Dave Flanagan, Chief Product Officer at Sitecore
Fashion and retail brands are already taking impressive steps into the metaverse and creating genuinely exciting experiences for their fans. Gucci has developed virtual clothes and accessories for digital avatars, while ‘Nikeland’, a store in the metaverse, has welcomed over 7 million people to date.
Though the metaverse is still searching for its breakthrough moment, where the virtual world and its associated experiences are understood and used by the mainstream, the concept already offers a real opportunity for retailers.
To succeed, brands must first have the right tech in place, then be open to continued experiment across virtual worlds, which will allow them to discover where they can offer the best experiences for customers.
Retail in the metaverse isn’t about everyday shopping
Shopping experiences won’t suddenly move to the metaverse, and in-person and online shopping aren’t equivalent retail experiences to shopping in a virtual world. Instead, the big opportunities for brands are finding ways to impress and excite consumers.
Fashion and retail brands always need new approaches to stay relevant and delight shoppers – whether that is a high-profile fashion show or a novel brand collaboration.
The metaverse could be the perfect platform for this. Luxury retailers can use virtual worlds to give consumers access to fashion shows or to the ability to browse limited edition goods that aren’t available in the physical world. Selfridges opened its first metaverse store during Decentraland’s Metaverse Fashion Week in March where shoppers could see exclusive NFTs by Paco Rabanne and Fondation Vasarely in a virtual store, which was also equipped to take crypto payments.
User experience needs improving
One factor to consider when planning a metaverse strategy is the current challenges with user experience. Right now, the metaverse broadly requires users to make blockchain-based payments with digital currencies. While this means they are borderless and avoid exchange rates or currency conversions, the process is also new and unfamiliar to many. Add to that the challenge of setting up cryptocurrency wallets or making crypto conversions to bid for NFTs as a way to transact, and the barriers are clear.
To overcome this, brands may provide the option for metaverse payments to be made using traditional methods like credit cards, making commerce in the metaverse more accessible.
Get the strategy in order first
As well as getting payments right, any brand looking to embrace the metaverse needs to first have the right strategy in place. Much like with the rise of AI and machine learning, there is a risk of brands wanting to embrace innovation before they are ready.
At its core, the metaverse can be seen as another commerce platform, and getting customer experience right is not dissimilar from best-practice online and in apps. For example, it is critical to have a good handle on customer data so experiences can be tailored and personalised to individuals.
While brands are getting to grips with what works best in the metaverse, they must have a testing mindset, where it is possible to quicky trial different types of content, assets and experiences, learn what is most engaging and exciting for shoppers, and cut those that don’t work. The metaverse won’t transform retail overnight, nor will it become the only platform to reach customers on. But over time, more people will shop in virtual worlds, and brands must take a customer-led approach to how they enter the space.