The metaverse is a digital world where virtual experiences simulate real-world ones. Using avatars, consumers can interact in real-time with each other and the broader digital environment. Users live their virtual lives and engage in activities like shopping, working, playing, learning, attending events, or hanging out and chatting with each other.
In the metaverse, creators, brands, enterprises, and consumers produce, buy, and sell virtual real estate, art, and other assets.
The Key Characteristics of the Metaverse
There are several key characteristics of the metaverse. Many definitions of these features exist; here are the main ones:
- High interoperability
- Strong sense of presence
A host of companies, including Meta (formerly Facebook), Google, Nike, Adidas, Microsoft, and Walmart, are working on metaverse products. Many others are following their example and are diving into this immersive world, creating entertainment, social media, and gaming applications.
So how can the metaverse be used to develop one’s business? Here are several key trends to watch:
Direct-to-Avatar and Direct-to-Consumer
As demand for digital goods grows, designers and brands seek to invent new virtual surroundings, clothes, pieces of art, and accessories that are tailor-made for virtual shopping. Many brands are working on such digital experiences. Here are some examples:
was one of the first brands to launch a store in Decentraland, a virtual world platform. Since January, nearly 120,000 fans have visited its immersive virtual world modeled after its flagship store in New York City.
- Estée Lauder, a cosmetics company, partnered with Alex Box, a metaverse artist, to create an original NFT wearable inspired by the brand’s serum.
- Unilever’s oral care brand Closeup created an NFT marriage certificate that recognizes all couples in a relationship in the metaverse.
Digital Product Drop
Like in the real world, limited edition or newly launched products can drive hype among virtual shoppers. During a digital product drop, consumers get the chance to be the first to learn about or buy an exclusive digital or physical item. They also can interact with influencers, fellow fans, and brand representatives.
Digital product drops can also function as loyalty marketing programs. Clinique, a cosmetics and skincare company, held an NFT giveaway to members of its Smart Rewards loyalty program. L’Oreal recently released an NFT collection with works by digitally native female artists who were inspired by the brand’s recent lipstick collection.
Stores with Hybrid Experiences
Retailers have started to add gaming and other entertaining virtual content for consumers to see while they shop in the physical world. Such interactive digital experiences can create a new level of customer engagement and add excitement to shopping for both physical and digital products. Here are some recent examples:
- IKEA is using augmented reality (AR) to show how its storage solutions make decluttering fun. The Swedish retailer teamed with Snapchat to create an augmented reality “escape room.”
- With Amazon’s AR View tool, customers can decorate virtual homes in the metaverse. This allows them to try out designs virtually first before making a purchase. The company’s other metaverse feature, Amazon Showroom, has achieved a similar effect by letting shoppers preview furniture in a digital environment.
- Nike has created Nikeland, a virtual gaming arena inspired by the company’s headquarters in Beaverton. Nikeland includes a virtual world with mini games. In a digital showroom, users can dress up their avatars with Nike-branded apparel.
Developing Virtual Stores
Customers can order a product in the virtual world and receive it in the physical world, opening a new revenue stream for brands. These meta-stores can function as marketplaces where vendors list their products. Many companies in the food industry are already presenting such stores:
- McDonald’s filed several trademarks hinting at plans to sell virtual food and beverages in the digital space, including a virtual restaurant in the metaverse that will deliver real food.
- Domino’s opened a location in Decentraland. Pizza ordered in Decentraland can be delivered in the real world.
- Walmart has filed for trademarks for several products related to the metaverse. The trademarks range from a Walmart-specific cryptocurrency to tokenized product purchases and various AR/VR experiences like an online store, digital-physical training, and nutrition services for customers. In 2017, Walmart was the first retail company to present a proof-of-concept video that showed what shopping at Walmart in virtual reality could look like.
The metaverse is an inevitable reality. Forward-thinking retailers know that immersive experiences lead to greater engagement and loyalty from consumers and can help brands efficiently advertise and monetize their businesses.