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Making an Impression in the Metaverse

October 18th, 2022

Lucy Mister

Metaverse (noun)

The metaverse is a non-specific virtual-reality space in which visitors can typically explore and interact with computer-generated objects and other users, usually in the form of avatars – similar to a gamescape.

THE METAVERSE: AN OPPORTUNITY FOR BRANDS

THE METAVERSE: AN OPPORTUNITY FOR BRANDS

With more and more people, and therefore consumers, spending their time playing games, brands are beginning to realise that it is no longer enough to simply exist in the same locations as their customers, but that they must exist in the same realms as their customers, too, now and in the future.

By 2026 it is thought that a quarter of people will spend at least an hour a day in the metaverse (Gartner), so brands must explore how best to position themselves in the same virtual spaces as their customers. Moreover, when we consider that gaming continues to grow in popularity with a projected compound annual growth rate of 11% between 2021 and 2026 (prnewswire), and that gamers favour brands over non-gamers (Newzoo), it suggests that existing in one or more metaverses is a favourable and effective strategy for increased brand awareness and likeability.

For example, just as Vans aims to connect with its customers via its House of Vans skatepark that sits underneath London’s Waterloo Station, Vans has built an interactive skatepark within Roblox to connect with its customers in the virtual world, too. Whilst this skatepark-style environment in the Roblox metaverse, called “Vans World”, seems to have predominantly been designed so that the brand can interact with its customers, it does have a retail offering. Vans allows users to create customized digital apparel and accessories, including shoes and skateboards, which can be purchased for users’ avatars using Robux (Roblox’s currency).

METAVERSE MALLS

METAVERSE MALLS

The metaverse is not just a place to play, but this digitally-structured realm now presents the opportunity for us to study, work, socialise, and shop in new, virtual ways.

Recent advancements have made this virtual retail format more appealing for both brands and consumers due to immersive virtual platforms now demonstrating better security, accessibility, compatibility, UI and UX. It could also be argued that the increasing ability for some digital items to be used on multiple platforms has made purchasing these items more popular – subsequently contributing to a need for more immersive, shoppable digital infrastructures or ‘Metaverse Mall’ concepts.

Fashion designer, Charli Cohen, teamed up with Pokémon for the media franchise’s 25th anniversary to create a Pikachu-inspired collection available to buy via the renowned luxury fashion retailer Selfridges. But why sell this limited-edition collection in the usual way using traditional retail formats? Especially when we consider that Pikachu is a species of Pokémon born out of digital! The throuple extended their invite to production house, Yahoo Ryot Lab, to create “Electric/City” – a virtual city, or Metaverse Mall, where visitors can browse and buy exclusive physical and digital garments. This first-of-its-kind collaboration invites consumers into its ‘Metaverse Mall’ to shop the Charli Cohen x Pokémon collection in new, immersive ways and discover a new digital-only Kaleidodrip collection which can be worn via a body-tracking AR Snapchat lens or customisable avatar.

LEVERAGING THE METAVERSE

LEVERAGING THE METAVERSE

Whilst some brands are using the virtual world simply to promote their brand, such as those who participated in the first-ever metaverse fashion week hosted in Decentraland, others are using it to create hype around new product launches and reach new audiences in the process. Bridging the physical and the virtual worlds, “Coca-Cola Zero Sugar Byte takes a multi-sensory approach to both beverages and the metaverse – similar to how the perfume industry has embraced digital fragrances”. The beverage, which is part of the brand’s experimental Creations platform, exhibits neon violet and green packaging. On its packaging features a portal in the form of a QR code which grants access to the brand’s bespoke island on Fortnite. Alongside playing a handful of multi-player mini-games with other users, consumers of this limited-edition beverage receive a multi-sensory experience, with the drink’s flavour reportedly mimicking the sensation of powering up a game!

Other brands are leveraging the metaverse to empower their audience! Spotify empowers music curators in Roblox via inviting artists to connect with each other on their Spotify Island. To really inspire engagement between visitors of the island and with the brand, the platform hosts a series of interactive quests and encourages fans to create their own music, using stations by virtual beat-maker platform Soundtrap.

