Making it Work

Game on as Orb Media aims to combat scrolling fatigue with virtual shopping

The ecommerce start-up, which uses an immersive platform to keep customers engaged with retail sites for longer, is aiming to raise €1 million to grow its offering

Michael McCabe, Ciara Sheahan and Ian Walsh, from Orb Media: ‘If you think of the loyalty of gamers, they will go without food, they will go without sleep, they will miss out on social experiences to stay in their game.’ Picture: Fergal Phillips

Orb Media, an Irish ecommerce start-up which claims to be able to change how online retailers interact with their customers, is aiming to raise up to €1 million as part of an 18-month plan to scale up its operations.

The company, founded in 2017, has developed an immersive platform which uses subtle elements of gamification to keep would-be customers engaged with a website for longer, and in turn improve an online retailer’s sales.

Orb has backing from Enterprise Ireland and has worked with brands including Burberry, Jameson and Vogue over the last two years. It claims to represent the “next generation of ecommerce”, incorporating 360 and virtual reality in its software offering.

With its Burberry project, Orb Media developed a 360-degree virtual simulation of the inside of a store. Customers could explore the shop via the screen, and click on the products they were interested in to find out more. Rather than just a picture of an item of clothing, they were then presented with a fully immersive experience encompassing elements of video and audio.

It’s a far more engaging affair than what is currently available on many retail websites and Ciara Sheahan, Orb Media’s founder, is convinced that her product is the future of sales.

“Seven out of ten consumers drop off from scrolling through products or would-be purchases,” Sheahan said. “It’s called scrolling fatigue. Websites haven’t changed in the last ten years, in that they have the same interface with the same checkout. Basically what we see on our screens is two-dimensional.”

Orb Media wants to take those websites and make them immersive, bringing a customer into the store virtually. “We can keep consumers engaged for long periods of time with a wilful, proactive engagement,” Sheahan said.

Orb’s platform draws on the lesson well understood by all video game creators: that providing hits of dopamine as rewards for certain activities is a nailed-on way to keep players playing.

“If you think of the loyalty of gamers, they will go without food, they will go without sleep, they will miss out on social experiences to stay in their game,” Sheahan said.

“We take those discrete elements and we embed them, along with the assets of the retailer or the brand, into the experience. If we think of gamers, and the way they react to prompts in a game, it’s about embedding an element of that into the shopping experience.”

For many brands, keeping a browser on their website for four minutes counts as a serious result. But on the Burberry project, Orb Media kept users on the site for an average of 22 minutes, with some staying on for up to 47 minutes.

Despite operating in a crowded market, Orb Media has grown organically so far. But now the company is seeking investment to take its growth plan up a notch as market trends evolve.

“In five to seven years’ time, things are going to be totally metaverse-driven,” Sheahan said. “What’s coming is absolutely stunning, and we will be in that space when the market has evolved.”

This Making it Work article was produced in partnership with Enterprise Ireland