Traditionally, retailers in the apparel and shoe segment have relied on in-house fashion designers to create new product offerings, testing them with focus groups and niche markets before rolling them out to a larger customer base. However, consumer demand for more customized products has been rising over the last few years, especially among Gen Zers and Millennials. These expectations have encouraged companies like Stitch Fix to better understand their subscribers’ taste in clothing via a personal “style quiz” and Nike to allow shoppers to design their own sneakers, which are then made and shipped to order.
The metaverse offers retailers a new, unique opportunity to understand what consumers are looking for and then manufacture those products. Nike’s “Nike By You” custom sneaker builder provides a finite selection of styles, materials and colorways for customers to choose from. But in the metaverse, Nike is not limited by what materials are immediately available. Instead, the shoe brand can allow potential customers to design their own footwear from an almost infinite set of combinations for their avatars. Customers can “like” their favorite designs that Nike can then prominently display in their metaverse store and make available for other metaversers to purchase.
Nike also has the added benefit of discovering emerging trends and tastes (by customer segment, age group, geography, etc.). The most popular designs can be manufactured and sold in the physical world in the right markets.
In essence, the metaverse offers progressive retailers multiple benefits: valuable data for new product development, social engagement with trendsetting consumers, acquisition of a loyal set of omnichannel customers, a way to burnish their brand and an opportunity to closely tie physical sales with the metaverse and expand revenue potential. According to a recent report by Gartner, twenty-five percent of people will spend at least one hour a day in the metaverse for work, shopping, education and entertainment by 2025. The big players, including Facebook (now Meta) and Amazon, are ramping up hiring to build up their metaverse offerings and are making investments accordingly. Leveraging the metaverse for product discovery among consumers will become essential for brands.