Building the Open Metaverse

The Future of Shopping: Immersive 3D Experiences with Neha Singh of Obsess.vr

Neha Singh, CEO of Obsess.vr, discusses revolutionizing e-commerce with immersive 3D virtual stores. Combining her background in computer science and fashion, Singh leverages real-time 3D tech to transform online shopping into engaging experiences. Obsess partners with major brands to create innovative virtual shopping environments, enhancing customer engagement and brand storytelling.


Neha Singh
CEO and Founder, Obsess
Neha Singh
CEO and Founder, Obsess






Today on Building the Open Metaverse.

Neha Singh:

For e-commerce, the channel we need to be on is on the web. That's where most of the transactions happen, and so we need to make it as easy as possible for people to access these experiences.


Welcome to Building the Open Metaverse, where technology experts discuss how the community is building the open metaverse together, hosted by Patrick Cozzi and Marc Petit.

Marc Petit:

Hello everybody, and welcome back to Building the Open Metaverse, season six, the podcast that showcases the community of artists, developers, researchers, executives, and entrepreneurs who are building the internet of tomorrow.

My name is Marc Petit, and my cohost is Patrick Cozzi. Patrick, welcome back.

Patrick Cozzi:

Hey, Marc, hey, everybody. This season, we're welcoming entrepreneurs who are leveraging the full potential of real-time 3D technology, the web, and open standards to build innovative new businesses. 

Our guest today is another excellent example of that.

Marc Petit:

Yes, our guest today is Neha Singh, an entrepreneur at the forefront of revolutionizing online shopping experiences. Neha has a unique background, we'll come back on that, that blends deep technical expertise from her studies at MIT and engineering roles at Google, with a passion for fashion that you cultivated at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

Neha channeled these diverse interest into founding Obsess.vr, a virtual store platform that is transporting e-commerce from static product grids into fully immersive 3D branded environments. Obsess has partnered with major retailers like Dior, L'Oreal, Crate & Barrel, and others to create hyper-realistic virtual shopping worlds that drive engagement and purchases.

Neha has been unveiling Obsess leaders in innovation lately that made virtual retail not just a novelty, but the future vision for how we will shop and interact with brands as the internet itself evolves into an immersive 3D metaverse experience.

I mean, this is fascinating, Neha. We're so looking forward to diving into this topic. Welcome to the show.

Neha Singh:

Thank you so much, Marc and Patrick. Thanks for having me. Super excited to be here.

Patrick Cozzi:

So Neha, to start things off, we'd love to hear a bit about your background and what inspired you to start Obsess.

Neha Singh:

My background is a combination of computer science and fashion. I got my graduate degree in computer science from MIT, as Marc mentioned. I was then a software engineer and tech lead at Google for five years. While I was there, though, I always thought I wanted to be a fashion designer because I love fashion. I started taking fashion design classes on the side at FIT. However, I realized after a couple of semesters that I was really bad at drawing, so then I decided to stick to the tech side of fashion and joined a luxury e-commerce startup where I led engineering and product.

That was my first learning about the e-commerce world and about how all the platforms operate. After that, I was the head of product at Vogue for four years, where I launched all of their digital products, including, Vogue Runway, and so on. Worked with, again, lots of brands who were advertisers in the magazine, but on their digital experiences.

Then, I left Vogue to start Obsess about seven years ago.

Marc Petit:

In all these experiences, what prepared you the best for becoming an entrepreneur?

Neha Singh:

I would say all of it. At Google, I was not in the super early days, but I was there in the early days, and there was a lot of spirit of Silicon Valley tech entrepreneurship, and pretty much I knew at that point that I wanted to start my own company. I tried to do something right after leaving Google, but I was not quite ready for it then. So, I joined another startup, which was in a very early stage, the e-commerce one that I mentioned.

That was an incredible experience, and I don't think I would have been able to create Obsess without that experience of being at another startup for two years and really going through everything from building products to fundraising.

And then at Vogue, I really learned more about the fashion world and about how they speak and what inspires them. Ultimately, what we have created is a tool to let brands express their creativity in a way that they weren't able to do online. All of that thinking, I think, really came from there. I would say it feels like it's something I've been working towards all my life.

Patrick Cozzi:

Did you know your entire life that you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

Neha Singh:

I wouldn't say my entire life. I would say really more after I started working at Google. I think before that, the extent of my thinking was that I was going to be a software engineer and build stuff, but I didn't think of building stuff in a way from starting my own company. I just thought about writing code.

Marc Petit:

Well, one quick question before we dive into Obsess. I saw that you did AI at MIT way back then. What kind of AI were you doing back there?

