What’s Next for Retail in the Metaverse
After decades of preparing for virtual and augmented reality to become mainstream, miniaturized wearable displays and more powerful microchips have combined with sophisticated software to give birth to the metaverse — a persistent digital space linked to the real world, connecting multiple virtual experiences developed by separate creators. And as is often the case, the retail industry has become fertile ground for brands that want to engage customers in fresh new ways.
Major retailers like Nike and Zara, as well as ultra-luxury brands like Balenciaga, have already staked their place in the metaverse. For example, Nike recently acquired RTFKT, a brand that creates metaverse sneakers that people can use and wear in online space. The company also launched NIKELAND, a virtual space within the popular online game Roblox, where players can explore Nike’s collection.
Much Bigger Than Entertainment
Going beyond gaming, fully virtualized retail experiences are close to becoming reality. Metaverse users will soon be able to select outfits they want to wear, try them on, purchase them, then receive physical versions to wear in the real world.
But to get to a place where full-featured retail experiences reach the mainstream, user adoption rates must rise to encourage greater software development and investment. While 73 percent of respondents to a 2022 YouGov/Globant survey on metaverse trends said they can access the metaverse, only 26 percent claimed to have actually experienced it. It’s true that people have had ample opportunities to sample the metaverse through Meta’s Quest 2, retail store VR displays, and free smartphone/PC options. Unfortunately, none of these options make the metaverse easy to access, and the most immersive onramp — a VR headset — still isn’t as small or simple, or affordable, as it needs to be.
Attracting more people requires other considerations. Beyond following metaverse safety standards, the next wave of software will need to be designed with the metaverse in mind — and leverage brands people already engage with, including iconic elements from clothing and music to movies, games and pop culture. As metaverse users build digital versions of themselves, they’ll want to represent their passions, fandoms and styles. Fortnite and Meta have dabbled with these themes but haven’t reached the point where they’re drawing the most mainstream users. However, this is poised to change, as the YouGov/Globant survey found that 24 percent of respondents increased their interest in a brand because of a metaverse experience.
How You Can Prepare
As your company prepares for a future where the metaverse will certainly play a larger role, there are a few steps you can take to position the brand for what’s to come:
- Think metaverse first. Build your campaign, program or event around the idea of customization, leaving room to integrate a metaverse activation.
- Think fun. The metaverse isn’t bound by physical limitations, so when building digital experiences, don’t just recreate what exists in the real world. Use your imagination to create experiences that aren’t otherwise practical or possible. The ideal embodiment of your “king-”focused retail brand might not be easy to build in a mall, but everyone can enjoy virtual castles and royal treatment in the metaverse.
- Think socially. The metaverse will be all about socializing and expressing yourself across anything from gaming to working or “traveling” between destinations. Deeply consider communications and expression as you build experiences.
Following these principles will help you retain current users and attract new audiences as the metaverse increases in popularity. They will also increase your chances of developing a viable metaverse business outside the gaming space, while offering practical, safe and fun engagement opportunities to users.
Matias Rodriguez is vice president of technology at Globant Games & Metaverse Studios, a company that designs, develops and supports multiplatform world-class games and services across the vast expanse of console, PC, mobile and web media.
Related story: Panel: Finding Your Brand's Place in the Metaverse | Total Retail Tech 2022
Design and engineering leader with 18-plus years of experience helping teams deliver amazing products including Video Games, Interactive Experiences and Telecommunications Solutions. Nowadays serving as VP of Technology working closely with our teams to help them create robust solutions. Focus on innovation and R&D in Cloud Computing, Mixed Reality and Web 3.0.
Co-Inventor of a patent combining Video Game mechanics in the Oil and Gas Industry and credited in different AAA video games including Turtle Rock Studios Back 4 Blood, Phoenix Labs Dauntless and several EA Sports titles like Madden, NHL and Fifa.