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The Retailer's Guide to Setting Up Shop in the Metaverse

How to market products between physical and virtual worlds.

 AJ Dalal
AJ Dalal

When it comes to shopping, will the metaverse replace the internet as we know it? Maybe. Consider fashion week. This weeklong event in which fashion designers and brands display new clothing lines was recently held in the metaverse for the first time. It offered a noteworthy glimpse into the future. And retailers are paying attention. With the hype to be among the first to set up shop and endless opportunities to make a bold entrance, what should retailers focus on? Here are three ways to establish a meaningful presence in the metaverse.

How to create an intentional brand experience in the metaverse

The metaverse could be online shopping times a thousand. In the online space of the metaverse, people, places and things are represented digitally. People can meet and interact, and digital assets (like land, items, buildings and avatars) can be created, used, bought and sold. You can virtually experience it in a much more rich and immersive way than you can “visit” a website or app. In the future metaverse, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and video will create an experience mirroring our real world—and even replace some real-world activities. Therefore, the metaverse will propel online shopping significantly. Although retail e-commerce is doing better than ever by offering convenience and efficiency, shoppers are still restricted by screens that cannot replicate the tangible aspects of the in-store shopping experience. By translating the physical retail experience into the virtual experience, brands can engage with their customers immediately and more intimately.

For example:

Customers can enter a store through a virtual storefront to discover products.

Shoppers may engage with products and make purchases in real time using an avatar.

People can use AR to try before they buy using a smart phone camera.

Creating authentic brand experiences in the metaverse

Now is an exciting time for retailers. The metaverse offers new ways to market products that cross over between the physical and virtual worlds.

To make this endeavor a success, authenticity and intimacy are key. According to a consumer survey by NRG:

84%
of people feel more connected if they can physically touch and interact with others, making the interaction feel more authentic.
78%
of people miss being able to physically touch and interact with people when interacting with them virtually.
61%
of people are interested in virtual collaborations with touchable interactions.

The metaverse is about immersion

Most brands are talking about VR and AR, but the metaverse is about being immersive—including all our senses. Here is how exploring sensory immersion enables brands to operate in a more accessible way:

Meta revealed its VR glove that enables shoppers to feel what they touch in the metaverse.

Haptic technology allows people wearing a Skinetic vest to feel sensations ranging from raindrops to bullets.

Apple AirPods, the most successful and advanced audio wearable, will be a game changer for brands.

How to create value for customers in the metaverse

Brands can provide excellent customer support in both physical and virtual worlds with a smart marketing strategy.

How can brands find their audience in the metaverse? People between the ages of 18 and 34 are most interested in augmented reality. They hang out in spaces like Discord, Twitter and Reddit, which are metaverse platforms in the making, because they have been designed to be more democratic and typically feature voice communications, text-based chatting and teamwork. This makes these places more immersive, like the metaverse.

The future audience of the metaverse cares about the environment, culture and shared experiences. Creating shared enjoyment and collaboration will be key for any brand marketing strategy in the metaverse.

Metaverse tools and platforms for retailers

Many platforms can help retailers, but which are the best ones? Consider workspace platforms designed to improve remote collaboration and provide immersive training:

Horizon Worlds was launched by Meta and requires users to have a Facebook account to hang out with up to 20 people in a virtual space.

Mesh for Microsoft Teams allows people in different physical locations to join collaborative and shared holographic experiences.

Many well-known metaverse platforms offer gaming:

Roblox is a popular place where people play games made by developers.

Play-to-earn (P2E) games are early-stage metaverse platforms with innovative economic models that allow players to earn an income while playing.

Virtual real estate offers brands the opportunity to buy plots of land, much like in the real world:

Decentraland offers anything available in the physical world—from skyscrapers and rapid transportation systems to movie theaters and hotels.

Sandbox is a blockchain gaming platform where users can purchase, sell, create and trade digital assets.

The metaverse today is what websites were in the 90s. Brands can develop a strategy to develop their own metaverse platform and then apply their brand across other platforms.

This is important, because right now, most brands are playing in the metaverse via platforms that belong to other companies, which created the likes of Decentraland and Roblox to enter the metaverse. A good example of a similar situation is that of Target and Amazon. In 2001, Target did something unthinkable in today's world: It outsourced its entire online operation to Amazon. In fact, Amazon was running all the e-commerce technology operations of Target as well as Toys “R” Us, Borders and other brands that have since disappeared. But in 2009, Target announced it was going its own way and spent the next years investing heavily in its own website. By 2014, it had rewritten 75 percent of the code in its e-commerce platform, bringing it up to speed with competitors.

The moral of the story? Be a brand that creates its own metaverse experience. In the future, every brand will have their own 3D experience that can be accessible through wearables and websites.

Eventually, these experiences will create a collective metaverse economy, giving rise to novel legal questions much like in the real world. This may sound gimmicky, but future retailers are starting to shape that reality now.

 AJ Dalal
AJ Dalal
GVP, Data Science & Analytics