SUMMARY: Big brand retailers are charting new territory in the metaverse to get in front of the next generation of consumers. But is the metaverse really for the rest of us? Find out why it’s the next retail frontier and what you can do about it.
If you want a free burrito, you might want to look into online gaming. Roblox players in the Chipotle world can play to win “Burrito Bucks”, which can be exchanged for real-life vouchers. Play enough times in the Chipotle world and you could get yourself a free lunch. It’s an initiative clearly aimed at the young players who love Roblox, but Chipotle’s metaverse campaign is just one of a growing marketing trend within retail. And although consumers in the metaverse are saying they’re unsure what the metaverse even is, the fact is that retailers do—and more of the big chains are using it as a growing avenue for engagement. According to McKinsey, the metaverse is on track to impact $5 trillion in retail sales by 2030 and could have a $2 trillion to $2.6 trillion e-commerce market impact. Today spaces like Second Life, Roblox, Decentraland, and Sandbox are ruling the metaverse, with Roblox at the clear top at 58.8 million daily active users, according to Statista. In March 2023, Citi estimated the addressable market for the metaverse would reach between $8 trillion and $13 trillion by 2030. With the next generation growing into viable consumers, it makes sense.
While surveys say that the average person is more interested in socializing and online gaming than the concept of the metaverse, it hasn’t stopped big names like Dior, Bloomingdales, Gucci, and Walmart from building metaverse presences. The virtual universe has many layers that work for retail:
"The complex and fun nature of virtual stores means that users engage longer with the brand and shop more," says Olga Dogadkina of Forbes. According to data collected by the Emperia virtual store, the average user spends 14 minutes interacting with virtual showrooms compared to two minutes in 2D stores.
“Consumers can interact with the brand through game-like experiences, contests, virtual worlds, live video calls and product exploration at levels that aren’t possible in a 2D environment,” explains Dogadkina. For example, Shimmerville in Roblox enables avatars to “try on” virtual accessories that with the exact likeness of products in the actual brick-and-mortar stores. Forever 21 has the same experience at Shop City in Roblox. And Ralph Lauren has a clothing line capsule that Fortnite users can add to their avatar’s inventory.
Metaverse purchases are online transactions using real money. And, like Chipotle’s virtual vouchers, which translate into coupons for the real thing, there are several ways to monetize in the metaverse. Metaverse Insider suggests top initiatives to consider include“flipping digital assets, hosting virtual events, participating in play-to-earn games, designing virtual spaces, and investing in metaverse tokens.”
The immersive nature of the metaverse is the ideal environment to gather data that helps you better understand the market. As users interact, select, like, and engage with your wares, it provides valuable information that can drive new products, initiatives, and marketing campaigns.
Vlad Dobrynin from Venture Beat wrote, "“The metaverse is the next great connectivity and network infrastructure challenge in the evolution of the internet." Extreme thought leader David Coleman agrees, saying the metaverse holds “tremendous potential” for the enterprise, specifically because of its use of augmented reality and virtual reality. “The metaverse is the ultimate consumer-centric experience,” he writes. And his thoughts stem from the potential it holds for all businesses. “This is going to require vast enhancements in capacity and fundamental shifts in how networks are architected and deployed,” says Dobrynin. “In turn (this) will mean a huge industry-wide collaboration spanning tech companies, mobile network operators, policymakers, and everyone in between.” However, there is time to adapt. Transformation takes time and money, and for now there’s no quick return on investment for metaverse activities. We’re really at the beginning stages of the metaverse’s influence. And, just like the internet’s start, while there’s potential for enterprises now, we won’t see it reach its full realization in the marketplace just yet.
For now, progress lies in awareness and preparation. While we’re still in the early stages of the metaverse, it can only go up from here. As interest grows and more big brands incorporate the metaverse into their customer journey, the need for augmented reality and virtual reality will grow. With it, will be the need for greater bandwidths to stream and support these. Part of staying competitive is looking ahead and doing what you can to get there before the competition. In the retail race, e-commerce is king. And the metaverse is lending an edge to online interactions. What the metaverse needs, though, is more sophisticated networks to support it. If you haven’t yet moved to Wi-Fi 6, now is a good time.
While the metaverse may not have an impact on retail’s bottom line today, it’s clear that it’s the next step for the infinite enterprise. You have time to prepare your network. While the big box names are sending their flagships out to discover new marketing territory, you can use the time to partner with a networking vendor focused on helping you build a foundation for the next frontier.