Almost every big technological innovation has its skeptics. Smartphones and social media were no exception. But what's unique or different about the metaverse is that it's not a single innovation but the culmination of many that is now propelling it forward.
Through a combination of multiple technologies, including 5G, 3D, AR, VR, blockchain, cryptocurrency, cloud computing, and even social commerce, the possibility of creating a network of 3D virtual worlds is now very real. And this time, there's a serious amount of investment behind it.
The involvement of every big tech company from Amazon to Microsoft is a strong indicator that radical change is on the horizon. Not to mention, the high-profile rebranding of Facebook to Meta, coupled with a $10 billion spending plan and 10,000 new hires towards its new metaverse division - in 2021 alone. But what does it all mean for retailers and eCommerce players today?
While that's a question that many are still asking, others like Nike, Balenciaga, and Samsung are diving straight in, reaching lucrative new markets and earning dividends in customer loyalty.
The Rise of Virtual Connectivity
The concept of the metaverse is still fresh but virtual connectivity in eCommerce is already well established across consumer shopping habits. Virtual reality devices are experiencing significant growth in adoption. And by 2025, nearly 75% of the global population and nearly all people who use social apps will be frequent augmented reality users, according to a study by Snap and Deloitte.
Coming off the heels of the global health pandemic, AR and VR became essential tools for products that were traditionally more difficult and riskier to buy online, like furniture. Where the ability to visualize and experiment with products in the home before committing to purchase was a game-changer for many eCommerce shops.
Now, after experiencing the benefits and ease of use, the application of AR/VR technology in other sectors is picking up. In fact, 71% of shoppers said that using AR would make them shop more often, while 40% would consider paying more for the feature, according to a recent study. Although a wider embrace of VR is required to fully immerse in the metaverse, the emergence of this new channel is increasingly seen as a natural path forward.
Who and What Is in the Metaverse?
The prevailing idea is that the metaverse will be like a parallel virtual reality, where people will be able to do all the things they currently do online - work, shop, play, and socialize - but in 3D. Think of it as "the internet brought to life, or at least rendered in 3D", writes NPR.
Currently, there are a few separate and nascent metaverses owned by companies like Roblox, Tokens.com, and Epic Games. Although the vision of companies like Meta and Microsoft is that these will all become interconnected and fully immersive within the next decade.
However, eCommerce companies shouldn't wait for when or whether that will happen. Since millions of people are already logging into these existing metaverses daily, opening whole new markets and revenue streams for companies looking to target these demographics. And with customers increasingly used to mixed reality experiences, the next generation of eCommerce is already emerging.
Choosing a Metaverse Platform
A lot like choosing a marketing channel or retail outlet, different metaverse platforms cater to different audiences and purposes. Gaming platforms, for example, are ideal for creating memorable and engaging gamification experiences of a brand, as well as providing a huge market for buying and selling virtual goods.
For example, Nike, one of the first to invest in the metaverse, chose to premier NIKELAND on gaming platform Roblox, reaching 47.3 million daily active users worldwide. Although visitors can play games and dress up their avatars for free, digital goods will soon be available for purchase. Fashion icon Gucci is already tapping into this new source of revenue, reportedly selling a virtual handbag on Roblox for $4,115.
Reaching 56 million monthly active users, the infamous Fortnite by Epic Games is also focused on music concerts, monetizing virtual goods from tours, and brand advertisements. Last year, singer Ariana Grande performed her Rift tour online for millions of Fortnite players, while brands like Nike, John Wick, and the NFL advertise to users directly in the game.
Taking a different approach, Samsung launched its own metaverse destination on the Ethereum blockchain-powered Decentraland. Primarily used to create and monetize content, the platform sold $7.18M worth of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) in the last week alone. Several of Samsung's smart TVs now come with an NFT Platform app for discovering, purchasing, and trading in digital art.
These are just some examples of the exciting new opportunities open to retailers right now. To help widen access, NVIDIA is building out its Omniverse platform as a place for any company or designer to build and manage complex 3D workflows for any of the above or future metaverses to come. Partnering with companies like ARsenal by CGTrader, a leading provider of 3D content and digital assets, to supply content.
While we stand at the beginning, the opportunity for retailers to get in front of millions of active users to promote or sell physical and virtual goods has officially arrived.