Dubai: With apparel portals crowding the digital marketplace, vendors are looking for a look or feel that could mark them out as special. Three-dimension (3D) could be the answer.

One such portal, Spirit of Arabia, has already embarked on that path. “A 3D display can draw in a visitor to the site in a more dynamic manner that one can never associate with two-dimension,” said Arshed Mohammad, founder. “What we found was that the additional dimension certainly helped capture the essence of our merchandise better.”

The portal only stocks its own brand, all of which are Arab-themed. While women’s apparel make up 80 per cent of transactions, Mohammad said the men’s inventory had its followers as well.

In many ways, Mohammad was pushed into seeking an online presence. A brick-and-mortar presence opened in late 2011 at a mall but was shuttered in March 2013 after the location did not get the required footfall. It was mid last year that the decision to revive the venture in a virtual format took shape.

Global names

“Having it in 3D was part of the initial plan and it did not increase the expenses substantially,” said Mohammad. “The technology is still new and there are some big global names — Wal-Mart and Tesco — who are showing interest in 3D.”

But isn’t most of this already available through “augmented reality”, at one time touted as a major leap in merchandising? “There are differences... with AR it is about having a real estate and superimposing info,” said Mohammad, who is now setting his line of vision on offering “avatars” (where site visitors can try out the clothes virtually) and “social shopping”, which allows more than one user to share the retail experience at the same time.

Anything’s possible with virtual.