Whilst the metaverse may still feel like something from a sci-fi film, its impact has the potential to revolutionise how customers shop. And the time to start planning it into your customer journeys may be a lot closer than you think.
Whilst still in its infancy, Gartner, Inc predicts that by 2026, 25% of people will spend at least one hour a day in the metaverse for work, shopping, education, social and/or entertainment. (Gartner 2022)
Brands like Nike, Coca-Cola, Gucci, and Bloomingdales are already building virtual experiences and testing out different ways to replicate physical experiences without customers having to leave their homes. Many big tech companies such as Facebook, Google, and Microsoft have also announced plans to invest in the metaverse, and start-ups focused on the metaverse are also receiving significant funding.
Frank Berman, chief marketing officer at Bloomingdales said “Virtual showrooms in the metaverse is the next phase of where the retail industry is going, and it provides an opportunity for customers to have an engaging, immersive experience that connects them to the brand and our store while also enabling us to see what users are most interested in through unique data insights.” (Tech Crunch 2022) Though we're still not sure exactly how the e-commerce in the metaverse will look, there's no denying that it's place in the buyer journey is inevitable.
The changing commerce landscape
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the implementation of virtual experiences and online shopping; customers are already much more open to commerce in the metaverse than before 2020.
The metaverse is expected to provide more immersive and interactive shopping experiences, opening opportunities for brands to get really creative with how they engage their buyers. Customers will be able to explore virtual stores, try on clothes, and interact with products in a way that is not currently possible with traditional e-commerce websites. This is expected to both build better brand relationships and drive sales for B2B and B2C businesses alike.
New opportunities for social commerce are likely to emerge. In the metaverse, customers will be able to interact with each other, share recommendations, and create communities around products and brands. This is expected to drive more word-of-mouth marketing and create new opportunities for businesses to build experiences customer-focused experiences.
The metaverse also has the potential to create new business models. Virtual goods and experiences could be sold in the metaverse, and businesses could create virtual real estate and charge for access or advertising. New shopping models will emerge including Virtual to Physical (V2P) and Physical to Virtual (P2V). We’re also expecting to see a new kind of D2C shopping originating out of the gaming world, Direct to Avatar or D2A, which in turn could shift the way brands strategise customer engagement. (You can read more about D2A here)
So how can B2C, D2C and even B2B retailers get started with the metaverse?
As metaverse becomes a very real shopping channel, brands need to consider exactly how they can build this into their buyer journeys. But how much should this be a focus for your brand? The answer: it depends.
Search interest for metaverse boomed in the last quarter of 2021, but had fizzled out by around March 2022, showing that the initial hype of this new channel actually wore off quite significantly. However, this doesn’t mean the metaverse is no longer relevant, far from it. In fact, Mckinsey suggests “with its potential to generate up to $5 trillion in value by 2030, the metaverse is too big for companies to ignore.”
So how can your brand get started with the metaverse? Critically, you need a customer-first approach, wading through the publicity stunts to dig into the actual value of adding virtual experiences to your customers' buying journey. Forget about how to make your brand look great, and think about exactly which pain points this virtual addition will solve in your buyer journey. Do this correctly, and your brand will reap the rewards through increased satisfaction, loyalty and reputation.
Like any channel, implementing a metaverse element to your brand will require time, strategy and a clear understanding of your expected ROI. Knowing where the opportunities are within your customer journey to inject a virtual experience is critical, and needs thorough research to see what is possible.
You’ll also need to consider whether your technology stack gives you the flexibility and freedom to seamlessly integrate new virtual experiences. A comprehensive digital experience platform is essential.
Without a doubt, a composable DXP is the best architecture for this. Brands can create their own technology stack comprising of API-first vendors which allow your experience to materialise on any platform. This infrastructure also allows a way to build and manage virtual environments in a modular, reusable way. Developers can create components, or "building blocks," that can be used across multiple environments.
In addition to its modular design, Composable DXP also allows you to easily connect additional functionality that are essential for building and managing the metaverse. For example, you may need support with your 3D and VR environments, integration with popular game engines, or new tools for creating and managing user accounts and virtual currency.
Composable DXP will become an even more essential tool for brands looking to create truly unique and memorable experiences for users. Though the metaverse may feel far away, as it continues to evolve, start thinking ahead and planning smart technological investments that support commerce of the future.
It's difficult to predict exactly when metaverse commerce will become the norm, as it depends on a variety of factors including technology advancements, consumer adoption, and regulatory environment.
It’s worth conducting some research, and potentially experimenting with some low cost virtual experiences to see how this could work. Talk to an agency about your ideas. Remember, you don't have to navigate this blindly and busy schedules can mean in-house teams just don’t have the capacity to strategise until it’s too late!
Reach out to our team to book a call to find out how you could get started with your plans, and the technology you may need now to build the foundations for the future of commerce in the metaverse.