By now, you’ve likely heard of the Metaverse. It’d be hard to avoid it – in the last 30 days there have been more than 10,000 articles referring to the term, with companies like Facebook, Epic Games/Fortnite, Roblox, Snap, NVIDIA, and Unity all in on the action. In fact, Mark Zuckerberg is betting Facebook’s entire future on it. “We will effectively transition from people seeing us as primarily being a social media company to being a Metaverse company,” he says.
So, what exactly is this nebulous digital universe and how does it impact brands and marketers?
In essence, ‘The Metaverse’ is a promise by some of the largest technology players in the world to aggressively take global connectivity to the next level. The best definition I’ve found for “The Metaverse” is:
‘A virtual world where large numbers of people can gather to play, work or socialize.’
But, wait. Don’t we already have something like this called The Internet?
Well, this isn’t your Grandad’s internet. As of 2021, the average human attention span is only 8 seconds (Oracle), and the way that consumers engage online is changing, with younger demographics already conditioned to shop and socialize digitally through social media AR filters, video games and immersive interactive, real-time content. We are witnessing a revolution in consumer behavior driven by a digital renaissance and hyper-accelerated by a global pandemic.
The Metaverse is a promise of something new, something that brings the digital experience into the real world and vice versa.
With the addition of LiDAR 3D scanners on phones, VR headsets hitting the mainstream and over 7 billion devices capable of rendering high-quality 3D experiences instantly and with insane download and latency speeds being delivered by 5G, brands now have a unique opportunity to build their contribution to The Metaverse. So what are the benefits to consumers and brands that will ignite the creation of The Metaverse now and well into the future?
MetaVRse vStore Concept (MetaVRse)
Top Ways Brands Can Innovate and Grow in the Metaverse
1. vStores (MetaVRse) – Virtual Showrooms or vStores allow customers to take tours of any space or facility and interact with all kinds of objects ranging from a complete catalog of industrial machines to small tools or engineering processes. This can be used to visualize and interact with any retail product in 3D from cars to fashion to jewelry and NFT digital assets — you name it. Try a live vStore Concept here.
2. Product Sales Training (Samsung) – This example of the Samsung Note 20 shows how product demos and sales training are almost identical and can be created once and used multiple times throughout an organization.
3. Advanced 3D Analytics and Data (MetaVRse) – Until now, the data we could collect was two dimensional. Introducing the Z-dimension allows for real time heat maps of global consumer behaviour. The future of data is here and it’s in 3D.
4. Customizers & Configurators (Mercedes) – Similar to the Nike example, this live demo allows users to configure their ideal G-Wagon. Try it!
Mercedes Benz G-Wagon 3D Configurator – Try it!
5. Testing New Designs and Colourways (Nike) – This proof-of-concept shows how consumers can design their ideal show. The information gained from this experience can be connected directly to business intelligence tools. Try it yourself!
6. Gamified Commerce (Balenciaga) – Balenciaga released its Fall 2021 collection in the form of an online video game titled Afterworld: The Age of Tomorrow. The dystopian game brings the brand to life in a fully 3D, interactive way.
7. Gamified Commerce (Louis Vuitton) – French iconic brand Louis Vuitton created an iOS and Android game where players collect 200 candles to unlock fascinating stories about the brand.
8. Social Gaming Product Partnership (Gucci x Roblox) – Step into the world of luxury fashion and experience a one-of-a-kind, interactive virtual exhibit inspired by Gucci Garden Archetypes, an immersive multimedia experience that explores and celebrates the Gucci brand.
9. Connect Data Directly Into Business Intelligence Tools (Oracle) – The global head of XR at Oracle shows how the web-based MetaVRse Engine connects seamlessly and instantly to their Maxymiser business intelligence tool.
10. Increase conversion Rates (Shopify) – Shopify has been touting the benefits of 3D for years and has built quite a substantial network of suppliers to help their merchants move into this new medium. In this CODE talk, Shopify’s head of XR talks about the immediate and future benefits of XR for retailers and brands.
11. Exponential Rise in Creator Economy (Gamasutra) – Before turning 21, the average American has spent upwards of 10,000 hours playing video games – that’s 3 times more than they’ve spent reading books. We have the responsibility to use technology and marketing to make humanity better. Unlocking the creativity of people everywhere is the dream of any brand. Being able to make money in the Metaverse is a dream for those looking to live in rural areas again with things like Starlink to keep you connected.
Robux Exchange from Real Money to buy Virtual Goods
12. Sell Virtual Goods for Real Money (Isobar) – In 2021, it’s estimated that more than $100 billion will be spent on virtual goods in gaming platforms alone. This virtual spend creates an enormous opportunity for businesses to generate real money on merchandise for virtual worlds.
