There is a lot of excitement about the metaverse these days. And for good reason. By allowing consumers to seamlessly move between two different realities, the metaverse is already creating countless new opportunities for retailers and consumer brands.
While commercial applications are still in their infancy, the metaverse is set to transform how retailers and brands interact with consumers. Some of the world’s most sophisticated brands have realized that their customers are already spending time in virtual spaces, and they are looking for ways to reimagine their businesses with this new technology. In fact, almost three quarters (72%) of global retail executives state that the metaverse will have a positive impact on their organizations, with 45% believing it will be breakthrough or transformational.
For instance, the Gap GPS +1.3% recently launched its first collection of non-fungible token, or NFT, Selfridges and Charli Cohne clothing brand celebrated the 25th anniversary of Pokémon by opening a virtual city where shoppers can browse for exclusive digital and physical products. And last month more than 50 influential brands like Tommy Hilfiger, DKNY and Dolce & Gabbana appeared at the First Metaverse Fashion Week, a glitzy fashion show that took place entirely in the metaverse.
If all this sounds a bit farfetched, or more science fiction than reality, think again. To take advantage of this emerging marketplace, you’ll need to get past the following myths.
Myth 1: The metaverse will arrive someday in the future.
The metaverse era has begun. Early versions are already emerging —everything from social gaming platforms to fully immersive virtual reality worlds on VR headsets to augmented-reality smartphone experiences. Eventually, experts expect the metaverse to develop into a series of shared virtual spaces that people can inhabit as easily as the real world.
Consumers are now eager to move beyond gaming. About 60% of Millennials want to buy real-life products in virtual worlds. Even among Baby Boomers, a third of consumers are interested in experiences like consulting with experts on topics such as health and DIY in a virtual or augmented reality setting.
For retailers and brands, the question is not whether they will participate — it’s how they will use these new digital spaces to reimagine their businesses.
Myth 2: Most consumers have no interest in paying for products that exist only in the metaverse.
More than half of consumers say they have bought or are interested in “virtual fashion”—clothes or accessories for an avatar. Other consumers want to gussy up their virtual “looks” with make-up or hairstyling applied to their avatar or online image using a digital filter.
Myth 3: Virtual and augmented reality is only relevant for beauty, fashion, and luxury brands.
While avatars in an online platform may be decked out in branded sneakers, apparel and beauty companies are not the only ones venturing into the metaverse. McDonalds has filed a trademark for a virtual restaurant in the metaverse that will deliver real burgers & fries to your door. For Halloween last year, Chipotle became the first restaurant brand to open a virtual location on the Roblox platform — with early visitors dressed (virtually) in costume qualifying for a free burrito.
Myth 4: You need expensive VR headsets.
Some virtual applications require VR headsets for the full experience. But not all. That’s an important point, since headsets can present both physical and financial challenges for consumers. Retailers should be thinking about the metaverse as a continuum of immersive experiences and experimenting across the board with live-stream shopping events, virtual digital stores and other experiences that can be accessed from a smartphone, a tablet or, for those who choose, a VR headset. In other words, this could be an extension of ecommerce – allowing a more immersive way to shop.
Myth 5: The metaverse will replace physical stores.
The metaverse is not a replacement for physical stores—it’s an extension.
Over 50% of consumers anticipate spending more time in digital spaces. That will give retailers the opportunity to experiment building deeper relationships with their consumer base. For instance, offering a VIP experience for your top customers by connecting them ‘live’ with an expert/brand ambassador who can provide consultation as they meet-up in a virtual store or showroom. Consider what this would do for your employee value proposition; allowing them to work from anywhere.
In many ways, the metaverse may resemble the early days of online or mobile commerce. It’s clear that consumers will be shifting more of their work lives, leisure time and shopping excursions to immersive platforms, like the Gucci Garden on Roblox, where user can wander through virtual recreations of iconic Gucci campaigns from the past. And that means retailers will need to imagine ways to create memorable virtual experience for their consumers – not to mention their digital avatars.
Foto: Man hand hold smartphone virtual world icon. Communication and use of modern Internet technology … [+]GETTY