What the Metaverse could mean for retailers - Retail Council of Canada
Marketing & Merchandising | Digital Retail & Technology

What the Metaverse could mean for retailers

November 22, 2021

This article is provided by Reshift Media, a Canadian-based digital marketing and development organization specializing in retail businesses.

With a rebranding strategy and a complete name change, Facebook Inc. has converted to Meta and introduced us to their version of a new “parallel universe” they are developing called the Metaverse.

You have likely heard this term tossed around recently, but what does it mean and how will it impact the retail industry? Will “see you in the Metaverse” be a new way catchphrase? Many questions have arisen since the announcement, and for good reason. Facebook has 2.74 billion monthly active users, and no other social media platform offers retailers that kind of marketing reach. This article will explore a bit about what the Metaverse is and what you might expect in this virtual world in terms of retail and the consumer experience.

What is the Metaverse?

Explaining the Metaverseand all of its unique intricacies is a bit difficult, largely because there is not a great deal of information available right now to the public and because it is not yet live. From what we do know, it is essentially a virtual world powered by 3D technology, augmented reality, and virtual reality. The Metaversewill include social spaces where you can engage with others, learn, work, exercise, and much more.

If you haven’t already seen, Mark Zuckerberg demonstrated the Metaverse during the Facebook Connect 2021 conference, which you can watch here

While experts say that we are at least a decade out from any kind of Metaverseproduct or service, there are companies actively working on creating this parallel world that will look and act differently than any kind of virtual reality we are familiar with today. When created, the Metaversewill exist in the present time on an ongoing basis; it won’t be turned on or off like a virtual reality game, for example. In other words, it is a whole other world to engage in for as long as you want to be there.

The popularity of virtual and augmented reality

There have been outstanding advancements made in the 3D/augmented/virtual reality world, and many retailers have already joined in. Several large companies have created apps that let their customers see their products on them or in their homes, and the power of augmented reality adds an entirely new layer to shopping that didn’t exist prior.

Interest among consumers has been around for a while, and as more companies incorporate these technologies into their business strategies, this interest increases. In fact, 66% of consumers say there are particularly interested in using AR when they make purchases, and many want to be able to visualize how a product fits into their lives when shopping online.

As many retailers know, the e-commerce space gained a momentous amount of popularity and advancement, particularly through the pandemic. Therefore, utilizing these virtual/augmented technologies is an even greater way for retailers to tap into the e-commerce space even more and create an omnichannel shopping experience that unites digital and physical worlds for consumers.

How could the Metaverse impact the retail industry?

As previously mentioned, the Metaverseis an entirely new virtual world to engage in, so when it comes to the retail industry, think along the lines of virtual stores, malls, company branding opportunities, and more. Of course, this is not yet created, and there is no way of knowing how the public will respond to the Metaverse. However, if it is a success, the Metaverse could be online shopping x1000.

Restricted by our device screens, online shopping does not necessarily provide consumers with that tangible quality that in-store shopping does. Although retail e-commerce revenue in Canada is projected to be on a steady incline for years to come, many consumers enjoy the experience of entering a store and seeing/engaging with the product(s) they are about to purchase. Of course, online shopping provides a convenience factor that many appreciate, and so when retailers combine in-store experience and digital elements, you can better meet your customers’ needs.

The Metaverse, in all its virtual glory, can provide that combination to consumers, as users can engage with products that they want to purchase in real-time using their own personalized virtual avatar. For example, if a company creates a virtual storefront in the Metaverse, users can enter the store, walk around, see the products they want to buy, engage with others, find out more about the product(s), and then make a real purchase. This completely flips any idea we once had of physical and virtual stores and creates an entirely new way of shopping that would also bring along new consumer behaviour patterns.

This idea also then poses the concept of a direct-to-avatar business model, which is not entirely far-fetched. What clothing will the avatars wear? Is that something that will someday hold significance as what we wear in real life does in our society now? Answers to these questions will take many years to formulate, but the idea of purchasing clothing and products from real brands using real money for a virtual avatar could be something to expect in the Metaverse.

All of this means that retailers would need to create a positive Metaversepresence and translate the in-store and online experience they have now, in this new virtual world. This could mean purchasing virtual real estate, finding experts to digitally create the storefront and items sold, ensuring there is enough inventory available for those that purchase from the Metaverse, and so on.

The Metaverseis very much a “to be continued” situation as of right now, so retailers shouldn’t be scrambling to come up with virtual stores or avatar-fitting sweaters. However, it is a good idea to think about your brand’s digital presence and how to integrate 3D/augmented/virtual reality offerings. Whether or not the Metaversecomes to life, the use of this type of technology is on the rise with consumers.

About Reshift Media

Reshift Media is a long-time partner of the Retail Council of Canada. The company is a Toronto-based digital marketing and development organization that provides leading-edge social media, search and website/mobile development services to retailers around the world. Please visit www.reshiftmedia.com to learn more.