13. Virtual Photoshoots (IKEA catalogue) – When You Flip Through an IKEA Catalog, 75% of the ‘Photography’ You See is CGI. Photos aren’t photos. From the furniture to the beautiful light falling on the countertops and wood floors, what you’re looking at is a CGI rendering that has replaced 75% of the ‘photos’ in the IKEA catalogs.
14. Greater Sustainability (Shopify) – Fewer returns, less travel, fewer physical prototypes and samples. This is great for your bottom line and even better for our planet.
IKEA Product Images are Rendered, Not Photos (IKEA)
15. Reduce Returns (Macy’s) – In this XR For Business Podcast interview with yours truly, the Head of XR at Macy’s explains how they saw a 60% increase in sales and a 25% decrease in returns using XR.
16. Brand placement in games. You can now drive the latest Ferrari in Fortnite. Need I say more? (Ferrari x Fortnite)
Why Act Now?
We are in the new attention economy and you are competing with AAA games and Hollywood movies for mindshare. Video is great, but it’s no longer enough. If an image says 1000 words, an interactive 3D experience says 1000 images, a 1 million fold increase!
As a means of highlighting the imperative urgency that brands need to take; Nike has experienced a decade’s worth of digital transformation in one year. Nike is currently at 50% digital direct to consumer from 25% pre-covid. (Masters of Scale).
Not only will brands be able to engage with younger consumers in their native environments, but new opportunities are emerging for savvy brand marketers, including the sales of virtual goods and real estate through NFTs (Article).
The Metaverse will indelibly change the way that we communicate, shop and socialize. In fact, it already has for younger demographics. As Gen Z grows in number in our consumer population, the etailers that haven’t digitally transformed to adapt to the Metaverse risk becoming obsolete.
The time is NOW to get started leveraging The Metaverse. The virtual economy will become as important as the physical economy. “Many brands intuitively or on purpose are moving towards the metaverse which is creating a global economy on track to exceed the current one many times over. (Forbes).
Reading recommendation: “The Augmented Workforce: How Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, and 5G Will Impact Every Dollar You Make” by Metaverse gurus Cathy Hackl and John Buzzell.
How Do I Get Started?
Things are happening fast and you will need to get started immediately if you want to keep pace with your customers and competitors. Here is a quick resource list that will help you learn more about The Metaverse and how you can leverage the underlying technologies immediately creating value for your organization.
3D models – Are the backbone of all immersive content. These can be made or captured in 6 ways, each with different levels of cost, skill and utility. Don’t worry if you don’t understand this, here is an Intro to 3D video explainer to help.
- 3D Modelling (Blender, Maya, Cinema 4D)
- CAD Modelling (AutoCAD, Solidworks)
- Photogrammetry (Capturing Reality)
- Professional LiDAR (BLK360)
- Consumer LiDAR (Samsung S21, iPhone 12, iPad)
- 3D Asset Stores (Sketchfab, Turbosquid, CG Trader)
Game Engines – These creator platforms are where the magic happens when you take 3D assets (models and environments) and make them into fully interactive experiences that can be shared with billions of people. While there are more options, here are the most important ones;
- Unreal Engine – From the makers of Fortnite, Epic Games, this game engine focuses on AAA games, Hollywood movies and photo realistic games and experiences. (Unreal Engine)
- Unity – Publicly traded (NYSE:U), with a market capitalization of over $30b, Unity powers over 60% of all mobile apps and games. (Unity)
- MetaVRse – A relative newcomer to the game engine space, MetaVRse differs in that it is 100% web-based and therefore can be published directly to the web without app store permissions or commissions. (MetaVRse)
MetaVRse Virtual Showroom Concept – Try it!
Avatars – One of the most important things in the Metaverse is not a thing at all, it is us as we decide how we want to be represented in the virtual world. Avatars can range from blocky characters (Roblox) to cartoonish avatars (Wolf3D) to photorealistic beings that are quickly becoming so real you can feel it (MetaHuman). Avatars are vital to human-to-human communication and will unlock unlimited opportunities for brands that get it.
Payments – There is nothing worse than re-inventing a communication category and bringing old world payment ideals in. Payments from within the 3D world need to be fluent and seamless across devices. Companies like Mastercard are pioneering this in their Labs-as-a-Service division. (Mastercard)
NFT’s – How can we forget about the hottest trend in 2021, non-fungible tokens or NFT’s. The ability for artists to share their work with millions while allowing a few to actually ‘own’ the digital asset and secondary markets to resell such items. As a proof of ownership and provenance of both physical and digital items, NFT’s will become more important as we see the rise of the creator economy within the Metaverse customers and players will be able to carry their avatars and virtual goods across platforms. (NFT x XR = Magic!)
