Melbourne-based 3D graphics company KUSP is aiming to bridge the great divide between online and real world retailing - the customer's ability to touch and feel the product - with its commercial version of its KUSPware 3D.
The online shopping solutions provider is targeting medium-to-large retailers who are already on the Internet, or planning to launch an online presence. KUSPware 3D provides customers with a 3-dimensional product view, which they can then manipulate to get a closer look, much like in a bricks-and-mortar store.
"We make comparisons with the physical world of retailing because there is a direct analogy," said director and CEO Blair Healy. "We are the demographer, the architects and builders of their virtual store, except we do it in software."
The publicly listed company raised around $10 million in May and has partnered with the CSIRO's mathematical sciences group to develop compression technology, recently selling its solution to retailer Spotlight for its online operations. Blair said he sees Internet retailing as another market medium that will grow rapidly as the buying power switches to a generation of Internet-savvy users.
"The biggest users of the Internet are aged between 15 and 30, but the people who buy online are aged between 35 and 50. That is a big disconnect because the younger users don't have disposable income. But when that large bell curve of users get older, there is a lot of potential business. The computer has a different interactive credibility to them. We should be relatively optimistic about online shopping," Healy added.
Where many e-tailers fall behind, according to Blair, is in confusing online retailing as a different sales model.
"The market is moving from the point of curiousity to serious business. The Internet will be another market medium in my opinion.
"Amazon.com is a bit of an enigma - it came along at the right time. But I think companies like dstore will find it much more difficult. They seem to have missed the boat in understanding that the market is about retail and not technology. The key element is products associated with brand awareness."
The company is working to develop new technologies to overcome the hurdles of bandwidth and cost.
"It is a relatively cheap interface because we are looking for a volume market. The product licence is based on the retailer's performance - a pay as you go model - or larger retailers may want to pay up front."
Each item takes around 2-3 seconds to download on a 28.8Kbps modem.
KUSP is also developing a number of different display systems, including "conveyer belt" graphics, whereby a selection is made from objects moving towards the customer.
"It sounds trivial at first but it is an effective way to quickly get to objects online, particularly compared to search-based shopping - most shopping isn't like that," Healy said.