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JC Penney Offers Shoppers VR Santa's Workshop

Tim Maytom

jc penney iphone appUS department store JC Penney has gone into virtual reality for its latest holiday marketing push, offering shoppers at four different branches the opportunity to take part in an Oculus Rift-powered trip to Santa's Workshop.

Dubbed "Twas the Flight Before Christmas", the initiative lets customers interact with reindeer, elves and snowmen in a virtual environment as part of an effort to drive more shoppers into bricks-and-mortar stores. The virtual reality experience is available at branches in New York, Ohio, Arizona and Virginia, and will run until Christmas Eve.

According to Ad Age, the VR experience aims to change public perception of the JC Penney brand, and is also being used to highlight several products from popular consumer brands, such as Nike and Kitchenaid, that are available in stores. The company has also used geo-targeted Facebook advertising to promote the experiences.

The VR experience is just one part of a concerted effort by JC Penney to bring its brand up-to-date and appeal to a new generation of shoppers. The company's app for both iOS and Android recently added a 'Snap 2 Shop' functionality, which uses image recognition technology to enable users to snap a photo of an object and find a similar item for sale on the company's website.

The app also enables users to browse in-store promotions, access digital coupons and scan barcodes in-store for additional product information and details on availability in different sizes or colours, where appropriate.

"The majority of shoppers will begin their research online before going into a store," said Michael Amend, executive vice president of omnichannel for JC Penney. "With an increasing number of customers using their mobile phones to influence where they shop and how they buy, it is important to have an app that offers the tools and services she's seeking to make her shopping quick and seamless."