Similarly, Sunsilk are crossing over to this alternate reality to show their support for causes as part of their corporate responsibility initiatives by promoting STEM careers for women. Through a series of mini-games hosted on Roblox, Sunsilk City are combatting gender biases.

AFFIRMATIVE AVATARS

AFFIRMATIVE AVATARS

Avatars are becoming an increasingly prominent feature of the metaverse, and as the line continues to blur between our physical and virtual realities, visitors of the metaverse are seeking online representatives that are more reflective of their unique identities. This has created a huge opportunity for fashion brands to plug a gap in the market as demand grows for a larger selection of digital garments to become available that are reflective of individual avatar styles and preferences. Created on cross-game avatar platform Ready Player Me, adidas is launching a personality-based AI-generated avatar creation programme which issues a series of questions to understand users’ personal tastes. Upon understanding the user, the programme generates a unique digital avatar wearing items of its new Ozworld apparel collection.

In 2025, the market value of in-game purchases is projected to surpass 74.4 billion U.S. dollars (Statista) – a result of people levelling up their looks in the metaverse, among other things. In fact, 65% of Gen Z in the US has spent money on virtual items within a game (Voxburner). In response to this increased demand for digital fashion, Meta is launching the Meta Avatars Store – “a digital fashion marketplace where users can customise the appearance of their avatars”. Among the garments on sale are those from luxury brands, such as Prada and Balenciaga. What’s more, the luxury items that can be found in the Meta Avatars Store are exact replicas of the brands’ physical items, so avatars can wear what is available to users in real life.

Make-up in the metaverse

More recently, we have seen this opportunity extend to beauty brands. Bakeup is a digital beauty company specialising in make-up in the metaverse with looks that can be worn, collected, traded and sold virtually. Alongside the ability for the make-up to be worn by avatars, Bakeup has extended the functionality of its products by enabling the digital make-up looks via wearable AR filters on Snapchat and Instagram.

NFTs

Some brands are choosing to position their digital garments and other creations that can be worn by avatars as a NFT (Non-Fungible Token) – a certificate of ownership for a digital asset, if you like, that can be created, owned, sold, traded, and bought, in the same way, that a physical asset can. As per its name, a NFT is non-fungible, meaning that each NFT is one-of-a-kind. It turns out that sneakerheads are well and truly embracing NFTs as brands like Nike join the trend to sell its very own, one-of-a-kind, digital sneakers. However, the most disruptive brand to-date to sell NFT sneakers has been, RTKFT, “a very eclectic, creator led organisation [using] the latest in game engines, NFT, blockchain authentication and augmented reality, combined with manufacturing expertise to create one-of-a-kind sneakers and digital artifacts.”. Known for creating viral sneaker designs, RTKFT has teamed up with Atari for several of its sneaker drops, but it was its collaboration with crypto-artist, FEWOCiOUS, which made history, with the FEWO sneaker selling out in just 7 minutes and generating $3.1 million.

BRIDGING THE PHYSICAL AND THE VIRTUAL WORLDS

BRIDGING THE PHYSICAL AND THE VIRTUAL WORLDS

We look forward to seeing what the future of the metaverse holds as the gap between physical and virtual realms closes, from gamified fitness by Peloton to the invention of a wearable vest that allows people to really “feel” the virtual world for a more sensory meta experience.

As our digital selves and routines within the metaverse increasingly become an extension of our physical selves and routines within our material environment, alongside the knowledge that gamers favour brands over non-gamers, we predict that more and more brands will choose to make an impression in the metaverse in the years to come. However, our main prediction for metasphere is that it will become commonplace to purchase virtual items alongside physical items so that our avatars and self-created spaces in the virtual world can more closely reflect our real-life identities. For a more exclusive experience, some brands might even choose to offer their customers NFTs!

Have you ventured into the metaverse?

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This article is part of a four-part web series investigating a handful of ways that brands and retailers are leveraging consumers’ love for play, gaming, and make-believe as a form of entertainment and escapism to reach new customers and make a lasting impression.

 

Jump to a section
Part 1 – Introducing Playtail…
Part 2 – Dreamlands and Playscapes for Kids and “Kidults”
Part 3 – Gamification for Increased Engagement
Part 4 – Making an Impression in the Metaverse

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