Kinset, in a statement.

By using Kinset software, retailers can build virtual stores that look like real store floor plans, Butler said, and can track and analyze shoppers' activity. Determining whether a shopper takes a left or right when entering the virtual store can also help retailers better plan the layouts of their virtual stores, Butler said. The software also allows retailers to make small changes to the site almost immediately.

In Brookstone's 3-D virtual store, shoppers will be able to browse through virtual aisles looking for products such as games, electronics, furniture, and home and bath accessories. Sweeney said the ability to gather customer data provided by the Kinset software is important to Brookstone.

Currently, Brookstone is the only retailer using Kinset's technology, but consumer electronics retailer Tweeter is also in talks to launch its own 3-D virtual store, said Mark Stearns, director of e-commerce for Tweeter.

Butler said he is also talking to other retailers and expects more to sign on for the 2008 holiday season.

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