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UK Mall Owner Brings VR “Shoppertainment” to More Shopping Centers

One minute, you’re browsing racks of wrap dresses, and the next, you’re locked in a life-or-death battle against hostile alien forces.

That scenario soon could be playing out in shopping centers across the U.K.

Stores and malls have been looking for ways to reinvigorate the experience shoppers can expect to have when they walk through the front doors, and for a mall owner in the United Kingdom the answer is virtual reality (VR).

Intu, one of the largest shopping center owners in the U.K., is adding virtual reality experiences to even more of its malls, following a successful partnership with Immotion Group Plc. Alongside stores like Topshop, Debenhams and JD Sports, shoppers can take a break from buying to indulge in a bit of fantasy with experiences like Delta Zero, the game Immotion launched in August in partnership with Lunar Animation that pits users—cast as part of a Delta Squadron team in outer space—against “advanced alien technology” threatening to destroy civilization.

This fall, Intu will deploy three more ImmotionVR modules to malls, bringing the total number of its locations featuring the experiential entertainment to seven.

“Intu [centers] are focused on creating these kinds of compelling experiences for our customers to enjoy and we’re excited to provide yet another new brand with a fantastic opportunity to flourish across the U.K.,” Roger Binks, customer experience director at Intu, said in announcing the news. The companies said they’ll offer up seasonal experiences around Halloween and Christmas.

Speaking at a Retail Influencer Network launch event in New York City last week, Nicole Leinbach Reyhle echoed the need for retailers to bring more “shoppertainment” into the physical store environment.

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“When I walk into a physical store, I want to be entertained. I want that Insta-worthy moment,” said Reyhle, who has served as a spokesperson for American Express Small Business Saturday. Noting that 70 percent of consumers who enter a store leave without ever touching any product, Rehyle entreated retailers to do a better job of entertaining and engaging customers—“and that comes through a combination of data and all this fantastic technology that retailers have access to now,” she added.

“If I were a retailer, I would absolutely start to welcome that rather than shy away from it,” Reyhle explained. “Incorporate the digital, incorporate the technology, and entertain the customer in that good old-fashioned way and the very modern ways that customers want.”

For Intu, that “modern way” means in-mall VR experiences, which Binks thinks “could one day become as commonplace as stopping for a coffee with friends.”