Neha Singh:

It was actually a combination of AI and decentralized networks. I was in the network architecture group that invented the internet about 20, 30 years before that, headed by David Clark and Tim Berners-Lee. My thesis was on, in the future, if the internet is decentralized, how can using AI, all the services and nodes talk to each other and learn about what services they have available?

It was very theoretical, but it was very interesting because it wasn't the world that existed at that time, not even the world that exists quite today. I would say it was something that may exist in 2050. So it was an amazing thought exercise to just think about what that work can be like.

Patrick Cozzi:

You mentioned with Obsess that you're helping brands get more out of their digital and virtual presence. 

Could you go a bit deeper into the pain points or gaps that you were trying to solve?

Neha Singh:

The fundamental pain point that we are trying to solve is if you think about a typical e-commerce brand website today, it looks like a grid of thumbnails on a white background. Whether you're shopping for fashion, beauty, home, any product category, it's exactly the same as shopping for toothpaste on Amazon. That interface looks the same. Every product is just reduced to this tiny thumbnail.

In real life, that's not how we shop, right? A lot more goes into purchase decisions, especially at slightly higher price points where there's a brand, a story, and an experience.

We believe that there's a huge opportunity missing online for brands to actually convey that story and experience to their customers because online shopping today is very much directed shopping, which is you know what you want, you can search, filter, it tries to just put you into a specific path. What's missing is discovery-driven shopping, which is typically happening offline today, or it's happening on social platforms like Instagram, but it's not really happening on brands' or retailers' own websites.

If the brand can inspire customers and bring them into their world, ultimately, it's going to build a longer-term relationship and increase customer lifetime value. That's really the metric we are targeting for brands. Of course, a lot of things go into that, but it's really about how they can increase customer lifetime value from digital channels.

Marc Petit:

Can you walk us through what a virtual shopping experience powered by Obsess will be like for a customer?

Neha Singh:

Our experiences, first of all, are all web-based. They can be easily accessed on a web link. They live as part of the brand's own website. It's all powered with our software and hosted by us in the background, but to a user, it will appear as if it's part of the brand's website.

Let's take an example. One of our customers is LANEIGE, which is a beauty brand that is part of Amorepacific. If you go to, which is their homepage, you will see a virtual world. In their top menu, and typically when you go to an e-commerce website’s menu, you might see their categories, you might see an about us.

Now there is a new option there, which is, different brands might call it different things, but virtual world, virtual stores.

When you click on that, that's when it will open right within their website. It's all optimized for mobile, where 75% of traffic across our customers is. Essentially, what you land into is a completely different experience from a typical e-commerce site. It's completely visual, it's 3D, and then you can navigate through it like you navigate through a game. It's ultimately very intuitive because, A, that's how we navigate in the real world, and B, because most consumers today are used to gaming, they know how to navigate these spaces.

You can turn around, you can go through it, you can go through different sections or rooms.

LANEIGE, in particular, has actually six different islands. The space that you land in, there's water and animations, it's completely fantastical. It's not really trying to replicate anything that they have or can have in real life. Then let's say we go to their lipstick section, and there are all these animations and their products on carousels and there's video. Of course, you can click on products to get all the e-commerce information, and you can add to your cart. But you can also actually take a quiz about your skin condition that then actually leads you into the right skincare row.

Overall, it's a super interactive experience as opposed to a typical e-commerce experience, which is very passive. You're just scrolling down in the infinite grid, but here, you are making a decision at every step about where you want to move forward and where you want to go—again, very similar to gaming. And that's what really actively engages the customer, and that's where we see the results.

Patrick Cozzi:

It's so cool to see all those gaming principles and immersion being used. As you look forward, are you looking at using other gaming mechanics like maybe progressions or rewards?

Neha Singh:

Yeah, we have started to do that a little bit in a couple of our experiences. Gamification is definitely one of the big priorities, not just as you mentioned in terms of the user interface and how you interact, but actually, mechanics within the experience that encourage people to keep discovering and give them a reward at the end, which is quite customizable in our platform. The reward could be a discount code, it could be free shipping, it could be access to an exclusive product or job.

But I would say in terms of the games we have implemented so far, even something very simple; basically, I mean, you can call it a scavenger hunt, but we say, "Okay, go find this brand mascot or this pieces of something all over the store." People who engage with those games and actually finish them are 10X more likely to add to their cart.

The level of engagement, if we actually give you a gaming mechanic and you follow it is just through the roof. It's a huge thing that brands can invest in to deepen that relationship with the customer. That's a very simple example.

