November 28, 2007, 12:00 AM

Brookstone goes 3-D with virtual store

Shoppers at Brookstone.com now can follow a link to a 3-D virtual store that has the appearance and attributes of an actual store, enabling them to browse the aisles, view products and – ideally – purchase products.

Specialty retailer Brookstone Inc.’s e-commerce business has entered a new dimension. The company’s new 3-D virtual store brings shoppers into an actual Brookstone store, enabling them to browse the aisles, view housewares and home furnishings and – ideally – purchase products.

One day into the 3-D site’s operation, Brookstone couldn’t break out specific numbers, but a spokesman says Brookstone.com drew significantly higher traffic Monday than the previous post-Thanksgiving Monday. In addition to the 3-D site, multiple other factors were at work including “a well-timed catalog drop, some aggressive and targeted customer outreach by our direct marketing team,” and print and broadcast media coverage, the spokesman adds.

Brookstone, No. 146 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, partnered with technology provider Kinset Inc. to develop the Brookstone Kinset 3-D store. After downloading Kinset’s proprietary browser, visitors enter the store and use their mouse to navigate the aisles.

To make a purchase, shoppers add products to their cart as they navigate through the store and when they click “checkout” the site sends them to their shopping-list page on Amazon.com. Then the transaction becomes a standard Brookstone transaction on Amazon, with the products shipping to the customer from Brookstone’s distribution center, or in some cases, from the manufacturer.

Kinset software also enables Brookstone to test store design, layout and merchandising. Because Kinset online stores can model real-world store designs, Brookstone can determine how small changes in retail stores affect consumers’ buying decisions, and then can react to enhance the store and online shopping environments, the company says.

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