The metaverse – a 3D version of the internet that exists parallel to the real world – may seem like a far-off concept. However, a recent global survey by Accenture found that 83% of consumers are interested in making purchases via the metaverse. 64% said they had already purchased a virtual item or taken part in a virtual experience or service in the past year.
While we are still some ways from the metaverse becoming mainstream – 48% of consumers surveyed by CommerceNext had never heard of the metaverse, and the technology needed to support it – virtual worlds are already having an interesting impact on brand expression. The big question is how do you communicate and raise awareness of a brand in an entirely virtual world explored via technologies such as AR, VR, AI, 3D avatars and more? New Ways to Communicate Brand Values Digital versions of stores are part of the equation; however, the metaverse gives brands the opportunity to break free of the idea of what retail has to look like. The four walls and a roof approach of bricks-and-mortar retail was one of necessity. In the metaverse anything goes.
Nike used its real-life HQ as the inspiration for its Roblox-based experience. Visitors explore fields and arenas rather than a store, taking part in mini games and creating their own. Vans also chose gaming platform Roblox for its metaverse concept. Vans World is a virtual skate park where visitors can complete tricks and take part in daily challenges. For a brand who is closely tied to skating culture, it’s an authentic new way for Vans to connect with customers.
Timberland has taken its real-world innovation lab to video game Fortnite to give consumers some insight into its design process through the medium of gameplay. Players can try on virtual versions of Timberland’s boots and test them in three biomes that reflect where they might be worn in real life – forest, desert and snow. Communicating Without Senses Products like clothes are one thing. But goods that involve senses like smell and taste are particularly difficult to communicate to customers digitally. For example, we’ve seen perfume brands struggle for years to create effective TV and online campaigns for products. Yet, we’re seeing food and beverage brands in particular exploring the possibilities of the metaverse for brand expression. Coca-Cola launched its latest flavour - Coca-Cola Zero Sugar Byte - within Fortnite before the physical product reached stores. This included virtually ‘tasting’ it. Heineken chose metaverse platform Decentraland to launch the world’s first virtual beer earlier this year. The brand took a playful approach, acknowledging the inherent paradox of a virtual beverage, to build rapport with users.
In 2019, Wendy’s teamed up with Fortnite to create a branded experience as part of the Food Fight game mode. Players had to destroy burger freezers, which promoted Wendy’s brand policy of not using frozen beef. McDonald’s, Miller Lite, Panera Bread, Magnum and more have also started to dip their toes into the metaverse. And they won’t be the last. McKinsey & Company recently estimated that the impact of metaverse would be worth as much as $5 trillion by 2030. With so much money on the table, companies will be looking for opportunities to bring their brand to life in the metaverse. The exciting thing is that they may not do it in the way we expect. By Jack Stratten, Head of Trends at retail consultancy Insider Trends.