While commercial applications are still in their early stages, the metaverse is set to transform how retailers and brands interact with consumers. The question is not whether they will participate -- it’s how they will use these new digital spaces to reimagine their businesses.
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, in one study, almost three quarters (72%) of global retail executives say that the metaverse will have a positive impact on their organizations, with 45% believing it will be breakthrough or transformational.
If all this sounds more science fiction than reality, think again.
More than 50% of consumers anticipate spending more time in digital spaces. That will give retailers and brands the opportunity to experiment building deeper relationships with their consumer base. For instance, offering the help of brand ambassadors to consult with shoppers as they view and virtually try on outfits can entice them to visit a physical store or engage with the brand in another way.
Just look at how Benetton created an online store in the metaverse and even transformed its physical store in Milan to match the virtual store by turning it completely pink. While visitors can’t actually buy any clothes in the metaverse, there will be various gaming experiences that will allow them to collect QR codes. These QR codes can then be used when making purchases in Benetton’s physical stores.
And consider how Chipotle became the first restaurant brand to experiment with a virtual location in October 2021. Fans could experience the traditional Boorito Halloween event in the metaverse, allowing them to dress up in costume and navigate the Chipotle Boorito Maze to unlock exclusive virtual items -- some free, some purchased with Robux (in-game currency). The first 30,000 Roblox users to visit the virtual Chipotle restaurant in costume each day of the event received a code for a free burrito, while other visitors received codes for discounted entrees to use on Halloween.
In many ways, the metaverse may resemble the early days of online or mobile commerce. Selling over the internet can be enhanced with a new immersive and consultative experience, while benefiting from the payment and order processes that exist today. In addition to this immersive ecommerce, there are other ways to build consumer loyalty through experiences that go way beyond just buying a product. Customers might attend a demo or special event in the metaverse.
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.