We have all the way to one of the more complicated examples: we have a game for Prada Beauty for one of their men's fragrances, Luna Rossa, that is part of Pradaverse, which is their virtual world for all of their different beauty skincare, fragrance products, and each of them has their own world. But particularly for the men's fragrance, it's a gaming world, and it is totally inspired by their campaigns with Jake Gyllenhaal, where he's in these super dark stormy seas. We replicate that in the game, and you're going on this boat, and you have to collect all the ingredients of the perfume. Because it's hard to sell fragrance online. You can't really smell it. So we can try to evoke notes. Then, the way we do that in this game is you have to collect the vanilla bean and all of these different things.

Anyway, it's so cool, and it's such a different way to approach selling fragrances. That experience is available on the web. It's also available on the Oculus Meta Quest, which they actually deploy at certain retailers in Europe. People can go and actually put on the headset and play the game, or, of course, they can also play the game anywhere on their site. We are definitely constantly improving and increasing the number of gaming options we have available on the platform by default. Also building custom games like this one.

Marc Petit:

Great. I encourage everybody to go check the stores built by Obsess. You can Google; it's easy to find.

I went on American Girl. And the Crate & Barrel store, we're going to talk about it a little bit later. It's actually quite amazing to see what you can do with the web in the interactivity and immersion and engagement, which is great because it's the promise of the metaverse, so a more engaging version of the internet and it looks like it's here now.

Neha Singh:

Yeah, I would say in terms of the web, that definitely was a huge strategic decision for us, which kind of platform to build on top of. Our platform is built on top of the WebGL open standard. There are a few reasons for that, but first, for e-commerce specifically, the channel we need to be on is the web. That's where most of the transactions happen.

Of course, brands also have apps for their loyal customers, but that's a smaller percentage of their overall traffic. So, we need to make it as easy as possible for people to access these experiences.

That's a lesson that I learned from the early days of the company because first, when I started, we were building for all the first-generation headsets with where you put the phone into it, like Google Daydream and Samsung Gear VR. That was great, but the reach was very low. That’s when we decided to build our web-based platform.

For brands, we want them to post something on Instagram and people to click a link and the experience to open right there in the in-app browser in Instagram and TikTok because these are their channels, or even on email and SMS.

We designed our platform for it. First, it has to be super easy to access. It's a link that they can really use all the channels. For the Prada experience that I was just describing, they actually, if you go to any airport around the world and in those duty free shops, you have the fragrance section. If you go to Prada, they have a QR code, and that code leads into this Pradaverse virtual experience powered by Obsess. That's how easy it has to be.

Number two is it has to be fast to load. We know that consumers will leave an experience; I mean, even five seconds is too much. They'll probably leave before. Our typical load time for our experiences is two seconds. That was a big consideration in terms of using other engines versus using WebGL, which we can really build on top of and optimize.

We also control more of our own destiny in terms of how we can build on top of it. Of course, there's the whole community behind it. For us, that's a very important piece to make it as accessible.

Going beyond our current use case of the platform, but we really believe that... I mean, I believe that the future of the internet will be 3D; you can call it metaverse, you can call it whatever, but it's going to be open and this will be the future interface of websites. That's really our grand future ambition is that we can be a platform like Adobe Experience Cloud that manages all of the front-end experiences, web experiences, and digital experiences for brands.

Patrick Cozzi:

Great story on how you came to the web and having that low barrier to entry and things needed to load quickly.

I mean, the Cesium story is very similar. I heard WebGL a few times, and my ears really perked up. I was hoping you could share a bit more about the tech stack.

Neha Singh:

It is built on WebGL, and we use Three.js as the library. On top of that, it's all our proprietary software that we have built. It really consists of two parts.

One is our front-end rendering engine, which is what you typically see in the virtual stores, and that's where we really focus on performance optimization. But then also photorealism and rendering quality because the other important piece is that brands don't necessarily want their virtual worlds to look like games. Maybe they want it because that's the creative direction of a campaign, but we also really needed to give them the option of building something very photorealistic. That's why we have options for real-time 3D experiences that today can't be as photorealistic. We have pre-rendered experiences that you can navigate through. Then, we can make it extremely photorealistic.

That's the user-facing aspect. Then we have a content management system that we have built called AVA, that's our proprietary software for managing these 3D experiences. You can upload a 3D model that's generated by any standard 3D program in a standard format like fbx, obj, et cetera, glb, and then it will compress it and optimize it for the web.

You can set up everything about the experience, from styling of it, because we want each brand to be able to use their own brand styling buttons, UI, UX, all that style, and then all the way to even setting up translations because we work with global brands and they want to launch these experiences in multiple markets, so it has to be able to handle different languages, currencies, product assortments from different markets. All of that can be handled through the CMS. Both of those are essentially what our tech stack is, and then we are hosted on AWS.

