Ecommerce and the metaverse: What we can expect
Finally, the metaverse is here. Or at least a metaverse vision has.
Facebook, now known as “Meta,” uploaded a video of Mark Zuckerberg pitching the idea for the metaverse on YouTube on October 29, 2021. In theory, we will be able to move through and engage with environments that we can currently only view through a screen thanks to the so-called “embodied internet.”
This shiny introduction to the metaverse undoubtedly got everyone talking, whether it was floating in a spaceship with our friends in avatar form (the “new profile picture,” according to Zuckerberg) or attending concerts by our favorite artists.
But will the internet as we know it to be replaced by the metaverse? What does this mean for already-established online-only industries like eCommerce?
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We’re going to take a dive into the newly minted metaverse – and some of the ways that ecommerce is already harnessing the principles of virtual connectivity.
What Is the Metaverse?
It makes sense that both brands and customers are having a hard time understanding what the metaverse is. This is because, at least according to evangelists like Mark Zuckerberg, the metaverse doesn’t actually exist yet.
Additionally, there is no agreed-upon definition of what the metaverse actually is, as is the case with many other emerging technologies.
The metaverse is not the result of a single invention; rather, it is an expansion of a number of already-in-use technologies that have gained widespread consumer adoption.
These innovations—including AR, VR, blockchain, cryptocurrency, and social commerce, to name a few—come together to form the metaverse, according to commentators. An ever-expanding network of 3D-rendered, real-time virtual spaces that serve not only as additional selling channels but also as a self-sufficient economy.
The metaverse can best be understood as the ultimate blank canvas. By addressing newly discovered needs and pain points that are specific to digital spaces, brands can go beyond simply replicating what already exists in the physical world in the metaverse.
The building blocks of the metaverse
Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality
Over half of consumers (61 percent) say they prefer to make purchases from websites that incorporate augmented reality technology, despite the fact that AR/VR still seems like science fiction. The fact that 300,000 users have already signed up for Meta’s Horizon VR platform indicates their intention to dominate this market.
For retailers selling goods that are typically challenging to buy online, AR and VR are quickly becoming indispensable due to their wealth of applications across the shopping experience. Due to the challenge of determining a product’s suitability online, home furnishings, cosmetics, footwear, and fashion frequently have high return rates.
It’s not surprising that the Collins Dictionary selected Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) as its word of the year for 2021 given all the hype surrounding the industry.
These blockchain-based digital assets have evolved into everything from memes and collectibles to popular culture and fashion, and there are still many more innovations in the works that will astound us.
NFTs are a complex innovation, but what makes them a crucial component of the metaverse is the foolproof method of ownership authentication they provide. NFTs can be used by both brands and consumers to speed up transactions or even to develop new digital products that boost their value proposition.
Video games typically come to mind first when we think of immersive digital environments. However, the methods used to keep us playing rather than the realism of the environments make gaming an interesting activity.
This practice of designers exploiting our inherent competitiveness to persuade us to invest more time in an activity is known as “gamification.” Gamification uses risks and rewards to draw in customers. The risks and rewards increase in size as we move forwards.
It’s not surprising that gamification will have a significant impact on the metaverse given the formula’s success. Gamifying the retail experience is the key to creating more immersive brand experiences because consumers want to be entertained, even when performing mundane tasks like ordering groceries online. This can be done by giving customers the opportunity to earn loyalty points by participating in app-based games or by giving them “tokens” that can be used to purchase various rewards.
The metaverse and ecommerce: What the metaverse means for merchants
You don’t have to look far to find examples of how ecommerce has embraced the possibilities of the metaverse. While the likes of VR headsets are still a long way off for mainstream consumers, there are numerous brands that are diving into this new digital frontier. Their goal? To create more seamless, engaging experiences that remove friction from the shopping journey and boost customer loyalty.
Breaking down the silos between offline/online channels with virtual shopping
Brands have been working to create consistent experiences across e-commerce, brick and mortar, and social media ever since the term “omnichannel” became the ultimate buzzword in the retail industry.
Because of this, some companies have created completely new integrated, dynamic digital stores that combine the best aspects of online and offline shopping.
Consumers can now “walk” around a store while enjoying 3D-rendered store displays made possible by AR and VR technology thanks to virtual shopping, which has transformed ecommerce from static product catalogues to real-time experiences. It’s a first step towards truly bridging the gap between the ease and convenience of online shopping and the immersiveness of traditional retail.
Providing greater personalization
With 80% of consumers saying they are more likely to buy from a company that offers tailored experiences and 75% of consumers finding the concept of “living customer profiles” valuable to the shopping experience, personalization is quickly becoming the baseline for any brand that wants to develop customer loyalty.
However, in e-commerce, personalization frequently ends with product recommendations or discounts. This might increase conversions, but it doesn’t entice customers to explore your brand’s ecosystem and engage with the culture that underpins your product line.
It’s not surprising that Nike was among the first companies to invest in the metaverse since it has long been a leader in digital connectivity and innovation. In addition to registering a number of trademarks for digital sneakers and clothing (and thus paving the way for the eventual release of NFTs), Nike is also forging ahead with custom virtual experiences.
What does the metaverse future hold? Whether we will ever be able to physically enter the metaverse and exist in a different world is still up for debate. Whether businesses like Meta are able to develop the architecture required to create an open-source standard will really determine how the metaverse develops. If not, virtual experiences developed by companies like Nike and Charlotte Tilbury will probably be exclusive to those brands.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the need to engage customers online have fueled the growth of virtual shopping and gamified digital experiences. So, even though Ready Player One-style experiences are still a ways off, we can anticipate that they will start to become more prevalent in e-commerce as a whole.