“We absolutely saw AR take off in major ways during the pandemic, particularly in response to retail and shopping, with virtual try-on experiences from previewing furniture and products in your home with everyday brands like Amazon to virtually trying on luxury fashion labels such as Gucci,” says Dr Helen Papagiannis, a leading AR influencer and author of the book Augmented Human. “Once a ‘nice-to-have’ feature, AR has quickly become an essential technology for retailers.”
At the end of the day, engagement is great, but it is conversion that matters and Interactive 3D is driving conversion rates higher than any other medium that has come before. It’s putting customers in charge of their own retail experience like they would in any brick and mortar store. It’s giving them wonder, exploration, excitement and joy.
Future Consumer and Brand Benefits in the Metaverse
- Real-Time Customer Support – Imagine having customer support avatars both real and AI driven answering your customer questions instantly, in real-time. This is the ultimate customer support system.
- Build stronger emotional relationships – Shopping is a visceral experience and one that connects consumers with brands they love. eCommerce tends to be transactional and less about the experience. With The Metaverse, you can build new and lasting relationships with your customers.
- Interactive vs. Passive Content – Only 3% of the content on the internet is ‘interactive’ meaning everything else is passive viewing (photos, videos, endless scrolling). Interactive content allows for exploration and self-discovery. This is the future of the internet.
- Re-merchandise the entire store in one click – Instead of designing a store in CAD, building a physical ‘demo’ store, testing and then build-out, you simply click ‘publish’ and instantly your entire virtual storefront is re-configured. You will also get instant feedback of your new designs so you can make adjustments in real-time.
- Unlimited Aisle Shopping – Why offer what everyone else is? With The Metaverse, you have the ability to think outside the box and include products you never thought were possible to sell online. Any and every product you can imagine can be brought into virtual experiences.
- Social eCommerce – Shopping alone is ok, but shopping with your friends is magical. What happens when your friends are located around the world? Share any Metaverse experience with friends as avatars and get that rush of finding new products together.
- Enhances brand recognition – Brands that use XR and Metaverse technologies are seen by the world as ‘innovative’, ‘forward thinking’ and ‘cool’. What does your brand stand for with consumers?
- Let customers “try” before they buy with a 3D product preview – From Virtual Try-On’s for makeup, glasses and jewelry to seeing products in your home or office, 3D product views offer a deeper understanding of your products in the eyes of consumers.
- Display additional information about products shown – Why show only photos of the outside of your products if your secret sauce lies underneath the hood. Take consumers on a product journey into your product from galaxy scale to molecular level, you can do anything…it’s The Metaverse!
- Visualize product catalogs – Photoshoots are so pre-pandemic! Using virtual photoshoots saves money, creates endless opportunities and allows you to re-take any product shots instantly without setting up the whole photoshoot mumbo-jumbo.
- No display write offs – Physical displays cost real money and once created cannot be easily edited or changed. Digital displays allow you to make unlimited changes instantly with zero waste.
- Create experiences that can only be virtual – Want to fly around the moon? Want to dive under the ocean? Where would your product really shine? The Metaverse is infinite and completely yours to build…get creative!
- One-to-many personalized service at scale – With the advent of AI and Avatars, you will be able to provide personalized service from a one-to-many model that feels the consumer like one-to-one. This is the ultimate in customer service at a global scale.
- Real-time Analytics changes the game. – By getting real-time analytics and applying these to holistic consumer insights gleaned from your total omnichannel operations, you can get closer to the brand panacea of just-in-time, hyper-personalized retail experiences at global scale with infinite opportunities.
- Virtual Reality for Sales – The Oculus Quest 2 is a self-contained unit with very good visual performance, spatial sound, and excellent hand tracking at a remarkable $299 price point. The headset is capable of supporting compelling enterprise applications to experience presence for product demonstrations or virtual showrooms. A Quest 2 headset can be sent to a client for less than the cost of a salesperson’s visit and used to demonstrate a product in a much more engaging way than a typical video or slideshow.
These are but a few of the massive benefits you will leverage through XR and Metaverse technologies acting in concert to bring your new brand experiences to your customers in a whole new way.
Samsung Note 20 3D Experience – Try it!
The Metaverse unlocks the power of exponential technologies to create value for your customers at scale. The power of this new communication medium is in your hands. As ethical marketers, the future is yours to create…yours to design a world that you will be proud to tell your grandchildren you helped build. How you leverage this incredible new technology is up to you, I hope you choose to serve humanity well.
For a list of resources and links to deepen your education on the Metaverse, visit MetaVRse.com/retail
Alan Smithson’s purpose in life is to inspire and educate people to think and act in a socially, economically and environmentally responsible way. Mr. Smithson is an innovator making creator tools: Emulator , MetaVRse, and Your Director AI (Stealth) Alan is a TEDx Speaker, Podcast Host and was featured on Dragons’ Den. He was a professional DJ for more than 20 years performing for millions of people winning DJ Mag’s Innovative Product of the Year in 2011.