Marc Petit:

Let's talk about your customer-facing tools to build the experiences. It looks like you offer a fair amount of capabilities. When I was doing some research, I found that you can do live evidence, live stream content, and full gamified experiences. It's virtually a small game engine.

Are you building all of that technology by yourself on top of Three.js?

Neha Singh:

I would say it's a combination. Some of those things are integrations with other platforms. Like livestream, we will typically integrate with YouTube Live or any other livestream platform that the customer is using. Other examples that we have integrated with external platforms are, for example, virtual try-on for beauty because for basically the facial recognition and letting you see how makeup looks on your face, there are some very established companies in that space, and typically our customers are already using one of them, so we do the integrations.

We have a bunch of integrations, and we also have integrations and partnerships with all the major e-commerce platforms, including Salesforce, Shopify, Adobe Commerce, and SAP actually, because that's how we pull all of the product data, inventory information, et cetera, and also sync the cart; we're too much detail perhaps.

In terms of everything that we have built, all of the gaming capabilities that I mentioned, that's something we have built in-house. We have a set of what we call standard games that can all be set up from our CMS, but then we also have custom games, which you can't really set up from the CMS, so we do custom development. But yeah, there's a lot that you can do in the CMS and we have a whole team just dedicated to building out more things on the CMS.

Typically, the flow that we follow is for any new feature, of course, if it's a big feature, for example, and we launch what we call shop with friends, which is social shopping. In real life, you go shopping with your friends and family, but it's not a behavior that has existed online. We had added that capability. That's going to be a standard offering of our platform. That's all available through the CMS.

However, if we are building something more experimental, which we don't know yet, is it going to take off? Are people going to use it? Then we'll first build the user-facing part, start to collect data, and then if we feel like, okay, more brands want to buy this, people are using this, then we will build the editing capability into our CMS.

Marc Petit:

Can you build up a bit on this social shopping? I mean, do you support a multi-user experience with a voice chat?

Neha Singh:

In our real-time 3D experiences, we have the ability, A, for you to navigate them as an avatar. And that technology we call branded avatars because each brand can decide on the character style of how the avatars in their experience should look. Typically, if they're going to a game like Roblox or Fortnite, there's a particular character style that each game has. But for a brand, they might want to own that IP of how their avatars should look, similar to how they own the environments. We build the ability for each brand to be able to design their own characters.

For example, if we are working with a fashion brand, they might look much more realistic, but if we are working with Disney, then the avatars can look like their characters.

Anyway, so when you are navigating through the experience as an avatar, then there are multiple multiplayer options. One is you can invite your friends to shop in the experience with you. In that case, you have a personal link that you can share, and then when people join through that link, you can admit or deny them. That's more of a closed shopping experience. And there, you can chat via audio while you're seeing everyone else as avatars.

Then we have a more open option, which is for brands to hold events in their virtual spaces where they can invite their loyal customers or all their customers, and they can have a host avatar, which could be an influencer or their brand ambassador, and they can communicate with everyone via audio. In that case, because it's more open, the users can only communicate via text chat that is filtered. We want to make sure the environment is safe. For brands, that's very important.

Currently, we have those two modes available. Something we can do that we haven't done yet is just show you other people who are around in the store who you may not know. You cannot chat with them because we don't know who those people are. You go to a store, and you'll see other people, and that actually influences your purchase decision if somebody is going to a specific section. We can enable the same thing in our virtual stores, too.

Marc Petit:

Do you plan to implement a Black Friday fight?

Neha Singh:

The holiday season is definitely our busiest season and we have to beef up our server capacity to handle all the traffic.

Patrick Cozzi:

For the production process for the brands, it sounds like you've done so much to streamline that and make it easy.

Are you looking at generative AI to also streamline it?

Neha Singh:

We have already been using that over the last year. But yeah, to your point, first, streamlining the process was very important to us. We have already released over 350 virtual stores, so that cannot happen when you're doing each one very manually, which is the reason for the CMS and being able to edit all of these things really easily.

The one part before gen AI that was still a very manual process was the design of the environment and the 3D modeling of the overall space. We have a 3D design team that does that for brands. Sometimes, they have internal resources; maybe they're retail designers who can design their virtual stores or their agencies. But that's definitely the part that takes the longest.

For most brands, I mean, pretty much for all brands, when we are working with them, it's the first time that they're ever creating a virtual presence. It's a huge brand exercise for them to decide what to do and what they want their virtual world to look like.

Do they want it to look like their stores? Do they want a completely fantastical experience? It's a pretty big decision because ultimately, this is a very visual branding tool, and whatever you make will be memorable to users. So that's why the design process always took a long time. It was a lot of back-and-forth, and we had to do a lot of options. And doing all of those in 3D modeling out the environments is a lot of work.

