THIS IS HOW RETAILERS SHOULD PREPARE TO WIN THE METAVERSE
The metaverse is hard to define and trickier to capture. But metaverse retail could be the next big thing if retailers use it right. This article explores the what’s, the why’s and the how’s of the metaverse and why it’s a must for retailers who want to excel in digital commerce and deliver excellent customer services.
25% of us will spend at least one hour a day using the metaverse in 2026, Gartner predicts. At the same time, 59% of US shoppers wish that retailers would make it easier to shop beyond the tried-and-tested combination of physical stores and websites. Taken together, these two facts leave no doubt that the metaverse’s potential and opportunities are vast.
Let’s dive in and discover why and how the metaverse will benefit retailers and their customers.
YOU’LL LEARN ABOUT
WHO CARES ABOUT THE METAVERSE?
The metaverse has existed for years in the shape of artificial intelligence (AI) and Virtual Reality (VR). So, what then, is all the hype about?
After the Facebo… Meta rebranding and their massive investment in the metaverse, new and exciting possibilities are arising for branding, marketing and gaming, as well as working experiences, events and sales. But here’s a disclaimer. There’s not just one metaverse experience and it isn’t owned by any one person – not even Meta (Facebook). It’s meant to be a universe with different worlds created by brands, vendoes and social networks – with one of the key players being Meta.
So, what’s the main reason retailers should take note? The enticing prospect of getting a new, trusted sales channel with a built-in audience.
TIME TO DEFINE:
WHAT IS THE METAVERSE, REALLY?
The metaverse is everything digital fused with the physical world – and vice versa. At least if you understand the physical world as you AND your phone, computer and XR glasses. Because in the metaverse, non-physical products are just as valuable as the physical products we know.
Confused? Hang in there – we’ll explain it in more detail. But first, let’s take a look at how Forbes understands the metaverse:
The metaverse, in its pure form, alludes to a mix of virtual and augmented worlds, assets, and experiences tied to physical activities, efficiencies, and value creation.
The metaverse provides the infrastructure for retailers to create engaging platforms that will form a single, multifunctional environment that can handle every action and activity performed throughout their customers’ day. How? Through extensive gaming, AR and VR experiences.
Still not entirely sure what the metaverse is, or why and how to use it? Let’s bring in some real-life cases of retailers excelling in creating memorable metaverse experiences.
THREE AREAS WHERE THE
METAVERSE BENEFITS RETAILERS
1. Branding and marketing
2. Gaming with integrated shopping experiences
3. Commercialising virtual items and belongings
1. BRANDING AND MARKETING
The metaverse is hyper-relevant for retailers who want to excel in next-level digital marketing and branding – exactly where their customers want to see it. Every new implementation and use case should start with a customer need. And 59% of US shoppers want to shop in other channels than physical stores and webshops. They want to shop directly from social media like WhatsApp, Instagram – and soon the metaverse.
With the metaverse, Mark Zuckerberg wants to create the next social network. On the most basic level, the metaverse will allow retailers to buy ads, run campaigns, re-target prospects and do all the other marketing tactics you’re used to orchestrating on social media. So far, so simple, so standard.
But the metaverse will also provide fresh new ways to create extraordinary customer experiences: by entwining the virtual and physical worlds. Here are some retailers who did just that.
MOBILE COMMERCE AND AR:
BRING VIRTUAL OBJECTS INTO THE PHYSICAL WORLD
Have you ever tried to buy a sofa in-store? You’re in the IKEA furniture department, head spinning from the endless sea of colours, sizes, shapes and materials while trying to choose the perfect sofa; all while a couple of children are bouncing on the piece you’re trying to measure. But does it really match your walls? You forgot to snap a picture before you left. Cue: giving up and heading to the canteen for meatballs instead. At least you bought some candles, right?
Instead: imagine this.
Let’s jump back in time, to when you were sitting on your loved-less-by-the-day sofa and feeling the urge to replace it with something a bit more special. But this time, you’re doing things differently. Why travel all the way to the physical IKEA store and risk buying the wrong sofa when AR-and Lidar technology now make it possible to bring the sofa to you; no lines, no distractions – and all from the comfort of your own home? You pick up your phone, open the app and quickly scan your living room. A virtual replica of your desired sofa instantly appears in your living room on your screen, making it possible to try before you buy.
It’s clear that this technology revolutionises the shopping and branding industry.
In a shopping context, the customer can bring whatever item or product interests them into their home – or anywhere else their mobile device takes them. If they’re convinced the item they like already fits their needs, it could increase their confidence in hitting the ‘buy’ button.
In a branding context, your products become accessible at any time and any place; public or private. That’s +1 for customer service.
ONLINE EQUALS BETTER ACCESSIBILITY
Accessibility doesn’t end with AR experiences when buying sofas. The metaverse has also transformed virtual events – a concept that seemed like a forced necessity during Covid-19 – into a unique brand experience. The formula is simple: the more impressions, the more hype and the more sales.
