Sears, IBM launch Second Life virtual store

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Sears and IBM have teamed together to launch a prototype virtual store in Second Life, the popular virtual online community where real-life brands are becoming increasingly prevalent.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Sears and IBM, Armonk, NY, unveiled a 3-D showroom called the Sears Virtual Home, which resides on an IBM island within Second Life.

"The Sears Virtual Home combines the best of virtual worlds and 3-D environments so customers can experience Sears' products in a way that is closer to real life," said Paul Miller, senior vice president, direct commerce, Sears Holdings, Hoffman Estates, IL, in a statement.

This launch is meant demonstrate what might be possible in using virtual worlds to transform consumer experiences by allowing consumers to experiment with changing the color of cabinets and countertops in a virtual kitchen, explore 3-D versions of various home theater set-ups and learn how to organize their garage by virtually customizing storage accessories. The virtual showroom replicates in 3-D the custom design tools already available on the Web at Sears.com. Consumers can order items from the Sears Virtual Home by clicking through to Sears.com.

Eventually, Sears' customers are expected to be able to use avatars -- 3-D virtual representations of themselves -- to replicate their exact room dimensions and experiment with redesigning their kitchen, garage or home theater by selecting appliances, tools and furniture. Other additional features might include the ability to have friends, family members or personal designers join consumers in the virtual showroom to give their personal advice.

Sears joins a growing number of brand marketers that have initiated a presence on Second Life in the past year, including Lego, Sony BMG, Nike and Circuit City.

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