Over the last year, first of all, we have started using gen AI in our early-stage design process. We can generate a lot of options really quickly, and then the brand can decide, okay, actually I like this part. 

When we are going into the actual 3D modeling process, then we are much more streamlined. We know exactly what we need to model and we are not doing that back and forth in the 3D phase. That has already helped cut down our production time by a lot.

Now, we are looking into generating the entire 3D model or the design of the store with AI. Obviously, 3D generation, gen AI, is still early compared to images, but it'll get there in probably a year or two. We want to make sure we are using that.

There are in-between things we can do that combine a bit of both and just make the process faster. That's the phase we are in now. Actually, our first store, fully generated with AI with no manual 3D modeling, will be released next month. That will be huge. That's a bit of a smaller space, but eventually, it's like, how do we extend this?

Basically, when we can get to that point, then brands can release their stores. I don't know; I mean, they could release it in a week if they wanted to because it can be very fast. So that's really a huge part of our roadmap is the generation of the spaces.

Marc Petit:

Well, I also read about how you use Dall-E on the Elizabeth Arden project.

Do you want to talk about that? I thought that was a very interesting use of AI.

Neha Singh:

Yeah, yeah, that was super cool—one of the early ones. Elizabeth Arden, which is part of Revlon, is one of our customers; they have a virtual flagship store that they update every couple of months with their latest product releases. In fact, just this week, if you go to it now, it has their latest product, the hero product that they just launched.

Of course, products are part of that experience, but a lot of it is about the history of the brand because this is a very classic brand with a very storied history, and we wanted to bring that to life in some way. They had these images from ad campaigns that they had run in the seventies in magazines, and they wanted to have that in the experience but almost allow you to step into those worlds from these really old ads.

However, those ads obviously were rectangular and the person's legs might be cut off because that was out of the page and so on. We had to create a whole environment based on that that we used Dall-E for to basically feed it the image that we have and then extend it into a whole environment. If you go into those rooms, it's really cool because you can basically step into that world, and it's black and white, part of it. That was a really cool use of AI to take assets that they already had.

Marc Petit:

And I even saw an AI-enabled baby name generator on one of your customer websites.

Neha Singh:

Babylist is another one of our customers. They're a baby registry. We have been working with them for two or maybe more years now, and they've done a whole bunch of different virtual experiences on our platform. In the latest one, we have this baby name generator. You can put the due date, and it'll suggest common names for people born on that day. You can also just keep redoing it until you get some names you like.

The bigger point around that particular one is this kind of content, so what we see from our data is, beyond gaming, if we can add a lot of content to these experiences, people really engage. The more they engage with content, the more they shop. Usually, that content process is manual in the sense that, okay, you shot a campaign so we can add that video. How can we make that content more automated and more scalable without needing manual input at every step? And the baby name generator is a great example of that because it's just with AI. We didn't have to input all these names and people can just keep playing with it.

I think there are lots of applications of things like that where we can just automate more engagement content in these experiences.

Patrick Cozzi:

We wanted to jump into a few more partnerships, but before we do that, I'd love to double back on some of the geek stuff here. For the tech stack, you mentioned a bit about taking content in a variety of formats like FBX and then glTF.

I was curious if you could share a bit about once that content comes in, are you using glTF for everything, or what open standards you're using?

Neha Singh:

We are actually using GLB for everything on the web. That format is the one we have found works the best across the web, so that's pretty much what we end up converting everything into. And then, of course, beyond the web, we work on other platforms like VisionOS for Apple Vision Pro, in which case we use USTC.

Patrick Cozzi:

Cool. Yeah, it's great to see those being used for what they're each best at.

For our listeners, GLB stands for binary glTF, so it is glTF; it was the binary version of it.

Marc Petit:

If you use Three.js, have you started to look at WebGPU? I mean you have WebGPU support, I think Three.js, that you got some early feedback on what you could do with WebGPU?

Neha Singh:

We are definitely looking into it. We haven't quite implemented it yet, but it's on our roadmap for the next few months. I'm super excited about that rolling out more broadly. If it can make our experiences faster and richer and start to make the real-time 3D experiences more photorealistic and loading faster, that would be amazing.

One of the advantages of our earlier conversation about WebGL and open standards is that we can use this without overhauling our platform. It's just something we can add on and optimize for. So yes, I'm super excited about that.

Patrick Cozzi:

Look, we've heard so many great examples of the use cases for folks building on your platform, and you've had partnerships with them. So many great brands like L'Oreal and Disney.

