CGI Stores Misunderstand the Fundamental Joys of Shopping

The next big thing in e-commerce could be entire stores that only exist online—not like Amazon, but websites that resemble physical boutiques that you can navigate using virtual- or augmented-reality technology, according to a new report from the Business of Fashion.

As someone who stares a computer at work (remembering to take breaks every 20 minutes to an hour to stare into mid-distance) for eight hours, and then usually goes home to stare at another, smaller screen, I cannot imagine anything worse. I wonder if these people even understand the foundational value of shopping. Touching things! Walking around! Stuffing my ass into jeans into a dressing room and then forcing a sales representative to tell me what they think! These are my life’s greatest pleasures, and the e-commerce industry is threatening all of them.

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The software company Obsess launched “its first e-commerce destination” on Tuesday, according to the Business of Fashion, which is not just one store but “different boutiques, all created in CGI.” Click around and you can explore a yoga studio, an underwater store, and a hiking trail with several models who were clearly never in the same room together, standing around in Outdoor Voices-esque crop tops and leggings. A nearby sign prompts you to click for “accessories and snacks,” and I’m sorry to say I found no snacks.

Screenshot: Shop Obsess

Crucially, there is no search bar on Shop Obsess’s website, which leads me to wonder: What exactly is the point of all of this? If I wanted to wander aimlessly through racks of clothing, without an express purpose in mind (and I often do), I head to the nearest Nordstorm Rack and enjoy 20 to 30 minutes of my go-to makeshift sensory deprivation experience, where I tune out the world and tune in to my own thoughts. (Who needs a sound bath to decompress? Window shopping is free!)

Sometimes I online shop when I really need one specific thing, and in that case, taking the search bar away from me feels like torture. I do not need to spend any more time on my computer or phone—but what I really don’t need is a clothing or handbag brand telling me that spending more time on my computer would actually be more enjoyable than whatever else I had planned for that day. I resent what this seems to tell us about the e-commerce industry: that retailers are increasingly vying for smaller and smaller pieces of your attention; that for these brands to flourish online, I must second-guess myself.

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I admit, I clicked around in Obsess’s CGI nightmare and saw some pieces that looked kind of cute; I’m only human! But I know in my heart that I would rather schlep my butt to Levi’s and experience the Russian roulette that is shopping in-person. Will I walk out disappointed or finally meet the pair of jeans that changes my life? There’s only one way to find out, and it involves putting on my shoes and taking a walk.

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