This article was originally published by Women in Retail Leadership Circle, sister brand of Total Retail.
While the metaverse may not be widespread in retail just yet, there’s clear excitement among industry marketers about the new business opportunities it presents.
This sentiment was made clear during a panel discussion that took place at this year's Total Retail Tech event, held in Nashville in September. During the session, "Finding Your Brand's Place in the Metaverse," experts including Ekta Chopra, e.l.f. Beauty’s chief digital officer, and Mimi Ruiz, PacSun’s vice president of e-commerce, spoke passionately about why their companies are in the metaverse and what they're doing within it. In addition, they shared lessons they've learned along the way while navigating this new virtual world.
Ruiz discussed how earlier this year PacSun launched a three-level store in ComplexLand 3, a metaverse shopping festival. Virtual shoppers with customizable avatars browsed curated products from PacSun and its resale arm, PS Reserve. Once consumers found an item they wanted to buy, they were redirected from the virtual store to PacSun’s website to make their purchase. Ruiz said that PacSun also offered a series of unique NFTs — which enable consumers to purchase items in the metaverse — called Pac Mall Rats in ComplexLand’s virtual gallery.
Why did PacSun enter the metaverse? The brand focuses on Generation Z, and this demographic "spends twice as much time in the virtual world as they do in the real world," Ruiz noted. "We had no choice but to explore the metaverse."
A key learning from PacSun’s entry into the metaverse is that it truly takes a village, Ruiz said. "We touched every single cross-functional department to get this live: brand marketing, merchandising, IT and finance," she said.
Another lesson? When entering the metaverse for the first time, it’s important to operate in a very lean fashion.
"We asked ourselves, ‘Should we hire 3D artists? Do we hire a metaverse manager? And where do you find a metaverse manager?,’” Ruiz said. “Ultimately, we decided not to do any of these things. We taught ourselves to do it so that we weren't tied to a digital P&L, which then would limit our creativity and the way we can really lean in and experiment in this world. Doing it ourselves also meant having less financial risk for our business overall."
e.l.f. Beauty has worked to combine virtual worlds, gaming, social, NFTs and crypto, and is focused on the 3 million members of its loyalty program, Chopra told the audience.
“Right now, we have a long-term strategy that will allow us to build something beyond just a piece of a digital asset,” said Chopra. “We're figuring out how to take our loyalty members and create a community that will be transported into the new virtual worlds we're building.”
e.l.f. Beauty’s biggest learning lesson as it relates to its involvement in the metaverse?
“Listen to your community; they will tell you where they're going,” Chopra advised. “Our core fundamental is to go where your community is. Listen to the data and build something your community is really passionate about and they will engage with it.”
Related story: How Retailers Can Find Success in the Metaverse