Online Shopping Reinvented with Real Sales People and Slick Video Chat

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A Swedish cell phone company just unveiled what might be the future of online shopping – a strange combo of video chat and interactive graphics that looks very much like something out of Minority Report.

The video above explains how the 3 Live Shop works and how it was made. Three bespoke operator stations were built by a team working for the Swedish arm of cell phone network 3.

If you’re thinking it looks like an extravagant stunt, you’re not alone. We were suspicious too, so we called 3 in Sweden to check it out.

“Of course it’s real!” said a slightly indignant spokesman from their press team.

“It’s not an April Fool. We built it as a real service to make real sales. We have made this commercial launch with three specialized workstations for operators, we will expand it with more sales stations in future.”

Why go to such lengths? To help people buy, of course. Enough people were visiting the existing online store, but not buying, to make Three think that perhaps they’d buy if they were offered a little help. Hence the 3 Live Shop.

We decided to try it out. The helpful, smiling sales guy we got through to spoke perfect English and was only too happy to demonstrate some of the features.

He dragged a sample phone into view. Showed off some features. And, with another few drag-and-drops, created an on-screen bill showing how much we’d have to pay for the handset and a monthly contract.

Although skeptical at first, we were totally bowled over by how smooth and slick the experience was.

The sales guy was delightfully honest. Does it hurt your arms using a vertical screen all the time, we asked?

“Not really,” he said, with disarming smile. “We have a table to rest our arms on, and we only raise them to use the screen when we have to. It’s not a problem.”

So is this the end of real world meatspace street stores? Back to the 3 press guy.

“No, it’s not the end of the shop. We think there’s a space between the street shop and the web store, and this service is designed to fill that space.”

If successful, 3 plans to expand the service to other countries soon.

Want to try it out? You can, if you’re prepared to navigate some basic web instructions in Swedish. As far as we can tell, they ask you to declare that you’re over 18, and then take you through the process of setting up your webcam. Then there’s a queueing system in place – those operators are busy, and something tells us they’re going to stay busy for a while yet.

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