Metaverse and Retail 101
The metaverse has — and will continue to — dramatically change the way retailers connect and experience the world. From blurring the lines between content and product to reshaping the landscape of the retail industry, the conversation around non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and virtual goods is already developing into a robust exchange between the economic, tech and art elites. However, broad awareness and demand for the metaverse has yet to build among everyday consumers. Retailers would be wise to pay attention or risk being left behind in the virtual dust.
Though overwhelming for the average consumer, it's crucial for retailers and business leaders to acknowledge the opportunities that lie within the metaverse. Brands can now foster more engaging connections with their customers, and users can support more brands in their own ways without encountering restrictions such as location or store accessibility.
Furthermore, retailers can leave concerns about shipping delays and supply chains in the real world. As manufacturers now equate to digital hosts and designers, consumers are no longer forced to wait for products or services. They can buy or experience what they're looking for in a moment’s notice. Customizable and unique products, personalized consumer journeys, and efficient shopping experiences are more attainable than ever.
However, as overwhelming as these entities may be for consumers and as beneficial as they can be, it means nothing if the right consumers and categories aren’t made a priority and, further, truly educated on what NFTs and virtual goods are. According to the recent Revealing the Metaverse report, nearly half of consumers say they have no clue what an NFT is, and more than one-third say the same for virtual goods. But that key education component can make them change their mind: one in 10 consumers say they know what NFTs are and want to learn more, and nearly that same amount say the same as it relates to virtual goods.
The Typical Consumer
While NFTs and virtual goods may be overwhelming for the average consumer, it's crucial for retailers and business leaders to acknowledge who constitutes their current consumer. The typical buyer of NFTs and virtual goods is a male between the ages of 18 and 34.
Now, when thinking of the current landscape around these products, that profile makes sense. However, if brands and retailers only focus on this narrow market, they are — to put it simply — shooting themselves in the foot. There are apparent gaps in the market — like women, who are too often being overlooked — and an entirely new group of consumers waiting to take the step. Retailers should think two steps ahead and craft their messaging, activations and tactics accordingly. Doing so can help them bring in a new audience and secure their loyalty before someone else inevitably does.
The Consumer Sweet Spot
Outside of pinpointing and educating who else brands should be targeting, it’s important that brands and retailers also pinpoint exactly which NFT and virtual goods consumers want to shop (i.e., from which product categories). Generally, minds go straight to digital art when thinking of NFTs since that category catapulted these goods into the mainstream. However, according to research, art is no longer the top category.
When it comes to NFTs, consumers are more likely to purchase a music- or film-related NFT (22 percent) over any other category, followed by sports memorabilia (14 percent) and luxury fashion goods (12 percent). For virtual goods, they’re looking to purchase event tickets to virtual performances or competitions (14 percent) or unique skill sets for an avatar within a virtual world (13 percent).
At the end of the day, the metaverse should be used as an asset, not an entire shift in focus. Therefore, it's imperative that retailers prepare for the metaverse while still enhancing their physical platform. As the metaverse continues to grow and take shape, the successful brands will be the ones that innovate and adapt to seamlessly blend their physical and digital platforms, ensuring the same attention to detail and care across the board and the same quality of consumer experiences, no matter what.
Dan Brewster is senior vice president of marketing at Scalefast, a new generation global e-commerce solution.