Is retail ready to enter the metaverse?

Discussion
Source: “Vans World - Join Now on Roblox” - Vans
Sep 24, 2021

On Wednesday, a new Fox series, “Alter Ego,” debuted that gives singers an opportunity to perform as an avatar they create in the latest example of a new concept and buzzword, the metaverse.

Another example came last month with Facebook’s beta test of Horizon Workrooms, which enables people using an Oculus Quest 2 headset to take on avatars and participate in virtual meetings from their keyboard.

“When you use Workrooms, it feels like you’re really there with people,” wrote Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a Facebook post. “You’ll notice conversations flow more naturally and you’ll pick up social cues that are missing on video — people turning to listen to each other, hand gestures and spatial audio to give everyone a sense of place in the room.”

“In the future,” he added, “working together will be one of the main ways people use the metaverse.”

Rooted in the gaming world, the metaverse refers to places where people exist in immersive, shared virtual spaces.

As it involves retail, Wunderman Thompson’s new “Into The Metaverse” report notes that discovery is typically happening in stores or on Instagram, but more advanced virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) approaches can bring “intuitive, immersive and engaging” discovery to brands’ websites and create experiences that extend well beyond physical retail’s four walls.

Christina Wooton, VP of brand partnerships at Roblox, told Dezeen. “For Gucci Garden, we opened up the ceiling of one room to show the sky. There are butterflies flying around and flowers growing on mannequins’ heads. You can’t do this in the real-life art exhibition.”

The metaverse still faces numerous unknowns, including the cost and comfort of VR-headsets, how disparate virtual realms will interact and privacy issues. Nonetheless, expect Facebook, Roblox, Epic Games and other tech giants to elevate the hype in the years ahead.

“The defining quality of the metaverse is presence, which is this feeling that you’re really there with another person or in another place,” Mr. Zuckerberg told analysts in July. “Creation, avatars, and digital objects are going to be central to how we express ourselves, and this is going to lead to entirely new experiences and economic opportunities.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think of the potential of the metaverse and what it might mean for retail? Do you see a slow or fairly quick opportunity for retailers to capitalize on the metaverse?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Content and convenience will determine the near-term future of the metaverse in retail."
"Will we see a “Metaverse Revolution” in two to five years? Maybe not, but right now I wouldn’t bet against a ten year horizon..."
"Retail wasn’t ready for 2019, much less 2020, much less 2021. So no, retail is not ready for the metaverse."

Join the Discussion!

10 Comments on "Is retail ready to enter the metaverse?"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

Retail wasn’t ready for 2019, much less 2020, much less 2021. So no, retail is not ready for the metaverse. Having said that, it’s here and offers some pretty amazing evolutionary leaps in life and business. I’m hoping its adoption is slow and thoughtful. Lots of moving parts to figure out here.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

There is a genuine opportunity here, not least because an increasing number of people are interacting in the metaverse and spending time there. Those people are buying digital content for their avatars, and for other purposes, and that represents a selling opportunity. On top of this, there is the opportunity for retailers to interact with their customers in the metaverse via everything from advertising to creating virtual spaces and games. Some retailers are already testing, such as Gucci selling virtual handbags. What smart retailers will do is find ways to connect the digital and physical worlds, for example you buy a pair of Converse from a regular store and you also get a digital pair for the metaverse. Obviously, none of this should distract from the mainstream retail model, but experimentation in this emerging world is important.

Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

Content and convenience will determine the near-term future of the metaverse in retail. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg debate, I suppose, but I suspect the content will need to be extremely compelling in order to incentivize most people to purchase and don the bulky (and pricey) VR gear.

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust

I think there is a time and place for it in retail. I just think it’s too early. It has existed in the gaming world for a while now and I think it will make the jump to retail eventually.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust
As some RetailWire readers may recall I was an early and active proponent of the technologies supporting what is now know as the metaverse. And I’m still (relatively) bullish about it. The issues blocking wider-spread adoption fall into three large buckets: familiarity/comfort with the whole process; cost of the technologies; and ease/comfort of the user interface. Assuming you clear hurdles two and three, one is easy. We know cost of technologies drops rapidly with scale of adoption/production. And that leaves the interface issue. Is an Oculus for everyone? Nope, but an Oculus is lightyears better from the heavy cabled gear early VR pioneers like Jaron Lanier had to drag around for a less realistic effect. Gaming, it turns out, is both intuitive and addictive, so if you solve the cost/interface issues well enough to achieve scale the metaverse’s attractiveness grows exponentially and its potential for enhancing retail becomes well worth investing in for branders and retailers. As to the time line, again, it all depends on scale. Will we see a “Metaverse Revolution” in two… Read more »
Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

“There are butterflies flying around and flowers growing on mannequins’ heads. You can’t do this in the real-life art exhibition.” Right. You can’t do this in a real life art exhibition, but why would Gucci want a real life art exhibition anyway? And if they did wouldn’t it feature real-life apparel? Wouldn’t I rather see real, live people wearing Gucci than a data generated mannequin?

But maybe for those more creative than I am, there is a way to have your gaming avatar wear Gucci loafers.

Mohamed Amer
BrainTrust

The future will surely bring more creative ways for self-expression and meaningful social engagement. As an integrative digital destination, the metaverse will facilitate such a future. Despite this certainty, retailers may not be ready as they continue to grapple with current technologies and realize the potential benefits. Yet they would be short-sighted not to begin exploring the possibilities because that future will be here sooner than expected and require new thinking about customer-centricity and engagement.

John Orr
BrainTrust

Avatars and digitized personas are some of the first things we think about, recreating the physical. However the true value and focus should be on the customer experience and making the metaverse extend into the individual’s total experience. Offer a virtual look into apparel of interest, provide virtual experiences of it, add the ability to book an event to wear it for perhaps food and beverage — attempt to garner the entire experience of the product or service by linking it to the person, their interests, and assist them in putting the total experience together.

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust
Considering that the emerging Gen Z consumer lives in a hybrid physical and digital world, the move to the metaverse and the art of the possible is quickly becoming a reality. Who would have anticipated unexpected collaborations between Balenciaga and Fortnite? These sorts of brand tie-ups and partnerships have been in progress for years in Asia. It was inevitable that these emerging paradigm shifts would make their way to the West. The Fortnite collaboration with Balenciaga comes in the wake of a string of high-profile collaborations in music and sport. In 2020, Travis Scott’s virtual concert on Fortnite attracted 45 million concurrent views. Brands want to tap Gen Z through 2.7 billion gamers worldwide, mainly via activations that straddle digital and physical worlds. Louis Vuitton partnered with League of Legends in 2019 on both virtual and physical clothing, while Gucci partnered with Roblox on a virtual world in May this year. This project for Balenciaga represents that its involvement in the metaverse is emerging as a strategic pillar of its business rather than a one-off… Read more »
Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

I think retail is plenty ready to skip the fad (as it should). We are only talking about these mythological things because of tech’s obsession with sci-fi like things — things they come out with which aren’t needed, but which they figure they can sell.

I am, in particular, humored by the Zuckerberg quote. How did he become a human factors expert in what it feels like to use this software? Sure glad it’s Friday. 🙂

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Content and convenience will determine the near-term future of the metaverse in retail."
"Will we see a “Metaverse Revolution” in two to five years? Maybe not, but right now I wouldn’t bet against a ten year horizon..."
"Retail wasn’t ready for 2019, much less 2020, much less 2021. So no, retail is not ready for the metaverse."

Take Our Instant Poll

How confident are you that the metaverse will be seen as transformative to shopping within the next five years?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...