With Facebook’s rebrand to Meta a nod to Mark Zuckerberg’s “new and improved” version of the internet, you’re bound to have heard plenty of chatter surrounding this alternate universe where physical and digital worlds come together. With Zuckerberg’s anticipated $10 billion spend on developing this new universe, it’s something that can’t be ignored.
What exactly is the metaverse and how do we take part?
The metaverse is a space where digital representations of people known as avatars interact in all aspects of their lives, whether its meetings, social interactions or even shopping! Virtual reality is at the centre of this universe. With dramatic shifts towards increased online interactions in recent years, this combination of digital and physical may not be such a dramatic concept. Virtual social reactions are quite commonplace through hugely successful games such as Fortnite and in recent years, games like Minecraft, Roblox and VRChat which have become increasingly popular outlets for virtual social interactions. The word "metaverse" is a combination of the word "meta" (meaning beyond) and "universe" and the term is generally used to describe the concept of a future version of the internet, made up of persistent, shared, 3D virtual spaces linked into a recognised virtual universe. Although aspects of the Metaverse can be explored on a laptop or Mac, Facebook’s metaverse vision includes users with Oculus VR headsets, or augmented reality glasses. Find out more about what’s involved in joining here.
"You can think about the metaverse as an embodied internet…where instead of just viewing content—you are in it."
Have 11 minutes? Allow Zuckerberg himself to explain the inner workings of this alternative reality.
The metaverse will open up numerous exciting opportunities for brands, but there will no doubt be challenges encountered along the way. What about shopping? How will the Metaverse impact the world of eCommerce?
As a society we love to shop. Whether online or in store, shopping is a hobby many of us engage in frequently. Since the pandemic, shopping activity increased hugely with research by KPMG finding that 68% of Irish consumers do more online shopping now than before the pandemic. Convenience is a key factor in online shopping but good customer service is vital! Further research found that businesses with well-established and user-friendly digital channels had a clear advantage where 99% of Irish consumers said that a good website is important and 93% said that a company’s ability to resolve issues was important to them.
American Technology Company VentureBeat believes that the most successful retailers will be those who already have a great understanding of building experiences and fostering connections with customers. They believe that many retailers will focus mainly on the expertise of their engineers to create this metaverse experience but that they should focus on translating brand values and a sense of community into physical spaces to help build the metaverse initially and then move to developing the technology aspects.
How will shopping work?
According to business media brand Fast Company by purely being present in the metaverse, we will be shopping there, dressed in goggles and wandering around a colourful world engaging in a variety of activities. If people are going to be represented by avatars interacting in a realistic 3D environment, they will require digital everything- clothes, houses, transport- you name it! Avoiding the taxman in the virtual space won’t be possible as digital taxes will even be a thing! But what about the social aspect of shopping? Although online shopping increased during the pandemic, people flocked to stores in search of social interactions. The development of the metaverse will allow this social interaction that has been removed by digital shopping to be reignited. Imagine your weekly shopping trip with your friends where you can meet for hours, ask for their opinions on your purchases and even have a catch up in a cafe all from the comfort of your home. With the launch of Gianchandani’s Metamall, Metaverse shopping centre, (a multi-purpose shopping mall that will also include office spaces as well as separate gaming zones), this alternative shopping experience is well and truly coming to life.
“Given the complementary strengths of the physical and online channels, a hybrid structure is beginning to emerge as the new face of retail.”
Many fashion brands are looking for ways to get involved in the metaverse vision to offer real-time, more immersive and interactive experiences. With the integration of AI technologies, virtual shopping experiences in the metaverse will be able to track customer activities, monitor purchases and build up a clearer profile of their preferences enabling them to provide more personalised purchase recommendations and targeted marketing. Shoppers will even be able to browse in virtual shops, try on clothes in 3-D changing rooms and check out how an outfit looks from all angles. Choosing an outfit is only the beginning, consumers will even be able to test drive a car or visit the seven wonders of the world in real time.
There is no defined vision of how exactly this metaverse is going to look and what developments are going to be in store, but with Bloomberg Insights predicting that the global metaverse revenue could approach $800 billion, one thing is for sure, the Metaverse will be transformative for retailers. With the assistance of AI and other advanced technologies, customers can anticipate a shopping experience beyond anything they’ve ever imagined!
“The metaverse is here, and it’s not only transforming how we see the world but how we participate in it – from the factory floor to the meeting room.”