The Source uses VR to engage customers during renovations

The 360-degree experience provides a preview of what's to come inside the boarded-up stores.

When the facade of a store in a shopping mall is boarded up for renovations, that usually means anyone who was hoping to experience it is out of luck. But The Source, which is currently in the process of modernizing the store experience at its 550 locations across Canada, is using virtual reality to show its customers what to expect when the boards come down – and keep them engaged until that happens.

In the hoarding boards that block out closed locations, a Samsung Gear VR headset is installed that allows would-be shoppers to take a tour of an updated Source location. Store representative Kyle takes viewers through what walking through the new store will be like, as well as some of the key product categories that will be on display. Kyle also uses humour during the tour as a way to inject the brand voice present in The Source’s recent campaigns into the experience.

Agency Juniper Park\TBWA worked with virtual reality studio Occupied VR to create the experience, while 4XM created the installation for the headset within the hoarding board.

The Source locations in Southgate Shopping Center in Edmonton and Square One in Mississauga will be among the first to have the VR installation. The retailer is slated to renovate a further 35 locations this year, and the plan is to bring the activation to any profile location that will be closed.  Ron Craig, VP of marketing and business development at The Source, says that as a retailer with over 550 locations, The Source’s stores are the face of its brand. But the VR experience is a way to turn store closures into an opportunity, using the same kind of technology it wants to be the home of, he says.

“We thought this was a great chance to engage [customers],” he says. “This is how we are reinventing ourselves and changing what our retail footprint is all about. Because The Source is transforming its in-store experience fundamentally, this is a great opportunity to show customers what they’ll see and bring them back once it reopens.”

Besides just showing off the hands-on experiences and trials customers will be able to do in the new store format, Craig says a major priority was letting consumers know the kinds of products that will be on display when the renovation is finished, like headphones and sound systems, computers, wearables and connected home products.

The typical strategy when a store is closed is to redirect customers to a nearby location or the ecommerce platform. In the VR experience, Kyle mentions that a Roomba vacuum he had ordered online had just arrived at his home. Craig says that’s not only to drive customers to shop online, but to promote the approach The Source is taking to its online selection and the kinds of products its customers can find there.

“We have a small footprint store, which means we have good depth in core categories but also an extended aisle of products on the ecommerce platform,” Craig says. “They are extended and complementary categories that you can’t find in store and people aren’t all that aware of yet, but will be able to go to the website for.”