The retailer's guide to setting up shop in the Metaverse

Published July 29, 2022

The Metaverse seems like almost a thing of fiction or dreams. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook - and now Meta - describes the Metaverse like this: “Instead of just viewing content - you are in it. And you feel present with other people as if you were in other places, having different experiences that you couldn’t necessarily do on a 2D app or webpage.” A virtual reality marketplace could easily have fit into a hit 80s science fiction movie.

But the Metaverse is not only real, it’s imminent. As society moves towards online shopping and as Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) become more common currency, many retailers are already dipping their toes into the potential of the Metaverse. You can find virtual clothes from name brands like H&M or Adidas, using cutting edge VR and AR technology. The trends make it clear: retailers who want to stay ahead of the curve need to set up shop in the Metaverse.

How do you go about doing that? Let’s dive in.

What is the Metaverse?

Zuckerberg’s definition above sounds exciting, but what exactly is the Metaverse? 

The Metaverse is the next advance in online shopping. It combines online stores with immersive experiences to create something new. Instead of scrolling through pages and pages of relevant search results, the Metaverse places customers inside the online marketplace. 

Through virtual and augmented reality, customers can try on clothes or other products before buying them. They can purchase virtual goods and place orders for physical goods. It also creates a social opportunity for customers. By creating themselves on a virtual Metaverse platform, they can make friends within the store and even role play. This virtual world has the potential to combine shopping with social media for an exciting and unique experience. 

This technology has been used in business meetings and video games, but many retailers are taking it to the next level in order to truly stand out.

What should retail look like in the Metaverse?

The Metaverse is not simply a place to reposition your website as a retailer. Instead, the Metaverse is an opportunity to play with cutting edge technology and looking for metaverse engagement tools that the competition simply isn’t making use of. This will require a fair bit of experimentation, which is always risky. The Metaverse hasn’t completely figured itself out yet. So, you may have to carefully approach trial and error. Focus on full immersion, or the fullest immersion possible, when it comes to a meta store.

It’s also important to consider your audience and what they want. Gen Z will be the first to flock towards metaverse shopping and virtual reality. This is a generation that has grown up on virtual 3D experiences. What might older generations need in order to consider your virtual stores? Do they want to be able to shop from the convenience of their home while still being certain of their purchases? That’s where augmented reality try-on apps come in handy. Do they want to stay abreast of the latest technology? That’s what your company should show them. Focus on boosting your customer experience, and you’ll have a clear idea of what you need for your metaverse store.

How can the Metaverse benefit physical retail stores?

Online and physical shopping have never been mutually exclusive. Physical stores often have online stores in order to serve a long-distance customer base or customers unable to reach the physical store. It also helps boost their brand by having a popular website online.

So, why shouldn’t a Metaverse presence offer all those benefits? By setting up shop in the Metaverse, customers who aren’t able to come into your store can still browse your products and shop with ease, all the while enjoying an immersive shopping experience. If the customers at your physical store need to shop in a hurry, they can try the products out on the meta platform before coming in to buy them.

Challenges created by the Metaverse for physical retail stores

Of course, this is a new frontier, and it does pose some challenges to physical retail stores. While it’s true that digital and physical stores are not mutually exclusive and, in fact, 56% of Americans still prefer in-store shopping, it’s hard to say how the Metaverse will affect these statistics. By creating a more immersive experience, it may be able to fill in the gaps that traditional online shopping does not — such as socialization. And with the world becoming more digital three years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the desire to shop through an immersive experience from home may be more appealing. 

Another consideration is cost. Virtual real estate in the Metaverse is a coveted commodity, and it’s led to something of a virtual land rush. Earlier this year, a single parcel of land on major metaverse platforms went for an average of $12,000. That doesn’t include the cost of operating systems that can support the Metaverse platform. Of course, business owners must always weigh the cost against the value to determine whether or not something is a worthwhile risk. But if you have a tight budget, this might be a prohibitive cost.

Ultimately, physical stores wanting to join in the Metaverse virtual store while maintaining their physical front should conduct a thorough assessment of cost and budget while planning. They may also want to come up with special offers or incentives for in-store purchases, so that they receive business on both ends.

How to market products between the physical and virtual worlds

That last point may come down to marketing. The Metaverse offers new opportunities when it comes to product placement. By setting up shop or even setting up your products in the Metaverse, it puts your brand in front of your ideal customers — who may then check out your physical store. 

As the Metaverse grows, customers will continue to look for more innovative ways to interact with your brand and your products. Marketing will need to be increasingly cutting edge and innovative. This could involve gamifying the shopping experience or including artificial intelligence to learn an individual customer’s preferences. So, staying current with metaverse products and virtual reality opportunities is a must.

UNLOCK INSIGHTS: Entering the Metaverse - What It Means for YOU in Retail

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