One New Zealand town has opened a virtual mall featuring local and regional businesses to allow people to shop while maintaining social distancing
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Spotted: In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the town of Whakatāne, on New Zealand’s North Island, has developed a way to help boost business and maintain social distancing. The town has created a virtual mall featuring local and regional businesses.
The mall is the brainchild of the Whakatāne Events Promotions Initiative Community (EPIC). It was designed to help local businesses grow their online profiles in order to help the business through the coronavirus lockdowns. More than that, it is New Zealand’s first virtual mall. Customers can choose to shop online by store or product type, and can purchase from several retailers using only one shopping cart.
The virtual mall not only gives people the opportunity to shop safely, but it also allows retailers and service providers without an online shopping option to develop one. The platform also links shops that already have e-commerce websites to the virtual mall, while retaining a unique domain name and feel. Businesses register on the virtual mall for a one-time fee and all payments go directly to the store owners, who manage the fulfilment process themselves.
According to EPIC board chairman Warren Short, within an hour of its launch, the site recorded more than 300 visits and the first sale was completed within two hours.
In the post-coronavirus world, businesses are working on new ways of reaching people and developing new platforms for shopping. Springwise has already seen innovations such as a debit card that allows other people to safely shop for the cardholder, and live-streamed jewellery stores.