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Go shopping in 3d at The Virtual Farmers Market

The first ever interactive 3D Virtual Farmers Market (VFM) - set to launch to consumers January 2010 - introduces an innovative new concept in online shopping, combining a 3D world with a traditional online retail website to enhance user experience.


Using the latest in 3D games technology, the VFM is a virtual take on the traditional Farmers market that will allow consumers and specialist food & drink producers to interact in a 3D environment without stepping foot outside their front doors. The VFM programme allows the shopper to stroll freely around over 45 market stalls where they can view products, interact with the producer and buy the same high quality artisan produced food & drink they might find in a real-life Farmers market, and they can shop at the VFM 24/7.  The unique thing about the VFM is that it allows people to meet the original producer first hand, which is often not even possible at a real life Farmers market.

From a commercial perspective, the VFM is revolutionary in that it gives smaller specialist food & drink producers and Farmers the opportunity to reach new markets, and extend the scope of their business, without the need to go through the multiples. The VFM allows them 24/7 access to the already massive and growing online home shopping market.

In 2009 the online grocery market is worth 4.4bn and in 2014 its expected to be worth 6.9bn – a growth of 57% from 2009*. The VFM is well placed to take advantage of this growth and answers some of the concerns consumers face when shopping online.  83% of consumers* like to touch & feel what they buy, and the VFM can help overcome this concern; this new way of cyber-shopping works to install trust in the consumer by adding a human element to the online shopping experience, it enables the shopper to meet the producer via a video stream that allows them to give a brief description of the goods for sale, tell the story of how their food & drink has been produced, what ingredients have been used and where they have been sourced.  Once satisfied, the shopper can add products to a virtual shopping basket for home delivery in temperature-controlled boxes.

The VFM is designed to be used as a top-up for the regular household shop, where consumers can add exquisite products to their weekly shop that cant be bought at any supermarket.

In addition to the 3D virtual experience, a 2D version of the VFM will also provide all information for consumers, allowing them to view all products, along with descriptions & images, and watch videos of the different producers before they add products to their virtual shopping basket for check-out.

The VFM is the brainchild of Marcus Carter, Managing Director of Carter Food House.  Marcus saw the commercial viability of bringing the Farmers market experience direct to peoples homes, allowing consumers to purchase Farmers market quality food & drink online, all from one website.  The VFM offers convenience to people that dont always have time, or are not able, to visit a real life Farmers market.

Marcus took his idea to Roger Saunt, Managing Director of Digital Presence Solutions Ltd, a UK display technology firm. Digital Presence Solutions Ltd, based at Coventry University Technology Park, teamed up with two other SMEs and Coventry Universitys Serious Games Institute (SGI) to create the VFM, originally hosted in the biggest global virtual environment, Second Life.  Digital Presence upgraded the programme to give it its own 3D platform, a move that will, from January 2010, allow users of new technology such as iPhones and other mobile devices to access the site.

Roger Saunt, Managing Director of Digital Presence, said: The DP team has created an authentic Farmers market experience. We have created a concept market with around 45 stalls in a market place environment.

The initial response to the VFM project has been encouraging and its commercial viability appears strong. It is inevitable that all e-commerce will drift in this direction as broadband becomes the standard in most homes, but we are the first to develop the means for local producers to sell their products to customers worldwide in a realistic 3D space.

Marcus Carter comments, The VFM gives consumers the opportunity to buy direct from the producer. Seeing the face behind the food is more important today than it has ever been. To be able to connect remotely by using the internet, with the people who make what we eat, enables consumers to get a sense of trust before buying.

The VFM opens up the world of specialist food & drink shopping to those who otherwise cannot attend Farmers markets, such as shift-workers and those with other commitments that clash with the timings of their local Farmers market.


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*Mintel Research.  Report: Online Grocery Retailing, September 2009

Key messages:

  • The online grocery market is seeing rapid growth: in 2014 its expected to be worth 6.9bn, a growth of 57% from 2009
  • Bringing the Farmers market experience into peoples homes using the latest 3D technology
  • Revolutionising the way we shop for food & drink online
  • Designed to be used as a top-up for your larder with specialist food & drink that cannot be found in any supermarket
  • Giving smaller artisan producers the opportunity to expand into new markets without the need to go through the multiples
  • Allowing the consumer to virtually meet the people that produce their food & drink
  • Putting the emotion into shopping online
  • Opening up the world of specialist food & drink shopping to those who otherwise cannot attend Farmers markets

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