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Retail’s Road to the Metaverse

Written by.EXARTA

How brands interact with their communities via the internet 2.0 has suited us fine, up to a point. But we’ve got to remember that 2.0 is a one-way relationship, with brands essentially spoon feeding their customers: sharing stories, explaining why their values should matter to the consumer, and how their products will help solve everyday problems.

Sooo uh… why the metaverse?

Good question! The dynamic difference with web 3.0 lies in its ability to allow the consumer to live brand experiences in virtual retail stores adapted by specific customer demographics, psychographics, and even buying prior-habits.

By partnering with metaverse platforms, brands are partnering with the future to merge physical and virtual commerce in new ways beyond belief. Think about the fundamentals of retail at its core: creativity, vision, self-expression; fashion is an industry built on fantasy. As physical restrictions interfere with our real lives, we’re naturally shifting to more virtual formats for work and leisure… but despite the vast potential, this shift to online can make us feel a sense of separation from our identities in 2.0 alone. Alas, the metaverse comes to the rescue in its endeavours to make fashion as much a part of our lives online as it is offline.

Bringing human connection to e-commerce

Granted, all this metaverse talk can sound overwhelming, but let’s put things into perspective here: many of us will have used Microsoft Teams and Zoom over lockdown, dabbled in AR filters on Snapchat (come on, that cute baby face has us all grinning), lots of us are gamers… Really, we’re not a million miles away from co-existing between our real and digital selves. And naturally, brands are looking to build luxury experiences that support and connect the consumer’s seamless movement between online and offline. Omnichannel is only going to get bigger, so you’ve got to adapt fast to keep up with the pace.

The metaverse is the ‘new frontier of storytelling’ for brands, believes Burberry’s Global VP Innovation, Rachel Waller. Brand stores from all over the world are integrating into a virtual marketplace by developing their own direct to consumer AR and VR stores that allow customers to walk around replicas of their real-life retail stores and make purchasing choices they’re happy with. This, in turn, improves post-purchase satisfaction and, of course, the retailer’s brand image, so that traffic can be driven to their real-life and 2.0 stores, too. Think in-game billboards, brand commercials playing on car radios, and even virtual replicas of branded canned drinks. Who’s thirsty? 

Who’s setting up shop? 

Virtually all retail brands, from high to low end, have begun to develop stores in the metaverse: where virtual sales associates can assist with the buying of custom-designed NFT outfits for consumer avatars in their chosen metaverse, and have physical twins shipped straight to their real wardrobe. Here are a few of our favourite use cases and the fundamentals that power them:

Bringing communities together: Tommy Hilfiger

Launched in December 2021, digital fashion designers from the Roblox community joined forces to create the Tommy X Roblox Creators collection. The collaboration has seen a vast expansion in it’s launch of Tommy Play, a robust hub for the Tommy Jeans Pop collection, to reflect Tommy Hilfiger’s dynamic vision to offer unique brand experiences and bring its global community together. Tommy Play also allows shoppers to spray paint areas to create their own graffiti tags and unlock street dancing and parkour. On September 11th 2022, the first ever LIVE Tommy Hilfiger Fashion Show saw its debut.

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Living and breathing brand identity: Nike

Nike acquired RTFKT in December 2021, a leading brand that leverages cutting edge innovation to deliver next generation collectibles that merge culture, sport, gaming, and above all, individual creativity. Ever since RTKFT studios teamed up with Nike, a mania has soared, with much of their virtual shoe products energetically inspired by Nike signature items such as Air Force 1 and Air Jordan 1

In 2019, Nike built an immersive Fortnite Creative Mode, “Downtown Drop”, where players could race through virtual cities in rocket-powered Nike Jordans, showing off with speedy tricks while collecting coins. This powerfully illustrated the spirit of Nike’s Air Jordan – and players quickly paired game-play feelings of freedom, speed and agility to Nike’s real-life product application. The result? Consumers can always feel what Nike represents – regardless of the medium. 

