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Maximising retail experience in the metaverse

Nobody quite knows yet what the metaverse will become in the years ahead but one thing is for sure: brands need to start planning for it now. Here are 5 metaverse mindsets for retail brands to start considering now about how to approach the next big thing in retail experience.
11 May, 2022
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1. Capitalise on cultural relevance

For brands to succeed in the metaverse they need to have cultural relevance that gives them an aspirational and collectible quality that consumers will want to interact with in the virtual world. It’s a no-brainer for luxury fashion brands like Gucci and Louis Vuitton that have developed a kind of collectible cultural cache that people want to be associated with and are willing to buy into.

For brands that occupy a more ‘everyday’, mid-market position, the metaverse may seem less relevant - unless they align themselves with a brand or influencer that boosts their aspirational potential. The recent GAP x Kanye West collaboration is a great example of this because it catapults GAP to a whole new level of cultural relevance that opens up doors for the virtual world.

2. Champion the unexpected

In the metaverse, people will be seeking the surprising and the unexpected. They want virtual experiences and products that allow them to explore and express identity in a way that they can’t in the real world. With this in mind, the metaverse should be an extension of a brand, not a duplication of it. That’s why fashion houses holding virtual catwalk shows that replicate garments available in real life is a missed opportunity for more experimental, collectible digital items that consumers will crave for their avatars.

Meanwhile, brand collaborations and activations can happen at a much larger scale and can have instant global reach. The sky’s the limit. It’s a place to be inclusive, accessible, and above all: surprising.

3. Fully embrace Phygital

As virtual retail progresses, IRL stores need to have a distinctive reason to exist, rather than existing for the sake of it. And that reason lies in how they connect to the virtual experience. The brick and mortar store should be about a very personal, sensorial experience tailored to the individual consumer via their smartphone at a level that they set for themselves. The virtual experience needs to offer individuals the opportunity for infinite possibility to explore and express themselves to a wider digital community, an extension of the presence and social/cultural capital people seek to build for themselves on social media.

What’s more, there should be a seamless phygital ebb and flow between the two where physical stores become an enabler to unlock higher levels of virtual experiences, and vice versa. For example, Gucci Pokémon GO had virtual outfits that could only be unlocked by going to the brick and mortar store, seamlessly blending the digital and physical experience.

4. Transform ‘browsing’ into ‘experiencing'

Brands are set up to think within fixed limitations and set channels: stores with fixed amounts of square meterage. A website that drives sales via tried and tested routes. Social media that plays into measurable algorithms. But the rules of traditional brick and mortar retail and ecommerce no longer apply in the metaverse because it offers far more possibilities and freedom. It’s much more about experiencing and being rather than browsing. Brands should be thinking about what it’s like to explore a 15-storey virtual world dedicated to their brand, as opposed to browsing through a rack of clothes in a virtual shop or flick through images online.

5. Address future generations now

While the metaverse may feel like the latest novelty, it could well become the primary platform for retail experience in the next 10-15 years. To be a pioneer of it, or to simply foster an authentic presence in it, brands must start addressing their next generation of consumers now by inhabiting the spaces that they inhabit, rather than guessing what younger consumers want. That’s why last year’s Ferrari collaboration with Fortnite was so impactful: making the brand relevant to tomorrow’s consumers right now.

Brands that don’t do this risk facing a big - and sudden - disconnect with tomorrow’s customers while the ones who think big and strategize about how to do this now will be the ones who stay most relevant and futureproofed for what is to come.

We can’t wait to see how the metaverse evolves and are excited about the new opportunities coming our way from brands who are ready to start exploring this new frontier in retail experience.

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