Is there anyone that you think is particularly innovative that you'd like to highlight?

Neha Singh:

They're all amazing. I'll talk about this one, K18; it's a haircare brand that was recently acquired by Unilever. Theirs is one of the most innovative experiences because what their goal is to educate the customer on hair and use that to sell their products.

One part of their virtual experience is actually going into the three layers of a hair strand. You go into, there's a tunnel and an animation, and I didn't even know that there are three layers to a hair strand before that. It does really educate you.

At every layer, you're inside it, and they have an avatar that tells you about it, and all this visual content. And nowhere around that are they showing product yet. I think it's a really interesting strategy. Then, you go into the next layer of the hair strand.

After you have completed this whole journey, there's what they call a magic science bus. You enter this magic science bus, and that's where they connect how molecularly the hair is constructed to how their products work. You can see with this animation what effect this product will have on your hair and what effect rain will have on a strand of hair. They used our platform for all of this, but we didn't come up with these ideas.

It's just so cool that they thought of using it that way, and it's so unique. I feel like that's one of the most innovative ones.

They also made a real magic science bus and had a popup in LA outside Sephora, one of their partners. In the real magic science bus, we had a version of the experience in the Oculus Meta Quest so people could go and try on the experience and have the same kind of hair education journey, which was super well received.

They started taking the headsets to all their trade shows because, essentially, they sell to the consumer, but then they're also selling to stylists and salon professionals, and they're selling to retailers. In those B2B scenarios, they can also give that experience, and they found that their booth at these trade shows became the most popular one, and they got so many more orders as a result of that. I think it's so innovative in terms of using that education and then really driving it across all of your channels, D2C, retailers, and B2B.

Marc Petit:

I was looking at this Crate & Barrel experience. I really enjoyed it. Also, it's anchored in being a digital twin of the actual flagship store in New York. I think it's a great idea; it looked beautiful. You have the ability to talk to people. I remember something like a virtual design desk where you can go and get a design consultation.

I felt the combination of all those things is really enticing for users. Virtual settings and having people interact with the consumer in the metaverse—is this a big demand from your customers now?

Neha Singh:

First of all, the Crate & Barrel experience started essentially when they opened a new flagship store in New York, and then the virtual store opened at the same time as the physical store. So it was part of their strategy to go omnichannel. Omnichannel is one of the buzzwords in the retail industry, and that's really what our technology enables: how can you have the same experience across multiple channels?

The first experience was a digital twin of the real store. The beauty of the fact that it's all a 3D model is that the architects gave us the 3D model of the actual store, but then we could change a little bit of the layout based on our data and insights. Because we have the most data in the world in terms of how consumers behave in 3D web-based virtual stores, we give those insights to customers in terms of what the layout of your store is and stuff.

We changed it a little bit based on that and condensed it, and also based on the fact that most people are looking at it on mobile. I think that's a really cool thing because while it's a digital twin and it's very close to the store, it's not an exact one-to-one replica.

But then, also for the spring, we have added a whole rooftop section, and the rooftop doesn't exist in the real store. I think it's really cool how they extended that concept. Now, it has all the patio furniture, and you fly into the rooftop.

Getting back to your question about connecting with sales professionals, yes, so that is one of the big pushes just in the e-commerce industry in general: how can we make this experience more human?

We have a variety of ways that you can do that, and brands like to do it. One is the design desk, an appointment that you can take to visit the store. Virtual experiences are sometimes used as a tool to drive foot traffic into the physical stores as well.

Ultimately, physical stores are the highest conversion and revenue channels for brands. Anything that can help them drive traffic there, and for anyone who lives in New York, they can go there. For everybody who doesn't, there are often virtual appointment sessions that we have.

Often, our beauty customers will have virtual consultations that you can set up. And that's where we integrate with other platforms that have that capability because, usually, brands already use some platform for that.

The other way is a simple sales live chat where you can ask questions to sales associates that they can answer while you're in the virtual store. Lastly, we also have a person who's been shot on a green screen video, and then they can be placed into the virtual environment. Usually, that's prerecorded. It can be a little bit interactive, but it can be used to welcome you, to guide you, and so on.

Even with that human element, we see super high click-through rates for any human element in the experience. We really encourage brands to have some way, ultimately, either the person in the virtual experience or being able to connect with a sales professional, for people to get that interaction.

Patrick Cozzi:

As a consumer, I mean, all these ways that I could engage in these virtual environments sound so cool. I'm a total sucker for a roof deck as well.

You mentioned that you're collecting a lot of data, and I was just curious: how do you measure the benefits that the brands are getting?

