IBM & Circuit City Partner in Second Life

    December 18, 2006

IBM has announced that it has teamed up with Circuit City to construct an online replica of the retail store within the virtual world of Second Life. The venture is geared at experimenting with the introduction of virtual worlds and 3-D technology into a cross-platform retail environment.

The Circuit City prototype store is part of an IBM complex opening to the public next week in the virtual world of Second Life.

Rather than perusing an online catalog of items, Second Life residents will be able to use their avatars to actually “shop” in the virtual Circuit City store, picking up and checking out products in a manner that more closely reflects a realistic shopping experience. Customers will then be able to order items in the store and have them delivered to their homes.

“Teaming with IBM in the virtual world is as much about sensing and learning from the community as it is about commerce. These immersive environments provide an interactive forum for testing and feedback as we focus on the next generation of customer service,” said Bill McCorey, senior vice president and chief information officer of Circuit City.

“Our ultimate goal is to understand the implications of virtual 3-D worlds on multi-channel retailing and to extend the connection we have with our customers to new spaces.”

Additional features in customer service are also on the horizon for the IBM/Circuit City venture. The companies are developing technology where customers can actually go to the virtual store for troubleshooting purposes, receiving a live tutorial on how to remedy common technical issues.

The two companies are also working on ways to provide live demonstrations of product features, which are aimed at giving customers a visual point of reference when it comes to operating new equipment, acting as a supplement to the product manual.

Will this compel competitors such as Best Buy to jump into the Second LIfe fray? It will be interesting to see what impact this move has on the retail industry at large.

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Joe is a staff writer for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest ebusiness news.