The metaverse has become a trending topic among tech buffs as the internet evolves. While many notable brands and retailers, from Calvin Klein to Mitsubishi Electric, have already come together to form the foundation of the metaverse, it’s expected to really take shape over the next decade.
The metaverse is a network of digital spaces created and connected through cloud computing, blockchain, IoT, AR, VR, XR, and 5G. Roblox and Decentraland are the first two large communities that brought retailers, restaurants, and entertainment together for people to explore in the metaverse. Ultimately, more virtual spaces will become populated by people through digital avatars, who will work and hang out there, shop there, and claim ownership of their digital belongings.
It may still sound like science fiction to some, but several companies have already started to contribute to the emergence of the metaverse. Brands within the retail industry have been evolving quickly, from brick and mortar to online, and are now exploring new innovations within the metaverse. Big box stores like Target and educational institutions like FIT and Parsons are just a few of the big players in this fast-evolving field.
This evolution will significantly impact the future of retail and how brands present their products and services to customers, using digital experiences and virtual shopping. This concept is new and exciting, but its full impact on brands and retailers will take some time to develop. Here are some functional areas that are already transforming brands and retailers within the metaverse:
- Customer support/experience
- Scenario planning
Read on for a deeper look at how the metaverse can change brands and retailers.
Increase in Sensory Experiences
Senses play a critical role in the retail experience. One of the most effective ways to create an appealing retail environment is to appeal to customers’ senses, creating an emotional connection. As the retail industry moves further into the digital world, brands must stay focused on creating retail experiences that appeal to all the senses. This can be a big challenge in the metaverse, where brands must rely mainly on sight and sound to create virtual spaces that feel as real as possible.
While marketers must never lose sight of the impact that a visually appealing environment has – colors, textures, and shapes can be used to create a virtual storefront that grabs attention and draws customers in immediately – It’s essential to consider clever and innovative tactics that incorporate touch, feel, and taste to build the most immersive experience for shoppers when marketing for businesses in the metaverse.
Creating an appealing storefront is one thing, but keeping consumers engaged and emotionally connected once inside is quite another. This is where creativity, innovation, and an understanding of consumers’ emotions really come into play. With some focus and careful attention to detail, any retail brand can create an immersive virtual experience that’s second to none.
Interactive Customer Service Experiences
Connecting with customer service is nothing like it used to be, and as the metaverse evolves further, customer service experiences are expected to get even more interactive. Some brands are already set up so customers can interact with an agent’s avatar as they guide you through the interaction, allowing you to understand and learn by “doing.” One of the first examples of a brand to present such an experience is Lancôme launching its first five virtual pop-up stores with ByondXR in 2021.
Virtual customer service agents can pull up screens, maps of physical space, policies, and more as if they’re right there with you. Such immersive interactive experiences may take a little more time than a phone call, but they allow customers to feel valued.
Many organizations rely on phone calls and automated chats to deliver customer service. Such organizations can leverage the metaverse to pivot to a fully immersive, virtual-first experience. In such an experience, customer service agents can have digital twins who assist customers with exchanging, assembling, or repairing products in a shared digital space. Not only do such immersive experiences make everyone’s lives easier, but they provide opportunities for brands to build long-term trust with their customers.
Some examples of brands already taking advantage of this technology in their customer service include:
- French supermarket chain, Intermarché
- Portuguese Utility Organization, Aguas do Porto (AdP), a Portuguese utility organization
- Unilever PLC
- International research collaboration, The Living Heart Project
This also includes digital marketplaces like Amazon, as well as other businesses in nearly every industry, including fashion, electronics, automotive, architectural, and food and beverage.
Merge Offline and Online Commerce
The metaverse is a crossroads where offline and online commerce merge into one completely immersive virtual experience. There’s no doubt that e-commerce is sure to accelerate in the metaverse over the coming years.
The metaverse wouldn’t be able to exist without augmented reality and the growing popularity of the technology surrounding it. Augmented reality allows brands to offer totally immersive, completely unique digital experiences that engage consumers. AR experiences allow consumers to be fully confident in a product before they make a purchase decision. This one factor alone provides customers a vast amount of convenience while helping merchants broaden their customer base and reduce the return rates of their products.
The metaverse also provides a whole new set of opportunities for personalization and product discovery. Through metaverse technology, brands can offer shoppers a highly personalized digital experience like no other. Now more than ever, consumers want what they want when they want it, and the metaverse will enable brands to customize the shopping experience to remove limitations and reach more shoppers than ever.
The metaverse will also close the divide between e-commerce and social media. This is already happening with product reviews on Amazon and beyond. The metaverse will make it easier than ever for brands to build engaging communities where customers can engage directly with the brand and its loyal followers and customers.
Shift to Virtual Workforce Training
No matter your learning style, most everyone learns better in immersive, hands-on situations. When workforce training is immersive, development takes on a whole new meaning. Imagine if you had access to real-time coaching while training for a new job. As leaders and team members work with digital avatars in the metaverse, this technology will take on a new shape and continue to improve team performance immensely.
Corporate training and development are already taking advantage of all the benefits immersive technologies like XR, AR, VR, and AI have to offer the workforce of any industry. The more these immersive technologies are applied in the metaverse, the smaller the disconnect between theory and practice will get. Recent economic forecasts predict that as early as 2030, 23 million jobs will be impacted by AR and VR, potentially boosting the global economy by $1.5 trillion.
It’s All About Innovation and Emotion
While it’s uncertain exactly what the metaverse will look like in the next five or six years, the above applications give a realistic glimpse into the present for brands and retailers in the metaverse. As systems continue to evolve, uses and applications could become even more comprehensive.
As human beings move further into a digital world, it’s essential for brands to focus on building retail experiences that appeal to emotions. In the metaverse, this means making the most of sight and sound to create virtual spaces that feel as real as possible. It also means using innovation to allow for touch, feel, and taste to become a part of the metaverse shopping experience, offering interactive customer service experiences to build trust, merging online and offline commerce for convenience, and shifting to virtual workforce training. While this may seem challenging at first, there’s nothing that hasn’t already been done in the real world.
Efrat Tzory is the VP of Marketing at ByondXR, a retail technology company that developed a proprietary XR-enabled eCommerce platform to help brands and retailers take a step into the metaverse and create and manage virtual stores and showrooms that disrupt the industry by providing scalable immersive solutions that increase customer engagement and sales.
Efrat is a senior marketing and strategic advisor and a leading digital expert with extensive experience and a long record of proven achievements in senior management positions and strategic consulting. Efrat has over 20 years of experience in helping companies grow not only in awareness but in value, too. She has developed and executed B2B and B2C marketing strategies for top-tier consumer brands, and the largest energy companies in Israel, as well as startups and financial firms.
At ByondXR, Efrat is responsible for digital marketing strategies, creative marketing strategies, and growth management.