Neha Singh:

We have analytics on all user interactions within the virtual experiences, aggregated and anonymized. That's what a brand will get for their virtual store. They actually get a heat map of where people are going in their store, how much time they're spending in each section, how many products they're clicking on, what content they're engaging with, what games they're playing, et cetera. Because it's all digital, they can use this information to optimize the store. They can change the layout, they could add a room, or move a product that they want to sell into the front of the store just with a drag and drop in our CMS.

First of all, brands use the store's analytics data to optimize the store. On our platform, you can add items to your cart, and once you are ready to check out, we send you back to the brand's regular checkout. They can track this because we send them tracking parameters, so they can track how many people completed the purchase and so on.

The key KPIs for which brands use our platform, first, is brand awareness specifically targeting a younger generation. Often, brands will come to us because they're like, we are forming our Gen Z strategy because of just the gaming tie-in and being very used to this kind of interface. Brand awareness. 

Then the second is customer engagement. How do we bring these people more into the brand world and get them engaged? It's essentially getting more customers into their CRM database because what we find in our experiences is how when you go to an e-commerce site, it often gives you the popup right away to put your email. In our experiences, once you have engaged a little bit and maybe you've played a game or even step one of the game, then if we ask you to give your email, the percentage of people giving their information is much higher because they feel like they can get something and because they're more engaged. That's another goal that brands often have.

In terms of some of the results that our brands see, American Girl you mentioned, Marc, earlier, has been on our platform for about two and a half years now, and they have a virtual museum of all their DALL-E characters. They have seen a 1000% higher time spent on this virtual museum than on the rest of the pages of the e-commerce website, and they have seen a 25% higher add-to-cart rate. We often see that the engagement is way higher on this, which is to be expected.

Sometimes, you will see higher purchase conversion rates. Sometimes, we even see higher average order values. People discover more things because it's not so, like, okay, searching for one thing and just going down the path. It's more like how, in a real story, you might see something that was not necessarily on your shopping list. That serendipity element.

Of course, traffic visitors as a key KPI. For a Taylor Swift experience that we did last year, that was our highest concurrent traffic ever, of course.

All of these are the ways in which brands measure the impact.

Marc Petit:

Do you find having any issues to establish the return on investment of your platform?

Neha Singh:

This technology is still new for brands and retailers, and they have a lot of different things going on in the retail world and in the e-commerce world, and some that are not so new, like virtual technologies, so they get priority. I do think over time with anything, as the technology gets more adoption and just as this kind of interface starts to pop up in more places beyond shopping, of course there are virtual concerts now, and as that increases, as all these behaviors increase, then it becomes more and more of a case.

Overall, we do have the ability to pretty much track all the actions and track all the ROI. It's very measurable at the end of the day.

Marc Petit:

Platforms like Roblox or Fortnite are highly visible to a wealth of brands now. How do you position that? Are you a compliment to those platforms? Because they come with a huge audience, right?

Sometimes, the users that people want to target are on those platforms. And brands want to have a direct relationship with consumers then, so could you act as a bridge there?

Neha Singh:

We see all of this as part of the 3D world. Whether you create that 3D world on your website for your D2C or on platforms like Roblox and Fortnite, which have audiences, the corollary is just how brands are on social platforms like Instagram and TikTok, where they can get access to these audiences. They can't necessarily get that same level of data about engagement as they can on their own site, but both are necessary for brands.

For Obsess, we have started building experiences for brands on Roblox, and we launched the first one earlier this year for Amika, which is a beauty brand; we are doing more now. Ultimately, our vision is that any platform or device that the brand has to create a 3D experience for, they shouldn't have to start from scratch in terms of imagining what that world should look like. It's the creative expression of your brand that should be consistent across all your channels.

You can create the experience once on Obsess, and then we can publish it to web; we can publish it to a touchscreen in a store, if you want that. We can publish it to Roblox, which is not quite yet possible in terms of just publishing it because you have to recreate it in Roblox Studio, and then we can publish it to Meta Quest and Vision Pro. That's really the direction that we are heading in, which is multichannel distribution for these experiences.

Patrick Cozzi:

Looking forward, we already spoke a bit about WebGPU, but we are curious about what other technology advancements you're excited about.

Neha Singh:

WebGPU that we spoke about. Gen AI, I think, is going to be the biggest one in terms of just making these experiences easier to create, but also updating and having lots of different creative options for brands. Then AI is also used for personalization. That's also one of the goals for us in these virtual experiences eventually, is that if you and I go to the same virtual store, we should see different things, and that different thing starts with the products that we see that should be more targeted to us, but eventually it could also be the whole environment.

Maybe you prefer to shop in a different way than I do, so how can we use all that information and then use AI to create something that is very customized and tailored for you, which is not possible for a brand to do in real life in a physical store?

