Virgin Entertainment Group Selects Web-Enabled IBM NetVista Kiosk for Unique Digital Preview System

New Online, In-Store System Allows Virgin Megastore Customers to Preview Hundreds of Thousands of CDs, DVDs and Console Games

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LOS ANGELES & RALEIGH, N.C. - 22 Oct 2001: Virgin Entertainment Group and IBM today announced that Virgin has selected the new IBM NetVista Kiosk for a unique, in-store digital preview system.

The new online system allows Virgin Megastore customers -- simply by scanning a product's bar code at the Web-enabled kiosk - to preview more than 250,000 CDs, 11,000 DVDs and 7,000 console games before deciding what to buy.

The traditional "listening post," pioneered by Virgin in the 1990s and now familiar to music shoppers, allows customers to listen to tracks from a relative handful of featured CDs. However, Virgin customers now will be able to simply scan the bar code from any one of hundreds of thousands of CDs, DVDs or games into the IBM kiosk in order to download samples from the Web to preview in the store.

Virgin developed the new system in house with touch screen kiosk technology from IBM, server and client software technology from Microsoft and entertainment data from Muze and Video Pipeline. With a larger and more accurate database than any similar system, the new system also provides Virgin recommended titles, and soon will offer search, remote ordering and access to exclusive Virgin content and products. Customers will be able to search by criteria including artist name, album title, movie name, actor, producer, writer or director.

Virgin is putting 20 of the new kiosks developed by the Virgin team in its Times Square Megastore in New York City, as well as 15 in its Boston Newbury store. The new MegaPlay system was piloted in Dallas and Los Angeles, over the summer with astounding success.

"Our Digital Preview System will set new standards in entertainment retailing by allowing consumers access to web-enabled, enterprise technologies, giving customers what they want, whenever and wherever they want it," said Glen Ward, CEO, Virgin Entertainment Group, North America. "We have always believed that Virgin is the consumers' champion, and by continuing to give our shoppers access to the widest selection of music and entertainment product available, we prove it."

"The system is the first stage in an ongoing initiative to integrate Virgin Entertainment Group's "Click and Bricks" operations," said Jan De Jong, vice president of Information Technology, Virgin Entertainment Group, North America, who refers to Virgin's technology-based e-infrastructure as its "digital nervous system." "Combining all of the comprehensive entertainment data with Virgin Megastore's inventory data allows us to provide our customers with the richest product information possible, so everything consumers want to know about our products is right at their fingertips."

"Virgin Megastores are leading a trend among retailers who are looking for new ways to link powerful e-business technologies and leverage them in ways that allow them to provide more content, choice and convenience for customers," said Tom Peterson, general manager, IBM Retail Store Solutions. "Retailers are beginning to use technology to integrate multiple channels, thus bringing the convenience and choice of the Internet into the store and giving consumers the best of both. In addition, by linking these kiosk-based systems to point of sale and other systems, Virgin also has a powerful new business tool to analyze and improve its business and inventory operations."

Working with IBM Business Partner, Retail Store Systems, Virgin ran a pilot program of the system at its new Virgin Megastore store in Dallas and at its Los Angeles Sunset Virgin Megastore. Reporting revealed that the kiosks developed in-house were occupied almost two-thirds of the time and were getting 32,000 page views a week.

Virgin chose IBM because of IBM's comprehensive products, support, service and many years of retail experience in linking to a retailer's technology systems, in addition to the resources and experience of its Business Partner, RSS. Virgin also cited the appearance, flexibility, reliability and durability of the new IBM kiosk. "The success of the Dallas pilot project owes a lot to the fact that the IBM NetVista Kiosk hardware is robust enough to be up and running virtually all of the time. For example, we had a 99.98% run time in Dallas," said De Jong.