Jason Wu for Atelier Swarovski


The future is now. The latest in the succession of brands deploying advanced tech integration and elevated consumer experiences, Mastercard and Swarovski have announced their partnership for a virtual reality powered app.

The shopping app will invite consumers to peruse and purchase the Atelier Swarovski interior décor line that includes functional and crystal home accessories designed by leading architects and interior designers. The app aims to empower users to participate in fully immersive shopping experiences.

“As our e-commerce business continues to grow, this partnership allows consumers a fully immersive shopping opportunity to interact with the product and then purchase seamlessly within the experience,” said Nadja Swarovski, member of the executive board of Swarovski Crystal Business. “The cutting-edge VR technology allows consumers to fully realize scale and engage more deeply with design details before making a purchase – anywhere.”

Given the delicate and fragile nature of Swarovski pieces, unnecessary wear and tear is avoided by running the app — users are able to view the items without needing ship to alternative store locations. Purchases are frictionless, the app will provide checkouts via Masterpass, Mastercard’s digital payment service.

“At Mastercard, our goal is to provide consumers with the choice to shop when they want, how they want in a manner that is as seamless and secure as possible,” said Linda Kirkpatrick, executive vice president of merchants and acceptance at Mastercard. “This means that merchants need to be able to engage their customers across multiple, technology platforms – in-store, online, in-app and via virtual and augmented reality.”

VR stands to provide an additional platform for luxury brands to align with premium consumers, particularly Millennials. Pavers — Nielsen’s term for early adopters of the technology — tend to belong to the demographic. These shoppers propose large opportunities for brands to reach consumers who have been otherwise unattainable.

“Pavers are valuable to brands because they represent the triple ‘A:’ they adopt new products and services, advocate for brands they love, and appreciate premium quality and are willing to pay a premium price,” said a Nielsen report on early participants of the technology.

Swarovski isn’t the first brand to take a stab at a VR consumer experience. Back in 2015, Tommy Hilfiger invited shoppers to virtually view its runway show. “Through virtual reality, we’re now able to bring our one-of-a-kind fashion show to the retail setting,” said the designer in an interview with WWD during the launch. “From the incredible set and music to exclusive backstage moments, consumers will be able to watch the clothes move and see the collection in the original show environment — it’s a compelling and interesting elevation of the traditional shopping experience.”

virtual reality, VR, swarovski, mastercard

Mastercard and Swarovski have partnered for a VR shopping app. 

Rag & Bone worked with Google for a six-minute VR documentary in 2016. Chief executive officer Marcus Wainwright said of the tech: “You could create a completely digital store and you just click on something and up it comes, and you can buy it and visualize what you might look like in it,” he said. “If the content is powerful enough, and the experience is beneficial, then it will go hand in hand with adoption.”

Following its February fashion show earlier this year, Coach deployed a holistic program including VR. In partnership with Simon Malls, IMG and Facebook, users who visited select locations within Simon Malls secured virtual backstage access to its fashion show, preview new items, and sit front row.

It’s still early days in consumer readiness. But brands that devise and incorporate VR experiences will be better off for proactivity. As Millennials continue to secure more spending power and Gen Z enters the workforce, it will be paramount for fashion designers to accept — and participate in the ongoing tech-driven democratization of the industry to remain relevant and reach shoppers.

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