Even before the metaverse is fully realized, brands are already making big investments in the space. Retailers are investing heavily in live commerce to get the first-mover advantage once immersive online experiences take off.
While companies like Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon spend billions on developing and shaping their own virtual networks, fashion brands like Nike, Forever 21, and Gucci are jumping in. Investment in tools and strategies designed to facilitate commerce within the metaverse is on the rise, not just among global retail chains, but even among some smaller brands.
Immerss Co-Founder Patrick Jacobs says his company is working with a number of retailers to leverage live commerce as a way to blend the physical and digital worlds. Jacobs says sales rates with live commerce are on par with or better than in-store conversion rates, and that merchants jumping into live commerce now will be better prepared for the metaverse boom in the future.
“Metaverse shopping, underneath all its immersive and rich experiential features, is still just e-commerce,” Jacobs says. “Without question the shopping experience will be amazing, but that missing human-to-human interaction of an online purchase will still exist without live commerce inserted.”
The ability that brands and retailers have today to connect live with online customers will eventually spill over into the metaverse. For example, a guided, personalized co-shopping experience could be led by an actual person armed with easy-to-share product data. Those types of immersive commerce strategies are preferable to one-off brand experiences or PR stunts.
Although the metaverse is still mostly conceptual at this point—despite Mark Zuckerberg staking his company’s future on the new ecosystem—brands aren’t waiting for mainstream adoption to stake their claim. Coach and Ralph Lauren are already beginning to assemble virtual storefronts. Jacobs says he anticipates seeing more digital land grabs on metaverse shopping malls, lots, and store fronts as retailers up their investments into metaverse real estate in the coming year.
Preparing for the Transition
One approach smaller brands favor is to invest in tools and channels that they can easily transition into the metaverse. For example, the custom boot maker Lucchese has invested heavily in live commerce through its website and online channels. Live video is one of many sales tools that has the potential to seamlessly transition once the hardware and software necessary for the metaverse becomes more readily available.
“[Brands] using live commerce already [are] way ahead of the game and should already be seeing nice lifts in conversions,” Jacobs says. “Our core offering at Immerss enables brands to use 1-to-1 digital clienteling via shoppable chat and live video to connect with online customers. Conversion rates with that solution hover around 30%, so a massive improvement over traditional e-commerce rates, which are typically less than 2%.”
Despite being one of the biggest trends in e-commerce, live commerce has been tricky for some retailers to implement. Amazon has been working at unlocking live commerce for three years, having launched Amazon Live in 2019. Despite some early interest from brands and influencers, the shoppable video streams have largely gone unnoticed.
That could change as the metaverse expands, though. While the future of the metaverse is still largely unknown, Jacobs predicts that virtual worlds could soon become an extension for retailers to connect with shoppers. He’s already seeing retailers mapping out their strategies and purchasing digital real estate to launch virtual stores.
“This is a new world for both the retailer and consumer, so finding balance and paying close attention to customer queues and feedback will be critical,” Jacobs says.
For retailers that are interested in exploring the metaverse for its marketing and sales opportunities, Jacobs recommends taking an integrated approach and considering how the metaverse can be used to drive in-store traffic, in addition to online sales.
“Once built, the ability to drive a transaction within the metaverse will be interesting to watch,” Jacobs says. “What do metaverse shopping conversion rates look like compared to that of in-store or live commerce or traditional e-commerce? Does metaverse shopping just become more of a fun experience than an actual buying one? All too early to tell, but forward thinking brands are already well down the road, and there is no turning back.”