What the Metaverse Means for Retail

Just as smartphones and social media had their skeptics in the beginning, so does the metaverse. The difference is that the metaverse is not a single innovation but rather a culmination of many that are driving it forward. AR, VR, blockchain, 5G, 3D, cryptocurrency, cloud computing, and social commerce are slowly creating a network of 3D virtual worlds.

Despite all the huge investments by every big tech company from Amazon to Microsoft, what does it all mean for retailers and eCommerce players today? Some companies like Nike, Samsung, and Balenciaga are diving straight in and earning customer loyalty and reaching lucrative new markets.

The idea of being virtually connected

Whether we realize it or not, virtual connectivity in eCommerce is already well established across consumer shopping habits. The metaverse is simply the next step. Adoption of virtual reality devices is increasing significantly and by 2025, nearly 75% of the global population who use social apps will be frequent augmented reality users (Snap and Deloitte)

For products that are traditionally riskier to buy online, like furniture, AR and VR are essential tools for being able to visualize before buying. This is a game-changer for many eCommerce shops, especially during the global health pandemic where shoppers were forced online.

The application of AR/VR technology in other sectors is now picking up after experiencing the benefits and ease of use. In fact, according to a recent study, 71% of shoppers said that using AR would make them shop more often while 40% would consider paying more for the feature. Of course, to fully immerse in the metaverse, a wider embrace of VR is required but this is seen as a natural path forward.

The metaverse defined

Perhaps the best way to think about the metaverse is “the internet brought to life, or at least rendered in 3D”. The metaverse is a parallel virtual reality where people will be able to do all the things they currently do online – play, work, shop and socialize – but in 3D.

Currently, there are a few separate metaverses owned by companies like Tokens.com, Epic Games, and Roblox. The prevailing thought is that eventually, these will all become interconnected and fully immersive within the next decade. However, eCommerce companies shouldn’t wait for this to happen. Daily, millions of people are already logging into these existing metaverses. This opens whole new markets and revenue streams for companies looking to target these demographics. The next generation of eCommerce is already emerging as customers are increasingly using mixed reality experiences.

Which metaverse to choose?

Just like choosing a marketing channel or retail outlet, different metaverse platforms cater to different audiences. Gaming platforms are a good choice for gamification of a brand and buying and selling virtual goods.

For example, NIKE chose to premier NIKELAND on gaming platform Roblox reaching 47.3 million daily active users worldwide. Here, visitors can play games and dress up their avatars for free, eventually being able to purchase digital goods as well.

Samsung launched its own metaverse destination on the Ethereum block-chain powered Decentraland. This platform is mostly used to create and monetize content. Several of Samsung’s smart TVs now come with an NFT (Non-Fungible Token) Platform app for purchasing, discovering, and trading digital art.

Fortnite by Epic Games is focused on music concerts, monetizing virtual goods from tours and brand advertisements. Last year Ariana Grande performed her Rift tour online for millions of Fortnite players while brands like Nike, the NFL and John Wick could advertise directly to users in the game.

These are just some of the ways brands are using the metaverse right now. Although still in its infancy, the metaverse provides a huge opportunity for retailers to promote or sell physical or virtual goods to millions of active users. Those first to adopt VR stores and products now will find it easier to build authority in the metaverse later.


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