Fast fashion retailer Boohoo recently announced that it is entering the Metaverse, through a new collaboration with Paris Hilton. The move has allowed Boohoo to buy up promotional space, creating a platform that provides publicity and is a test of efficacy and ownership of “Real Estate” in this new realm. As more brands like Boohoo immerse themselves in this new virtual retail environment, we could eventually see them creating a commerce experience in the metaverse. To prepare ahead of this, it’s vital that brands and retailers don’t forget the fundamental principles of ecommerce.
In the metaverse, consumers are still buying a product and so the process around driving traffic, managing a catalogue of items and fulfilling an order will remain as well as adapting your offering to changes in trends and consumer expectations. All brands diving into this new digital frontier still have the central goal of creating a more seamless, engaging experience that removes friction from the shopping journey and boosts customer loyalty.
Creating a memorable and immersive customer experience
Recent data reveals that 93% of buyers are more likely to make a repeat purchase if that brand has excellent customer service. While in ecommerce, brands may seek to drive a memorable customer experience via compelling online events and personalised recommendations, this can be heightened in the metaverse. Here, brands can get even closer to their customers through immersive virtual reality, meaning it has the potential to be completely unrivalled to other forms of commerce.
Insights from Oracle and ESG’s Global Survey show that 84% of stakeholders forecast VR to surpass in-store CX initiatives in the next 5 years. Consumers will continue to shop around in the metaverse, so it is still important to ensure you are attracting customers and inspiring them to make a purchase. In ecommerce, this would be done via engaging copy, advice and videos, but in the metaverse brands can invest further by enhancing the way a customer encounters and learns about their brand for instance through gamification; interactive virtual games that can potentially drive rewards through engagement.
Additionally, online reviews and communities are a crucial way to build trust and interact with other customers. Testimonials and reviews are still equally relevant in the context of the metaverse but it is not hard to imagine ways in which brands and customers can work together to build communities, interact with one another and therefore achieve a new level of connection.
Flexibility and a customer centric approach
What makes meta-commerce exciting for consumers is the endless opportunities to personalise and customise it to individual needs. The ability to fulfil these customisations digitally (rather than physically) offers potential cost savings. Trends are constantly evolving and so it is imperative to be on the front foot by constantly evolving your platform and offering to suit customer needs and sales channel opportunities. This can span from the products themselves through to the entire path to purchase. Consider the evolution of online payments to augmented payments and the growing acceptance of cryptocurrency. Retailers that sell in the metaverse still need to focus on giving their customers flexible options and where possible tie this in with loyalty campaigns.
Gaining loyalty and enhancing customer lifetime value is the main goal for brands and retailers, and this does not change in the metaverse. This is driven by a customer centric approach – thinking above and beyond the product they are purchasing towards an understanding of the outcome they are looking to achieve and an appreciation of what else they might want and need.
For example, if a customer has purchased an NFT shoe from Nike, of course they may be looking to further build a look or an entire virtual lifestyle around the sports and leisure space. Nike might suggest additional products and options to the customer to help them make their world a (virtual) reality, but further to this they might understand a desired outcome. This may be (for instance) a desire to identify as ‘sporty’ in a virtual world that is not prejudiced by a lack of sporting ability in the physical world.
Brands and retailers looking to succeed in virtual commerce in the metaverse should model excellence that has already been established in ecommerce. The metaverse is just another sales channel – albeit one with distinct capabilities, requirements, challenges and opportunities. In all sales channels the fundamental principles of ecommerce apply.
A strong operational function that allows consumers to browse and easily make transactions is a no-brainer. But to build long term loyalty and customer lifetime value it’s essential to create an engaging and memorable customer experience and harness the new and immersive possibilities of the metaverse to do this effectively. Understanding your customer, anticipating their needs, and being flexible is also the backbone to success as it helps to build an authentic connection with the customer, and is relevant in growing sales and boosting long-term loyalty, whether this is through traditional retail, e-commerce or the new and exciting world of v-commerce.
It is not easy to assess whether it’s still too early to go “all in” on the metaverse. But now is the perfect time to experiment – because it is only through trial and error that the optimal way to use this new channel is learnt, and any issues and knock-on effects on ecommerce operations are ironed out.