That's going to take some time for that whole vision to come true. We are starting with little pieces of it with something that the first step we did is something called dynamic merchandising, which is based on a few questions that you answered and actually changes the set of products that you're being shown. 

Ultimately, we can integrate with data sources that the brand already has where they have information to populate that. I think the continuing improvement of real-time 3D on the web.

Of course, in the headset world, just better form factors, more accessible price points for users, and ultimately getting adoption are the best ways to experience any of this because then you're fully immersed in it. Those are the key things we are looking forward to.

Marc Petit:

Self-expression is a big thing, and it's a big thing online. Selling skins in a game like Fortnite is primarily around self-expression and fashion. For us boys, cars are a self-expression too. I do believe that self-expression will drive a big virtual goods business ultimately.

Are you already seeing or being involved in commerce activities that are purely digital?

Neha Singh:

I would say only on Roblox for the avatar UGC items. There was that phase in 2022 when there was a little bit of interest from brands and pure digital items, but we haven't seen much of it more recently. 

But I do agree with you that it's going to grow over time now that that initial hype phase is over and people are trying to find the real use cases.

The other in-between use case is to allow people to see a digital item first and purchase it or give feedback on it, which then informs the brand and gives them data about whether to produce it in real life. I know some of the big sneaker companies have done this in different ways, but I do think we'll see more of that.

Eventually, for us in the virtual experiences, we want to support virtual goods and physical goods, and both should be possible.

Marc Petit:

Some brands have vested heavily in NFTs and still have a bit of a bitter taste in their mouth.

We talked about gamifying the experience, having collectibles, and managing scarcity. Do you see that as a potential future feature of your platform?

Neha Singh:

Right now you can basically collect points, and what we are working on this year is integration. It's a little bit of a different flavor from what you're saying, but it's more integrated with the brand's current systems because they all use these loyalty programs. That's a big focus for e-commerce in general, loyalty.

Loyalty is something that we can integrate into the virtual experience in two ways. As you do more actions in the virtual store, play a game, or get points, then those points can become loyalty points that already have a scheme of how you can redeem them on the site.

The other way as well, in terms of loyalty status that you have with the brand, you get a different experience in the virtual world. That's not something we have done yet, but it is something that we are talking to brands about. Maybe you get access to a members-only lounge, and you get first access to exclusive products.

Especially for loyal customers, brands are really looking for ways to engage them further because, of course, they're the highest spenders. I think they will be a huge application for experiences for loyal members or special experiences for them within virtual worlds, which could include collectibles, NFTs, and physical redemption in some way.

Patrick Cozzi:

So, the final question here is, do you want to give a shout-out to any person or organization?

Neha Singh:

I want to give a shout-out to the brands and the champions at these brands that are really adopting this new technology. As I mentioned earlier, retailers have a lot on their plate. They have huge technology priorities. I think for the people who understand the long-term value of building a deeper digital connection with the customer, it can help you drive immediate sales, but there's a much bigger goal of how retail commerce is being solely taken over by e-commerce, how are you going to establish that same connection?

Brands that can see that and see the future, I think they deserve the biggest shout-out. I would say especially our early customers, everyone ranging from Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, all these brands, they tried it before anybody else did and before there were a lot of data or proof points that even we had. I think that's really amazing and innovative for these brands and also just all of the amazing creative ideas that they come up with.

For us, we are thankful to them for being the tool that they can use to express that.

Marc Petit:

Thank you so much for joining us today and sharing your insights and pioneering vision for the future of immersive e-commerce experiences.

With Obsess, you're truly at the forefront of merging gaming and engagement, and branded creativity with utilitarian online shopping. You made it very clear that virtual retail is not just a passing fad; it's the inevitable next evolution, and our digital interfaces and the internet itself become fully realized in 3D, which here in this podcast we're so much looking forward to.

Your work enabling photorealistic yet imaginative virtual stores is revolutionizing how consumers discover, learn about, and purchase products.

We really appreciate that you're taking the time to present the vision behind Obsess and the technology and everything about it. Leaders like yourselves are driving these kinds of groundbreaking experiences that will fundamentally reshape e-commerce and the internet itself.

Thank you again for your leadership and for joining us today.

Neha Singh:

Thank you so much for having me. This was so much fun. I really appreciate the opportunity.

Thanks, Marc and Patrick.

Marc Petit:

Of course, a big thank you to our ever-growing audience. You can find us on YouTube or podcast platforms.

You can also reach out to us on our LinkedIn page and our website, 

Patrick and Neha, it was a great conversation today. Thank you guys. See you all at the next episode of the podcast. Thank you.