Following Facebook, Inc.’s name change to Meta Platforms, Inc. and Microsoft’s acquisition of video game holding company Activision Blizzard, the metaverse — i.e., the 3D virtual universe users navigate with individualized avatars to play games, socialize, learn, and attend events — undoubtedly poses huge opportunities for businesses. But what does this connected world mean for retail? We recently surveyed consumers’ perceptions of and demand for virtual shopping experiences in the metaverse.
Although intuitive to younger shoppers such as Gen Zers, the metaverse may seem daunting to brands. And at a time when consumer perception of the metaverse is still a bit murky, it’s imperative for retailers to understand how to capitalize on a market opportunity that Bloomberg Intelligence estimates will reach nearly $800 billion by 2024. Here are tips for how brands looking to take advantage of this next phase of the internet can connect with digitally savvy consumers:
- Convenience and sociability are driving factors behind Gen Zers shopping in the metaverse. Interactive and engaging shopping experiences are expected by Gen Zers — consumers who have grown up in a hyperconnected world via social media, videogames and e-sports. The survey, The Metaverse Mindset: Consumer Shopping Insights, found that 60 percent of these young shoppers think that brands should sell their products on metaverse platforms. Among these Gen Zers, 54 percent reasoned that they expect to be able to shop anywhere they go online, while 41 percent crave a convenient place to buy both digital and physical products. Creating commerce strategies centered on the metaverse will help brands meet these consumers where they already are and recreate the socialize-while-you-shop model enabled by modern-day malls, another factor 45 percent cited as reason for brands to enter the metaverse.
- Virtual stores are brands’ gateway into the metaverse. Online experiential retail has found popularity across generations. A quarter of consumers have shopped online in a 3D virtual store, and among this group, 70 percent — including 69 percent of Gen Zers, 77 percent of millennials, and 67 percent of Gen Xers — have made a purchase in a virtual store. Brands looking to drive repeat purchases will want to capitalize on the unique experience of virtual shopping, which a majority of consumers find to be highly engaging. In fact, 60 percent of respondents who had previously shopped online in a virtual store indicated that they’re likely to do so again.
- Videogames are key metaverse platforms. Building out memorable, discovery-driven 3D stores isn’t the only way to engage consumers in the metaverse; these same tactics can be used to reach consumers in videogames, which are proving to be significant shopping environments ripe with opportunities for brands. Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of Gen Zers and 62 percent of respondents overall have purchased a digital item — such as an accessory, skin or garment for their avatar — within an online videogame, and more than half of respondents said they would pay up to $49.99 for a virtual product. Brands operating within the metaverse will meet the needs of consumers looking for the chicest items to clothe their online avatars, while also having power to control branded experiences they create through unique virtual worlds, islands and environments in games, which 51 percent of Gen Zers and 44 percent of millennials indicated they would be very interested in exploring.
- Brands must refine their metaverse messaging. Consumer perception is still unclear on how the metaverse is defined. Just over half (53 percent) of respondents said they’re very or somewhat familiar with the term metaverse, indicating that retail brands will need to establish clear messaging when it comes to describing their metaverse offerings to consumers. As immersive virtual experiences from brands become more commonplace, companies will need to clearly define what platforms they’re targeting and what types of capabilities consumers will have in order to engage with their products.
Companies looking to set themselves apart from the pack are monitoring the fast-evolving landscape of the metaverse and seeing what virtual offerings most closely align with their brand, both now and in the future. By working these opportunities into their budgets and defining clear three- to five-year plans for experiential e-commerce, brands can unlock significant new customers and revenue.