Like most businesses our community interactions have mainly all been virtual the past two years – but none have been quite like the event we hosted at the end of 2021. We jumped into the Metaverse with our event guests taking them around a ‘Truetopia’ of virtual shops, streets and leisure spaces as we all got together as avatars in the virtual auditorium, to discuss what we felt were realistic opportunities for some of the brands and retailers in our community. We’ve summarised some of the main reasons why a business should sit up and pay attention to the opportunities of the Metaverse.
We have already seen explosive growth in this area, which is one of drivers for our recent investment in BrandLab360 – the team that helped build ‘Truetopia’. As a result of the pandemic and other shifts in consumer behaviour, more consumers are spending more of their time within virtual spaces. This, along with the proliferation of technologies such as Virtual Reality and NFTs (non-fungible tokens) amongst large corporates, supported by seemingly endless celebrity endorsements, has thrust the promise of commercially viable virtual worlds into reality.
The Metaverse, not just a buzzword
The Metaverse is firmly here to stay. In fact it’s been around for quite some time, its just the term got picked up by more people after Facebook rebranded its holding company to ‘Meta’. The name covers a range of possibilities and digital experiences. In reality, most of us are interacting within the metaverse today – especially if you view it like we do, as the intersection of multiple digital experiences.
The next step in eCommerce
The online shopping experience is in the main a 2D and functional experience – some retailers do a better job of engaging and entertaining along the way. But in the Metaverse there are endless possibilities to create branded virtual spaces where shoppers can feel much more immersed and engaged with the channel but can also replicate some of the interpersonal experiences bridging the gap between physical stores and the online experience. For example, you could speak to a virtual store associate or invite friends to browse stores together – or you could bump into someone in your local, regionalised supermarket – just like you do in real life.
Physical products in virtual worlds
An interesting but slightly tricky-to-get-your-head-around component of these virtual economies, Non-Fungible Tokens, are unique virtual assets created on blockchain networks (most use the Ethereum blockchain). Consumer consensus is still out on the value of pureplay NFTs as digital assets, with consumers either not understanding what they are or not seeing the value in them, while other consumers – including some very famous and wealthy celebrities – have been paying extortionate amounts for these ‘one-of-a-kind’ digital artworks. However, technologies such as Boson Protocol, are bridging the gap between virtual asset and physical products to create NFTs with more tangible functionality and utility. Their infrastructure enables the sale of physically twinned products to be redeemed as a result of the in-verse purchases. This allows for the customisability and near-unlimited creativity of activation that 3D virtual realms facilitate, all without cannibalising existing store sales. Ultimately this demonstrates how NFTs can be used as a powerful, additional engagement tool for marketing teams rather than simply representing a nebulous fad.
The global internet giants that dominate the web are held with an increasing level of suspicion by consumers who believe they hold too much of the power across the Internet. Decentralised web applications such as Blockchain technology enable people to trade, interact, entertain, create, learn and generally ‘be’ in digital spaces without the need for centralised facilitators to mediate these spaces or processes. This represents both a potentially significant shift in consumer expectations, but also a genuine opportunity for brands and retailers to interact more directly with the end user.
These opportunities have us very excited. If you’re like us and think a conversation with our Innovation Team about the Metaverse would be helpful for your business, then get in touch with Liam.