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Wool & Water — Pioneers in building and growing Extended Retail™

Wool & Water — Pioneers in building and growing Extended Retail™

The online shopping business is on a surge, and in the pandemic, we have seen the potential of online shopping. It’s very convenient for consumers to know about a product virtually from any part of the world and receiving it at the comfort of their home, instead of traveling to physical stores every time. The implementation of mixed reality like AR and VR helps consumers have a better, more immersive, and engaging shopping experience while saving travel costs and operational costs.

Wool & Water is a company that is pioneering shoppable Extended Retail™ experiences in retail, fashion, automotive, and other industries looking to supplement or replace their brick and mortar experience without relying on average 2D digital experiences. Its personalized virtual reality and augmented reality experiences bring the store aisle, dressing room, or brand experience directly to the homes of your best customers and highest potential targets. We interviewed the co-founders, Jeff Bodzewski, and Justin McAneny, to understand more about the company. Here are a few excerpts of the interview:

Q. Why was the firm started, and how has it transformed over the years?

Justin McAneny and I started Wool & Water in late-2020 with the single-minded goal of changing how retailers sell to shoppers using technology that bridges online and physical storefronts. We looked at the seismic shift in consumer behavior in 2020, where once futuristic technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and smart glass were being adopted at a rate that even the most optimistic analyst did not predict.

Our belief for these Extended Retail technologies is that they will follow the same path as nearly every other “new” media where it started altruistically before someone realized the commerce potential. It’s unlikely that Johannes Gutenberg could have foreseen the direct mail that floods people’s mailboxes, or the original inventors of the Internet who were academics focused on idea exchange would have guessed people would buy every conceivable good or service online.

Even in less than 12 months since our founding, the technology continues to evolve, shoppers embrace certain aspects, and, frankly, most brands continue to fumble with making AR & VR shoppable at a premium user experience. One of Justin’s favorite examples of a brand knowing their consumer wants shoppable AR but not understand the general workings is a luxury automaker who promoted its “virtual car” experience by texting an AR code to him. We both are still wondering how exactly you scan a QR code that is already on your phone.

Q. How often does your organization assess its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to understand the current business climate?

Being the trailblazer and leader in shoppable Extended Retail means we’re constantly exploring new technology, improvements in the existing tech stack, and capabilities that can deliver the fast, premium shopping experience we believe is the future of retail. For instance, our tech lead was really excited about the advance a company in Germany was making around the sensitivity and motion range of hand controls in VR environments. Small details and incremental improvements in the experience make all the difference at this stage of evangelizing shoppable AR and VR as few have envisioned to this stage.

The current business climate rewarding DTC selling models and growth in bottom-line numbers such as revenue and customer count is ideal for our unique approach that focuses on commerce. The uncertainty in the world today around physical gatherings, going to a store, and other restrictions also make our solution attractive as the bridge between physical and digital worlds—the first to deliver confidence and convenience together.

“Retail’s best days are ahead for those who adapt to changing consumer behavior and we created Extended Retail to empower retailers to meet their shopper’s need for convenience and confidence.”

Elaborate more about your guiding vision and values.

Justin and I founded Wool & Water as unapologetic retail advocates who believe that “digital transformation” had failed companies when it was needed most in 2020. Having both been part of a number of transformation initiatives at both start-ups and large Fortune 50 companies, we were disappointed to see the same old tired recommendations such as optimizing websites for mobile and various plug-ins for email as the “experts” recommendations. It still is, in many cases, based on the emails I get.

Both of our careers have been defined by introducing newer technologies once they reached a tipping point of being financially impactful to brands ranging such as Nissan, AT&T, Macallan, Victoria’s Secret, and Boston Beer. We didn’t see any other group embracing AR and VR as shoppable channels that could directly impact business and brand results, so we decided to do something about it and start Wool & Water.

Our goal is to quickly dedicate a part of Wool & Water to helping underserved communities, and people reconnect with the world around them in ways that only AR, VR, and eventually the metaverse can now. Schools in low-income areas can take field trips to the Pyramids or the Great Wall of China. Nursing home residents can interact and explore the world around them without physical limitations. These are only two examples of the philanthropic areas we hope to dedicate our resources and talents to in the future.

Q. What is Extended Retail™, and how is it beneficial?

Extended Retail is the complete ecosystem of the extended technologies of today, such as AR and VR, while also laying the foundation for potentially business-altering experiences of tomorrow such as the Metaverse. It’s strategically integrating these technologies throughout a retailer’s omnichannel footprint to enhance the shopping experience and dramatically increase selling opportunities.

Nearly 70% of Americans told us they used AR and/or VR in the last 30 days, including an astounding 25% in some form of shopping. The shoppers have embraced it and now expect these technologies to be a competitive advantage when 83% of shoppers indicated they would buy from a company offering shoppable AR over one that doesn’t. We’ve also seen an immediate and dramatic positive financial impact. Those who engage with shoppable AR have a 90% higher conversion rate than those who didn’t, and order size growth of 18-22%.

Q. Where do you see the future of the company?

The coming 12-18 months will see shoppable AR become a mainstream sales channel with shoppable VR focused more on experiences a short time after. We’ll see more smart technologies in the home focused on shopping, and eventually, the Metaverse will materialize in some form where retailers will need to decide how to be part of it in a meaningful way to drive revenue.

The technology will always continue to change and grow, but the business strategy of enhancing shopping experiences to grow business results will be a constant for the foreseeable future. We expect to remain the leader in these areas, and that’s where Extended Retail, with its flexibility, becomes instrumental to our ongoing success.

For more information-

Meet the Co-Founders

Jeff Bodzewski: Co-founder & Chief Executive Officer

Jeff has been a trusted counselor to brands including Google, Boston Beer, Unilever, Lyft, Discover Financial, and AT&T as they look to drive revenue. Harvard Business Review profiled his work in reaching actionable consumer insights, and Corinium named Jeff one of the Top 50 Data & Analytics professionals in the US/Canada.

Justin McAneny: Co-founder & Chief Strategy Officer

Justin has over 15 years of experience using digital strategy and storytelling to help companies monetize their web properties, social media, and emerging tech. A generalist amongst digital strategists, Justin has found success reaching consumers at scale using various digital touchpoints.

“Wool & Water was born of passionate retail advocates and creative strategists who were frustrated by the belief that technology was not being used to its full potential.”

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