How is the metaverse transforming retail?
Virtual retail is accelerating
Every other Wednesday, h/commerce provides in-depth analysis of the most impactful trends reshaping retail.
Even if we hear a lot about metaverse lately, the metaverse concept can sometimes be a little unclear. The ‘Metaverse’ term was first coined in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash. More specifically, the metaverse is blurring the boundaries between the physical and digital worlds.
According to Google Analytics, the number of searches has peaked from 2020 to 2021.
This sudden interest in the metaverse can be explained by the surge of digital use and tech development due to the global pandemic. A striking event for metaverse was in April 2020 when Travis Scott and Marshmello performed in the video game Fortnite. It was the 1st concert that took place in a metaverse. Then video games like Roblox, Fortnite, and Animal Crossing: New Horizons, became increasingly similar to the metaverse. It is becoming harder and harder to differentiate between both worlds. People are purchasing virtual clothes or cars for their avatars, they virtually go to shopping centers and stores, and they are even replicating social relationships online.
This acceleration is also linked with the intensified development of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies.
Indeed, today, virtual third spaces in the digital world are becoming very interesting playgrounds for brands.
According to Mr. Zuckerberg (Retail Wire): “The defining quality of the metaverse is presence, which is this feeling that you’re really there with another person or in another place […] Creation, avatars, and digital objects are going to be central to how we express ourselves, and this is going to lead to entirely new experiences and economic opportunities.”
Brands & Metaverse: Some inspiring cases of brands entering the metaverse world
Giants are joining the metaverse race
Giants including Tmall, Taobao, JD.com and WeChat have established metaverse precursors in the form of interactive digital malls.
Tencent, WeChat owner, already applied for trademarks: « QQ Metaverse », « QQ Music Metaverse » and « Kings Metaverse ».
Alibaba has also recently applied for several trademarks in China related to the metaverse: « Ali Metaverse », « Taobao Metaverse » and « DingDing Metaverse ». In China, the metaverse is indeed a prominent topic.
For its part, Facebook is currently investing 50 million dollars in developing a metaverse.
Balenciaga & Fortnite
In September 2021, Fortnite players were able to shop virtual clothes in a virtual Balenciaga store directly inside the game. At the same time, real versions of the outfits were available in physical stores of the brand. The luxury brand designed 4 different outfits for the game along with accessories and even weapons. Outfits are available for 8 dollars. More and more luxury brands are partnering with virtual platforms and indeed, creating virtual outfits. It enables brands to stay connected with their customers on digital platforms as they are spending more and more time online.
Ralph Lauren & Zepeto
Ralph Lauren partnered with Zepeto, a social networking and avatar simulation app, to enable customers to purchase virtual clothes for their avatars inside a platform. This new addition to Ralph Lauren ecosystem allows users to immerse themselves in a virtual world and to connect with other users. Ralph Lauren pieces of clothing have been reinvented for the digital world and users have the possibility to get their own avatar.
The virtual collection includes 12 looks and 50 items. Each piece within Zepeto costs from 14 to 40 ZEMs (Zepeto digital currency) or from $0.57 to $2.86 once converted.
Some virtual versions of famous locations like Central Park have also been created to fully immerse users on the platform.
On that platform users were able to assist to a virtual concert in September and to go to the Ralph Coffees’ virtual coffee shop as well.
Zepeto is the latest metaverse in Asia Pacific and increasingly popular with younger generations in South Korea. It was a great occasion to get closer to this market, very essential for the brand.
One month ago, BMW unveiled a new virtual world, Joytopia. This fully digital world is narrated by the Academy Award-winning actor Christoph Waltz. The brand’s objective is to let consumers explore the virtual world during the 2021 IAA Mobility.
To celebrate the launch, the British band Coldplay hosted a virtual concert on the platform. The audience was invited to get involved during the event thanks to avatars. Through their avatars, guests were able to dance, get closer to the stage, and of course, get to see the performance on the virtual stage.
Consumers who couldn’t attend the IAA motor show in Munich and couldn’t visit the BMW Hubs at Max-Joseph-Platz, were provided with a vehicle vision highlights via JOYTOPIA platform.
According to Stefan Ponikva, Vice President of Brand Communication and Brand Experience, creating Joytopia was a powerful mean to get closer to consumers’ needs even in the digital space: “With JOYTOPIA we have created our own metaverse. This sees us responding to the demand from our customers for individualised experiences in the digital space”.
Why should brands pay attention to the metaverse?
According to Daniel Miller, professor of anthropology at University College London: “The smartphone is no longer just a device that we use […] It’s become the place where we live.”
Nowadays, it is more and more difficult to dissociate virtual life from real life, as everything is digitally replicable.
Consumers’ lives are nearly relying upon technology. According to a recent Wunderman and Thompson study on metaverse: “64% of global consumers say their social life depends on technology, 61% say their livelihood depends on technology, 56% say their creativity depends on technology, 52% say their happiness depends on technology, and 50% say their wellbeing depends on technology”.
Retail brands should take a closer look to the expanding virtual consumption. As ecommerce sales are continuously increasing, consumers are waiting for an online shopping experience as beneficial and interactive as the in-store shopping experience.
Entering the metaverse world is a way for brands to remain connected to their audience, even online.
Luxury brands see in metaverse a great opportunity to make their products accessible to the many, and especially to a younger generation. However, it will also be a good opportunity for other retailers to provide a more personalized brand experience to their customers, by analyzing their behaviors and interests on the metaverse. Metaverse is gathering contents, services and products under the same roof, so it became a requirement for retailers to expand and invest in their digital ecosystem.
According to a recent Bloomberg Intelligence report, the metaverse market should represent 800 billion dollars in 2024. Indeed, the metaverse race is far from the end!
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Wunderman Thompson Intelligence. New trend report: Into the Metaverse. Sep 14, 2021