Considering how much the retail industry has transformed through the years, going in the metaverse merely looks like the next step in terms of innovation. Retailers have vested interest in paying attention to growing 3D virtual spaces as it is a gateway into having control of virtual interactions. In addition, as Gen Z people tend to be more at ease with the metaverse, brands from the retail industry can seize this opportunity to foster a stronger connection with their current and future users. This opportunity can be best utilised if brands are unafraid to create their own metaverse.
SEE ALSO : Decrypting the metaverse: Chapter VI – Everything you need to know about the Metaverse, NFTs and Virtual Idols in China
The growing interest of metaverse in Asia
The metaverse is steadily growing in popularity because of its focus on gaming experience. Even though this paradigm is about to mature, gaming in the metaverse will move from the mere playing experience to a platform bringing together several services. The value of gaming platforms comes particularly from its ability to take different forms and propose a multitude of experiences apart from playing.
Forerunner tech and gaming companies like Tencent have already been working and investing in metaverses such as ‘Mini World’. Another example of investment in the metaverse can be seen with the Chinese version of the Roblox metaverse which was introduced in 2021 and proposed experiences around contests, education, and usual activities. Furthermore, in 2018, NetEase launched its blockchain token the Fuxi Tongbao used in four NetEase online games.
According to a 2021 Newzoo study, Asian consumers are thrilled about the idea of metaverse. Many consumers are already in the gaming metaverse and plan to continue doing so. It is apparent that the metaverse is enjoyed more by younger consumers in China and the USA than in Europe. Importantly, if non-gamer consumers can interact with the metaverse, 3D virtual spaces will be able to expand their purpose beyond gaming platforms to incorporate real-life activities such as hanging out with friends.
As a result, brands won’t necessarily need to create gaming experience in the metaverse to attract their target audience as long as consumers believe that the brand’s virtual space is an attractive place for them to be.
What the retail industry can provide for their users in the metaverse
Just as NFTs and blockchain technology have changed the gaming industry, they will transform the retail industry. Most items in games belong to developers rather than individual players. NFTs have been a revolution in terms of digital content ownership because they allow players to own their in-game assets and even use those items outside of games. Retail is just one industry that could benefit from this change.
With NFTs and the metaverse, players are able to officially own and transfer their digital assets, which is crucial in an environment where cross-game value is essential.
Research from Newzoo firm shows users aged 14 to 50, are typically non-reluctant to using the metaverse. This demographic looks for specific features such as the ability to customise their virtual physical appearance through their avatar, or to buy real-life products while playing in their online game. Newzoo’s research also shows that the demographic preferred to see real-life activities in the metaverse, such as hosting or attending events (fashion show, parades, parties, concerts, etc). This data is incredibly relevant for a retail brand interested in the metaverse because it can act as another way for retailers to get the attention of their audience. The question of how to achieve this remains.
The Web3 is the next step
In the retail world, Web3 can be considered as a new level of growth in technologies and practices. It is characterized by the search for alternatives to the marketplaces that are currently influencing the web, as well as to traditional institutions such as banks, administrative services, etc. Web3 comes in opposition to organizations managed by central entities and governed by trusted intermediaries.
3D will be at the heart of Web3 as it will be focused on virtual environments, especially decentralised ones. The two most important pillars of Web3 are NFTs and metaverses. These two technologies will allow a lot of innovations, especially for brands that want to communicate with original and immersive contents.
An industry that was once ruled by centralised aggregators, large-scale distributors and middlemen is now being re-imagined from the ground up. The question is what does the future hold for retail in the metaverse?
MetaFashion is taking the retail industry to another level
MetaFashion is simply referring to the advent of the Fashion in the metaverse. It gives brands the opportunity to bring their consumers another way of enjoying their brand image or products, in a digital version. Furthermore, it sheds light on new virtual experiences.
Virtual fashion is becoming a real trend. It has already been adopted by many brands which have launched collections in the metaverse. If Gucci can be considered a pioneer in this field, brands such as Nike have also been developing quite frankly a digital-only collection. These brands are now able to bring the concept of fashion forward and make anyone feel like a model for their brand. However, other companies like Digital Native Brands such as Tribute take this idea even further by offering virtual fashion that does not require any real-world buy-in. Users send photos of themselves wearing their clothes, and shortly after are sent a photo of them in their new clothing style.
Which opportunities can brands grasp in virtual 3D spaces?
Bloomberg Intelligence estimated the market size of the metaverse which would be around USD 800 millions in 2024. This means there is a lot to come in this sector. One of the greatest benefits for brands in the metaverse will be that they can create experiences that feel real, not just games and activities. Brands will be able to offer consumers a chance to experience their store in an entirely different way. Consumers can physically shop inside these virtual-reality stores, but also interact with their products in new ways, ranging from designing their own clothes for digital avatars to collaborating with shoppers on new designs. The metaverse also presents an opportunity for brands to create a niche for themselves by catering to specific audiences who may not want big, sterile retail spaces but instead want spaces designed specifically for them.
Exploring another type of audience
The metaverse will be an open system of connected environments, so for brands it could be a good opportunity to establish themselves as key players in this new medium. By developing branded environments, one can increase engagement with shoppers across multiple touch points and better connect with their brand.
A considerable advantage comes with the absence of geographical limits this platform offers. This is unlike a physical store which can only sell products within the area of its location. In addition, there are built-in audiences they can tap into such as the audience for video games. Selling virtual products such as skins and other in-game goods is a great way to reach a younger audience which will be some of the biggest players in the metaverse.
Developing a strong virtual brand image
By creating unique virtual experiences: Apart from virtual shops or parades, digital assets are used to prove ownership of anything from real estate to digital art in the VR/AR retail world. Consumers can use digital assets to attend events where they can provide input on new product designs; VIP access is sold to help boost business.
Customisation: Customers will be able to explore products in a way that makes a lasting impression. Whether they are looking at vehicles or sunglasses, they will have the ability to customise them down to the smallest detail, allowing them to make sure their ideal product matches what they are looking for. Not only does it make their buying experience more fun and engaging, the customisation process also provides the brand with additional analytics about how people are interacting with their product.
Building a new source of revenue
Virtual goods: virtual goods are just as ubiquitous as they are lucrative. Some of the most powerful brands in the world have built their empires by selling virtual products, both in games and other virtual platforms (in the case of Gucci). With a Metaverse brand storefront, a brand will be able to reach an audience which is hungry for goods helping them express themselves and represent their identity in a unique way.
Growing their own type of metaverse
A miniverse stands as a gradual path to metaverse experiences. The metaverse is the next evolutionary stage of the internet. Brands have every interest in trying the adventure, or at least getting a head start. However, each brand needs support to build and progress in the right direction in this new technological era that is taking shape. And to do so, what better way than to gain experience in one’s own virtual universe?
Virtual showrooms dramatically reduce the gap between online and in-person shopping. Instead of buying something sight unseen, consumers can interact with the product in a virtual setting to see whether they like the look and feel of it. From fashion to furniture, these virtual showrooms reduce the number of product returns, making them major assets for brands and customers alike.
When people interact with a brand in a metaverse environment, they are willing to share more about themselves than they would in a traditional online shopping experience. There’s an opportunity for brands to encourage their customers to create content that relates directly to them and their products via virtual rewards — something that’s currently being done quite successfully on platforms like YouTube.
(Source : METAV.RS – Web3 Solutions for NFT commerce and Metaverse experience)