Let’s expand on that thought. Imagine a fashion show or a retailer’s release party. You’re most likely to have a huge showroom with a stage and VIPs in your mind. It oozes exclusivity, which means many prospective customers and loyal brand ambassadors will never be invited. But with the metaverse, this scenario is altered. The showroom and the stage are the same, but the attendees are no longer limited by numbers or social status.
The metaverse allows brands to host parties, fashion shows and release events in a virtual setting. And not just in the tried-and-tested webinar or live streaming setting. No, here, the metaverse genuinely offers a hot new take. Utilising the metaverse, you can build a virtual universe that matches the physical in a way that’s previously been impossible. Guests attend in the shape of an avatar, virtually walk around to listen to different keynotes, buy exclusive products – both virtual and real – and interact with the other attendees – just like in real life.
The more people you’re able to invite, the more impressions and brand ambassadors you’ll get. The outcome is that the cost-per-impression is lowered, and more people have felt the exclusivity of your brand.
In addition, virtual events mean both less travelling time for your guests and less CO2 emissions. And the best thing – and perhaps the most surreal – is that the metaverse allows you to alter the products you showcase in real-time on virtual models. This means you don’t need to have produced any product before a launch event. You just wait and see what sells and start producing items post-event.
2. GAMING WITH INTEGRATED SHOPPING EXPERIENCES
This is where metaverse retail gets really next level. Here’s how gaming and shopping become one. This part requires a little imagination, but stick with us.
Pretend that you’ve been beamed into a virtual 3D world and transformed into an avatar resembling you. You’ve just entered this world, e.g., Decentraland and it looks just like the physical world. Populated with bars, sports arenas, billboards with ads and (most crucially to retailers) brand flagship stores. What you do now is explore. You have the opportunity to jump from one brand world to another in a split second. Playing basketball at Nike’s universe one moment and browsing rails of Ganni designs the next.
The 3D avatar-brand world is interesting to both customers and brands because it allows shoppers to be a part of a brand’s universe, strengthen their brand loyalty and exclusivity and in the longer term, to purchase items directly inside it, like online games.
Here’s what that looks like in practise. Balenciaga and online game company Fortnite have started a collaboration making it possible to dress your Fortnite characters in Balenciaga skins. As it is, right now, you can purchase them within the game, making you the proud owner of exclusive Balenciaga skins – but only virtually. If you want to buy the physical line, you’ll get redirected to the Balenciaga e-commerce site. In other words: You’re forced to leave the game to purchase elsewhere, which might result in you not getting back.
Now, imagine that it’s possible to shop the look of your character within the game without going to a different channel for purchase. Everything you need is all in one place. That’s undoubtedly excellent customer service.
3. COMMERCIALISING VIRTUAL ITEMS AND BELONGINGS
Let’s not leave the thought of purchasing products solely within the avatar world. It’s no fresh news that retail customers can buy products in a virtual and physical setting. But what if we told you that AR, avatars and virtual settings now make it possible for brands to create highly exclusive lines of products? Let’s expand on this idea by looking at the soon-to-be-released game, Ember Sword.
Ember Sword revolves around buying land, creating stores and selling goods – just like the physical world. But it’s not all pretend. In Ember Sword, you commercialise your virtual land to earn real-life money. And it’s just as popular as buying real estate, expensive jewellery and exclusive shoe brands – in fact, they’ve already managed a turnover of 1.2 billion Danish KR. worth of land and have not even gone live yet.
But why is this interesting for retailers? For starters it creates yet another point of sale. Besides, you will, with an online avatar-universe, create a hybrid between an auction house, exclusive brand store and exchange forum. In other words: By commercialising their products and goods retailers can continuously earn money on everything from jewellery to art to rent.
METAVERSE HERE, THERE AND EVERYWHERE:
BRANDING STUNT OR REALITY?
The metaverse covers a wide field of technologies and possibilities. It’s a new social network that connects our physical and virtual worlds – whether you’re in a meeting, buying goods in games or watching 3D commercials. Some might say it is a branding stunt made to hype Zuckerberg’s new platform, Meta. But the fact is that metaverse experiences are not owned by Zuckerberg or anyone else. It unlocks huge possibilities for everyone and allows retailers to develop and provide extraordinary customer service for shoppers.
You’ve just read about the best practice when talking about the metaverse. And if you’re feeling more confused or sceptical than before this article – don’t panic. Hear out Anders instead:
As a medium-sized company, the metaverse might seem like an unrealistic scenario, but the fact is that all customers expect more customised and convenient shopping experiences than ever before. And the metaverse is the perfect channel to deliver on these needs.
The Metaverse and the opportunities connected are not fully developed and scoped yet. Right now, it’s big companies like NIKE, Samsung, Bestseller, Ganni and Gucci that excel in and develop metaverse experiences. Luckily, you don’t have to act like these big guns. Your most crucial job is to get your current tech-stack up to date and exploit your already implemented technology.
LIKED WHAT YOU READ?
This piece was a readable version of one of our most viewed webinars. Brought to you by Karoline Lotz and Anders Wedendahl, our in-house retail experience masterminds.
Watch the on-demand webinar, Preparing for The Metaverse to hear first-hand what the metaverse is and how to benefit from it.