Charlotte Hornets Debuts NBA’s First-Ever Virtual Fan Store

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The Charlotte Hornets have opened the NBA’s first-ever Virtual Fan Shop, a digital store that fans can browse and shop virtually as though they were at the arena.

The Charlotte Hornets have opened the NBA’s first-ever Virtual Fan Shop, a digital store that fans can browse and shop virtually as though they were at the arena.

The virtual experience comes as the team is celebrating its 35th year and is inspired by the brick-and-mortar Hornets Fan Shop at Spectrum Center. 

“This gives us an opportunity to get beyond the fans that have the opportunity to come to our arena,” said Seth J. Bennett, chief marketing officer of the Charlotte Hornets. “Our fan shop is one of the highlights of the fan experience. So to be able to extend this to fans across the is truly remarkable.”

Fans can enter the virtual experience from a link and wander around the store with an avatar. The shop is merchandised as a physical store would be - mannequins with jerseys, T-shirts, hats and other collectibles, next to browsable racks. The store does not require an app download, consumers can enter the store via a link on their phone or laptop and wander around the shop from the browser. 

“It did not necessarily require a special piece of equipment or multiple steps of authentication,” said Bennett. “You can literally go in from your desktop or a web based site on your mobile device, or if you happen to have a VR headset, you can access it and enjoy an even more immersive opportunity that way.” 

Once the shopper is ready to make a purchase, they can click on an item and it will be added to a cart on the Fanatics ecommerce shop. Consumers can complete the checkout there, in the traditional online shopping manner.

The Hornets worked with AI tech firm MeetKai to build the virtual store. James Kaplan, Co-Founder and CEO of MeetKai, stressed that the design approach was to make the store as easy to use and accessible as possible. 

“It has to be low friction, because that's what people are used to,” he said. “If you go on Instagram, when you look at product ads in your feed, they're bringing you directly to the store. They don't bring you to an app and say download our app and then look at our product, because every time you tell someone to do something, you have a pretty high percentage of the time that they just say, ‘No, thank you,’ regardless of their interest.”

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