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Virtual self-expression: Gucci

Retail meets the metaverse to facilitate individuals’ expression of themselves online, just as they would in the real world, through the buying of virtual goods. What’s interesting, here, is that the most successful NFT collections are not for virtual goods or trading cards, but identity and self expression of avatars. Take this example, for instance: a digital adaptation of Gucci’s Dionysus Bag with Bee, created for the Roblox marketplace, sold for over $4,000, which was more than the price of the physical version, after a virtual ‘Gucci Garden’ space (pictured below) opened its doors for two weeks in May 2021.

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The power of exclusivity: Coca-Cola

One of the biggest appeals of the metaverse retail is its exclusivity. The iconic brand’s first NFTs sold on OpenSea, with proceeds donated to the Special Olympics. Auctioned as a single lot, Coca Cola’s first digital collectibles re-imagined some of the brand’s iconic assets for the metaverse, with each NFT inspired by shared moments of friendship to celebrate International Friendship Day (July 30):

  • The Coca-Cola Bubble Jacket Wearable (1-of-1) – this futuristic take on the classic delivery uniform can be worn in Decentraland.
  • The Coca-Cola Friendship Card (1-of-1) – refreshed a 1948 artwork used in a set of Coca-Cola trading cards from the 1990s symbolising friendship and refreshment.
  • The Coca-Cola Vintage Cooler (1-of-1) – reimagined Coca-Cola’s highly collectible 1956 retro vending machines for the metaverse.
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Those lucky enough to have purchased these one-of-a-kind collectables can receive the same gratification in the metaverse as they would walking down Oxford Street wearing their brand new jacket, or showing off unique collections to friends in their real homes.

Real-life application: IKEA

IKEA’s Kreativ app that launched in June 2022, allows users to scan their current rooms, delete furniture, and visualise different placements of IKEA pieces as 3D replicas in their own home. The intuitive new experience offers customers the first authentic, fully integrated way to design and visualise their personal living spaces, from their handheld and computer devices. IKEA Kreativ fuses long-established IKEA home expertise with the new and dynamic developments in spatial computing, machine learning, and VR and AR technologies. Say goodbye to spending hours building flat-pack furniture to realise that your new cabinet just doesn’t-look-quite-right in the corner of the room.

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L’oreal

L’oreal’s ModiFace virtual try-ons encourage experimentation in ways real life simply can’t (we mean, who can try on a variety of lipsticks in a shop in an a) hygienic manner and b) a way that doesn’t allow each colour to just smudge into one another?) Virtual try-ons allow shoppers to try more products and accurately see the colours, allowing them to make the best possible purchasing choices.

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Is the metaverse worth your brand’s attention?

Ahhh, the question on everyone’s lips. While fashion and retail can feel out of reach, the metaverse is making them more accessible for millions of people, building on fashion brands’ quests to inspire creativity of individuals via self-expression in new virtual sectors, while expressing their own DNA.

Brands can invent spaces that are happy and luxurious to the average consumer. In the metaverse, you’ll find lavish digital stores with impossibly high balcony decks and opulent interiors, and consumers can travel outside to bask in the glory of always-sunny weather. One day, they may even find themselve’s shopping next to Kim Kardashian’s avatar. It’s a dream world where the impossible ceases to exist. 

Wrapping up

Inventory modernisation capabilities put the right amount of products on the rails, on the shelves, in store rooms, and the latest information at associates’ fingertips. Have a big party to go to at the end of the month? Plan your outfit and make up ahead in the metaverse. Just bought a new house? Shop for your furniture and know exactly how it’s going to look before the moving vans arrive at your front door. Feeling a little lost and limited by your physical wardrobe? Spice up your avatar with new and exclusive threads to test out new aesthetics.

Listen here: fashion and retail has always been about progress, and this new chapter in history will see it become limitless. What are you waiting for?

Want to learn more about the vast potential for fashion and retail within the metaverse space? Visit exarta.com

The article was written by Hannah Clayton, Exarta.

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