May 11, 20214 min read

From IRL to URL: how retailers are embracing virtual shopping.

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by Klarna

Over the last year, shopping as a whole has been challenging for so many, and as a consumer, convenience has taken priority.

The global shift toward e-commerce has exploded, at times leaving in-person retail in the dark.

Yet for the necessity and convenience of online shopping over the past year, fun and inspiration certainly began to be lost along the way.

Window shopping? Who dat? Mooching through department stores? Things of the past. Make-up testers? One can only dream.

Consumers may have been keen to purchase online for a lockdown pick-me-up or even for essentials. But the momentum of PR excitement such as in store freebies and face to face advice from experts, came to a halt.

However where there’s a will there’s a way, and retailers are seemingly choosing to seize an opportunity and fight back.

Through the struggles, brands have stepped up to the plate and got their thinking caps on, using creativity to propel the user experience into what feels like a future world. Virtual flagship stores, augmented reality consultations and online try-on technology proved that experience is just as important as convenience.

From IRL to URL – who’s doing it best?

1. NARS Cosmetics opens up their most playful and inviting flagship yet… online.

NARS announced the launch of their virtual global flagship store last week, bringing together inspiration from their original stores (and echoing the brand’s signature black and white colour scheme) with revolutionary retail tech. Shoppers can digitally stroll across the shop floor, purchasing products directly supported by the store’s virtual try-on technology, artistry tutorials and the AR/ AI-powered foundation shade finder ‘Matchmaker’.


2. Amazon announces it’s experiential salon.

Last month Amazon announced the launch of Amazon Salon, a 1,500 sq ft salon in London’s Spitalfields where you’ll be able to try out different hair colours and styles using an augmented reality mirror. Whilst the salon is experiential and there are no plans to expand, we love the idea of using AR technology to sense check our new cut!


3. Charlotte Tilbury showcases beauty in 3D.

Just in time for the holiday season last year, Charlotte Tilbury launched a virtual store which allowed customers to experience an in-store visit from the comfort of their home. In our last Smoooth Sessions we heard from Neha Singh, Founder and CEO of Obsess, the AR and virtual reality software platform for experiential shopping that built Charlotte Tilbury’s latest piece of real estate on the .com. Catch up on what Neha had to say about the online shopping experience here.


4. Ralph Lauren invites customers on a VIP shopping experience.

Ralph Lauren re-created some of their most iconic flagship stores across the world online, allowing every shopper to take an instant trip to their New York, Beverly Hills, Paris or Hong Kong stores and shop like a VIP. A recent partnership with Snapchat also allows the iconic polo pony logo to be scanned to unlock a series of AR experiences, bringing customers on an experiential journey with the brand all the way to point of purchase.

Taking the Dressing Room Home

Brands have had the task of making shopping experiences more seamless, and they have become experts at creating environments that make it as easy as possible to shop and discover products. Virtual stores, consultations and AR/ AI powered experiences are a revolutionary first step. Adding the option for deferred payments takes the experience even further. Sure, augmented reality snapchat experiences help shoppers visualise what they’re buying, but the experience still lacks that physical, visceral touch.


That’s why Klarna is shoppers, and retailers, secret sauce to bridging the gap between URL and IRL.

With Buy Now Pay Later, shoppers can order, try out the products at home and pay for what they want to keep – building deeper connections and trust with the brand.

In an e-comm environment driven by innovation and infinite options, customers are finally king (and queen) and it’s okay to act like it. Virtual shopping experiences paired with the ability to try before you buy are the latest way for retailers to bring the ultimate in customer experience.


Interested in giving your customers what they want? We’re always ready to chat.