With industries around the world showing interest in the metaverse, retail leaders are facing the exciting opportunity to follow suit and provide customers with the ease of online shopping without compromising the benefits of the physical experience. For example, Forever 21 is getting involved by collaborating with the popular online game Roblox, allowing users to customize virtual fashion stores using Forever 21 products and then purchase the physical equivalents on their website. Nike is also creating content for the metaverse by acquiring NFT creator RTFKT and launching “Meta-Builder Sneakers,” a digital-only shoe.
The metaverse is a rich virtual environment where individuals across all kinds of user profiles can interact across any distance and still appear as though they are right next to each other, their engagements meaningful and mirrored. This digital medium has existed for quite some time, especially accessible with the popularized use of VR headsets. This concept is evolving past recreational use like Roblox and Fortnite gaming and now has legitimate functionality in our day-to-day lives. For example, offices are using the metaverse to better connect with remote employees and to offer a more immersive and inclusive work environment.
No matter the use, the metaverse creates a digital space for meaningful and inclusive interactions. From retail storefronts to schools or corporate offices, the metaverse is a powerful opportunity for extended brand experience and cohesion. Retailers can use it for additional profits and increase a brand’s reach beyond the physical retail store through mapping and sales analysis.
The metaverse may be the perfect solution to provide the necessary middle-ground between the convenience of online shopping and the immersive experience of physical shopping. And given current health crises across the globe, this technology can help lessen risks and bring the physical store experience to those uncomfortable visiting in person. Additionally, by fusing the computing capability of the metaverse into the physical world, store managers can capture the experiences from any physical interaction and make intelligent, data-driven decisions by analyzing building data, managing inventory, predicting and intercepting equipment and much more.
One such method of metaverse utilization involves using the Internet of things (IoT) to survey physical stores with sensor-driven heatmaps, showing company leadership which sections of their stores have the most foot traffic. Department stores can use this technology to determine, for example, that their men’s accessories section has the most traffic in the store, and the men’s shoes portion has the least. These analytics alert the business to investigate the underperformance of the men’s shoe department and make adjustments to improve shopper experience by optimizing cost, energy and effective space utilization.
Smaller retail stores can also reap the benefits of the metaverse by expanding their footprint. Take a typical brick-and-mortar store with functional but limited square footage to display its products and effectively house customers. Within the metaverse, the business owner can create a virtual marketplace that is infinitely larger for customers to shop comfortably. From the comfort of their home, an individual can enter the digital space of a store’s market and visualize the product, taking in the product line and the full, curated brand experience.
This approach to shopping can provide more information and a more personalized experience than swiping through product images from a store’s webpage. As an added benefit, if anyone from anywhere can enter the digital store, there is no issue of proximity when it comes to the customer base. This virtual “showroom” offers an elevated way for retailers to share their products and showcase their brand identity.
Across businesses and stores of all sizes, the metaverse presents the opportunity for incredibly inclusive, adaptive and scalable spaces and business practices. Removing the physical barriers of four walls, digital environments are built to work for any customer profile, meeting people where they are and offering an immersive experience that doesn’t hit traditional business or logistical limitations.
While some business owners may be concerned about the cost of integrating the metaverse into their business, the potential profits outweigh the initial cost of adoption. Grayscale recently valued the metaverse as a $1 trillion opportunity, exemplifying just how lucrative the metaverse can be.
With some of the top names in tech getting involved in the metaverse, it’s no surprise that other industries, like retail, are buzzing at the chance to get involved. With the continued dependence on ecommerce options, the metaverse has the potential to go beyond what shoppers have seen thus far to provide an even more immersive experience. The future of physical stores is enriched through the integration of the metaverse, creating infinite room for business optimization and growth.
Erin McDannald, CEO and Co-owner of Lighting Environments and its sister company Environments, has guided clients throughout the lighting design and construction process for over two decades. Trained as an interior designer, McDannald joined Baltimore’s New Design Light firm in the sales department in 2003 before becoming co-owner in 2009. Under her leadership, the company was rebranded to Lighting Environments to reflect the company’s expansion into lighting technology offerings for all built environments. Now McDannald is leading the company to meet the rapidly changing connected device market head-on with the launch of its new IoT company, Environments. Environments offers full-scale, adaptable solutions that holistically support businesses from end to end, from energy management to health monitoring. Further, Environments is elevating physical spaces to allow for cutting-edge interaction with a digital twin in the metaverse.