Sitting in a headline session at the 2022 NRF Conference this year, it became very apparent that the metaverse was actually becoming a “thing.” I’d already heard murmurs of this upcoming virtual world months prior, but really hadn’t given it much thought. As we kicked off the year with one of retail's biggest conferences, I heard this word used, in some capacity, in almost every session I sat in. Whether it be Ralph Lauren’s CEO, Patrice Louvet, talking about the metaverse-exclusive Ralph Lauren sweaters being created or the Gen-Z talking about how relevant this space was becoming in their daily lives, I knew I had a lot more to learn about shopping in the metaverse/retail metaverse. I needed to catch up fast before I felt like a social dinosaur.
From analog to digital and now, digital to virtual—we might be exactly where we were in the ‘70s when the conception of the internet. The building blocks were being developed, yet the future of what this looked like remained unclear. Today, the cycle repeats itself as the metaverse foundation is beginning to unfold, yet the impact on one’s daily life is yet to be fully determined.
The metaverse is a broad shift in how we interact with technology and is a virtual dimension that gives us entirely new ways of expressing ourselves, connecting with people, meeting customers, and most notably, delivering new experiences. This new-aged digital economy allows users to buy, sell, and trade goods all within the simplistic platform and according to Jason Wise of EarthWeb, the prediction has been made that anything one is able to do in “real-life”, will also have the ability to achieve the same thing in the metaverse by 2024.
So what does the metaverse—an interactive, immersive, and hyper-realistic platform—mean for retail management and customer experience today?
Setting up shop in the metaverse may feel daunting due to the radically different culture and economy thriving within its massive expanse. All this comes with new obstacles to face, research to be done, and not to mention, a significant amount of investments to be considered. But if anything, retailers should see this as an exciting opportunity to elevate customer experiences like never before.
Just take a look at the metaverse today: The concept of avatars is so well-loved that surveys1 show users spend more than $15 a month for skins, upgrades, and accessories. Live events such as concerts, parties, and sporting events are rapidly gaining traction. Meanwhile, plans for dating, virtual offices, classrooms, and more are in the making for the near future.
All this shows us that people are more than ready to invest in the metaverse. In fact, its market is estimated to grow to a whopping $800 billion2 in 2024.
Several brands are already launching experiments in retail metaverse. Ralph Lauren CEO, Patrice Louvet, shared at the 2022 NRF Conference3 how they took to the metaverse to distribute exclusive Ralph Lauren sweaters, successfully winning the hearts of Gen Z consumers. Even luxury brands like Burberry, Dolce & Gabbana, Hermès, and Gucci are venturing into the metaverse with offers of NFTs (or NRTs) and unique, virtual world adventures, providing customers a retail experience like never before—one that amplifies the soul and essence of the brand itself.
At its current state, the metaverse is facing one glaring challenge that makes the space limiting for retail: the lack of interoperability for virtual goods. This means that anything you purchase for your avatar in a certain store or metaverse location will not be usable in a different metaverse environment, making metaverse fashion less valuable.
Despite this challenge, retailers should still consider the metaverse as a definite destination in the near future. To truly take advantage of the metaverse, businesses should not limit ideas to virtual goods alone. Instead, they should make use of the metaverse to create exciting retail customer experiences that create parallel value in real life.
If the general goal is to make shopping in the metaverse more engaging and convenient, customers can shop in the metaverse and have their purchases physically show up on their doorstep. Even now, the metaverse is showing promising ways for customers to experience what they can in stores without having to leave their homes with try-ons, activities, and social events exclusively available in the virtual world.
Combining these possibilities with the fact that it’s still easier to convert visitors into customers in brick and mortar stores than through eCommerce and online shopping, we can infer that an increase in conversion could be possible as we begin to incorporate more personal and real-time human interactions through metaverse shopping.
There is certainly a big push for this enigmatic, virtual world. Just like the internet, it became imperative for most brands to make the virtual shift to sustain and drive sales. It’s clear then that businesses will need to keep a pulse on where things are headed to ensure that they can meet their customers where they are.
In the meantime, we must anticipate how we can leverage shopping in the metaverse with community, experience, and engagement in mind. If there’s one thing that will remain true today and tomorrow, it’s that personal customer experience will determine your business’ success—regardless of what groundbreaking tech may come our way.
Customer expectations will continue to evolve and brands will be challenged to exceed them. That’s why at TaskUs, we combine technology, strategy, and ridiculously smart people to consistently deliver elevated customer experiences in this ever-changing world.
Now that we’re looking towards a future where avatars might become just as important, if not more, as our physical appearance, it’s our responsibility to support brands in making the virtual experience a tool that enhances real, everyday lives.