This ex-Googler has big plans to kill the ‘Amazon experience’ of online shopping

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Neha Singh

  • Obsess is an online virtual shopping platform that lets users shop in a discovery-oriented context.
  • Its founder, ex-Googler Neha Singh, hopes to create the e-commerce platform of the future, where users will some day shop as online avatars in lush, 3D environments.

“You can’t sell fashion and art the same way you sell toothpaste,” says Neha Singh. “But on the internet, that’s exactly what we do: Toothpaste is sold the same way asbeautiful clothes.”

Singh is the founder of Obsess, a new online shopping platform that seeks to reinvigorate what she describes as the “boring and tedious” business of online shopping.Singh hopes to usher in a new era of online retail, where currently, items are almost always presented as two-dimensional thumbnails on a uniform scroll-through grid.

“In real life, shopping is a form of entertainment,” says Singh. “It’s driven by discovery and inspiration and fun. That’s not happening online.”

Singh, a self-described fashion fanatic with experience working at both Google and Vogue, has developed an online platform that presents items in “virtual stores” where users can browse retail goods in discovery-oriented environments that mimic real life.

When you take your first virtual step inside Obsess’s online outpost of Carmen Sol, an Italian luxury retailer, you’re greeted with an eye-popping display of handbags inside a sun-drenched, airy shop. Peppy, Spanish music plays in the background.

Inside the virtual space, you can “walk” around to get a closer look at the shoe-filled shelves in the back. If an item interests you, you can “pick it up” by clicking over it, which brings you to more details on the item and an online shopping cart. A poster on the wall of a bikini-clad model reveals that the items she’s wearing are available for purchase as well.

Obsess's virtual store for Carmen Sol.

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Obsess’s virtual store for Carmen Sol.
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Obsess

While Carmen Sol’s online store is animated, other Obsess offerings draw from 3D imaging of real spaces. For instance, Obsess’s virtual store for boutique fashion retailer Farfetch brings you to the company’s Brown East, London shop. Upon entry, you can browse items during a virtual walkthrough.

Singh says Obsess lets online shoppers browse products they might not otherwise have discovered, which gives an opportunity for companies to steep their customers in a unique and personalized branding experience.

The store presentations are only the beginning, says Singh. With a computer-generated store, the possibilities of Obsess’s online platforms are limitless, she says.

Obsess's virtual store for Farfetch.

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Obsess’s virtual store for Farfetch.
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Obsess

In the future, Singh hopes to create virtual in-store shopping assistants, avatars that are true to a customer’s size and shape who can virtually try on clothing, and a myriad of different shopping contexts: Anything from beachside resorts to rock concerts.

“Our goal is to recreate the e-commerce interface for categories that aren’t search-based,” says Singh. “The whole point is to increase engagement in order to increase customer conversion.”

As more retailers move to e-commerce, Singh hopes to provide a platform where they can fully express their brand identity. Obsess, which recently graduated from New York’s incubator program Techstars, is currently raising funds to build what Singh describes as the e-commerce platform of the future.

“For us, the market potential is huge,” says Singh. “Home and retail fashion alone is a $2.4 trillion industry, and more and more sales are moving online every day. We want to capture those online sales. We want to be the next e-commerce category for the huge companies moving into this space.”