Virtual Shopping Mall Opening in Central PA
What is, apparently, the first Virtual Mall in the United States is slated for a July 19th opening. This venture into virtual reality is the brainchild of entrepreneur Art Lieberman, who owns several companies in Central PA, many of which deal with credit card processing.
Lieberman produced virtual trade shows in 2010 and 2011 and, when the pandemic hit last year, he repeated the event. But Lieberman took notice that brick and mortar businesses in his locale, were being devastated by Covid 19. He began to believe that creating a mall, where people could order from locals without leaving their homes, might help them survive. He targeted April of this year for the opening.
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He began to research software companies that might switch their focus from virtual trade shows, conferences, and meetings to create a mall. But Lieberman understood that communication in a virtual marketing environment was essential and when Exhibitor Connect suggested VIDEO CHAT, Lieberman had found his software provider.
Next, store owners would have to agree to take stores in the mall. Lieberman wanted to make it as inexpensive as possible and suggested a price of only $100 a week or $400 a month. But after almost 2 months, only one store had committed to the project. Fortunately, it was a huge furniture store, Plaza House Furniture, with a branch in two localities. Lieberman felt that their name might draw others in and, to some extent it did. The mall’s motto is “Shop small at the Mall”
But it wasn’t long before it became apparent that even $400 a month was too much for pandemic-stricken stores to afford and Lieberman decided to give stores away for two months, at no charge. This also included the design of the store and actually paying for the store’s placement in the mall software. Then, with the help of media company: Seven Mountains Media; the designs of Heidi Criswell; a promotional gateway website created and maintained by ResNexus and Lieberman’s own salesforce, his dream started to take place. Lieberman spent tens of thousands of dollars in order to market the stores with local papers and radio stations.
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April and May passed, as the store tally began to mount. By June 1st, Lieberman set the date for the mall opening, July 19th.
Shoppers will log in to the gateway website: www.sunvirtualmall.net and see the promotional material and shopping instructions there. They might also see ads placed by various companies. The actual Mall Entrance is there too.
After clicking on the entranceway, the virtual mall will appear and the shopper can register with their name, telephone number and e-mail address, the latter being all that is needed to re-enter the mall in the future.
Then, a list of stores will appear. The shopper may select a store by name, by type of store or by city where they want to shop. After the store selection the virtual store will appear. The REAL store address, phone number and hours of operation are all there on the storefront.
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Once again, after clicking on the storefront, the shopper will be “inside’ the store which will be either the owner’s website, menu, or static design explaining and picturing what they sell or the service they provide. If the store has opted in for the video chat, that too will be on the screen inside the store. The shoppers name will appear so the store owner can greet them – something that even a brick-and-mortar store cannot offer.
If the customer wants to purchase an item or a service, they may do so audibly with the video chat using their credit/debit card.
Finally, the shopper may go to the next or previous store (alphabetically) or back to the lobby to see the lists of stores – or just log out of the mall altogether.
The idea is to keep the shopping experience as simple but interesting as possible and to create an entertaining atmosphere in this unique marketplace.