Personalization: the key to optimizing the metaverse shopping experience
Yesterday, shoes were sold in-store. Today it’s online. Tomorrow it will be in the metaverse.
This article was originally published in Internet Retailing.
When we talk about the metaverse, many brands think, ‘how can we create a store in a persistent virtual space where digital natives are so comfortable?’ The way we shop online now seems very natural, possibly because a website is much like a printed brochure from 25 years ago transferred to a webpage 2.0. However, 50 or 100 years from now, the probability of looking for content via a website will be close to zero. We will be working, living, and shopping in a much more intuitive virtual environment.
What does this mean for retailers now?
For now, brands are experimenting. They’re using the early metaverse to develop awareness, engagement, loyalty, and learning. Luxury brands like Burberry, Dolce & Gabbana, Hermes, and Gucci are using NFTs to generate interest. However, over a quarter of UK retailers say they are preparing to enter the metaverse in the next year to improve customers’ shopping experience. Almost a third (32%) said this is where they intend to deploy VR and 8% said that they intend to increase advertising opportunities using VR, according to a new report by consulting firm Baringa.
There is a huge potential for retail in the metaverse to make online shopping more engaging. Allowing consumers to explore and discover better than they can now will bring online shopping much closer to the in-store experience they love, without them ever leaving home. It could also have an enormous impact on the viability of many physical stores.
Getting ‘lost’ and discovering new things in the metaverse store
When a user enters a metaverse store for the first time, brands can strategically show larger more visually appealing shelves so the user can see instantly what the store has to offer. However, for returning shoppers, brands can reveal more product lines to surprise, delight and excite them. It immerses them in the experience, allows them to ‘get lost’ in the environment, and discover new messages, details, or associated products. That’s the great advantage of the Metaverse when compared to a two-dimensional environment. Metaverse stores move us towards much more intuitive virtual environments, with vast amounts of content. And spaces where personalized virtual assistants are allocated to each user to show the NFT relevant to them based on their specific tastes.
However, with half the UK public (49%) feeling like their attention span is shorter than it used to be, we can’t expect consumers to go to a Metaverse and spend thousands of hours looking for content. They will only spend time there if they’re continually provided with relevant experiences. It’s why personalization will be even more important in the metaverse, where customers have an abundance of choice.
Web 3.0 brings us back to the human era
In the last two decades, we’ve seen unprecedented and accelerated change. We’ve moved from offline to online, from web 1.0 to web 2.0, and now to a new era of web 3.0. This will extend our virtual worlds further than ever and – as with the metaverse – in a much more natural way, where we are free to explore and discover content.
For instance, consumers will enter a virtual environment with augmented reality and digest content, view products, admire art, and listen to music. This approach is much more ‘human’, multi-sensory, and emotional. It’s also a far cry from the current experience of looking at a static page, going to a bar, and typing in what we want to find or buy.
But how do we do this?
First brands have to define what kind of experience each user wants. This is what defines the structure of the metaverse or each store or area of the metaverse. What’s inside is the individualization. To do this, brands must place the user at the center of their strategy. However, there are two trends that seem to be going head to head. On one hand, there are content platforms like TikTok, which have basic video content that consumers simply swipe. Algorithms are refined without users making any effort, which makes them popular and ensures rapid growth.
On the other hand, there are now early adopters driving immersive content, where entire worlds are built around each user, and allow more sophisticated layers of discovery and deeper longer lasting engagement. In the end, it’s likely there will be a crossover between these two. Companies will be able to deal with users who will want to explore quickly and spontaneously and those that want a more meaningful and fulfilling interaction. The user will undoubtedly be in the middle with their preferences very much dependent on their mood, circumstances, and timing.
Data will only be shared through relevance and trust
Whichever way experiences are customized, everything relies on users sharing their data voluntarily. This means reassuring them that one) it’s going to be handled well and two) they’re going to benefit from more relevant information and better experiences. This is key to the metaverse and will likely become a legal requirement over the long term.
Right now, most companies are not ready for the metaverse. Those that have already dipped their toe in this space have done so primarily as a PR stunt. However, this is likely to change fast. There are now a lot of brands looking at how they can create a metaverse store, trying to understand what experience they should create and how they should personalize it (or not).
Some may opt for a certain style of metaverse store, but to get the most out of their investment, they will want to create personalized experiences to not only sustain but increase engagement. What we’ll see is virtual stores of the future being personalized to the user.
It will be interesting to watch as brands evolve with this new technology – as they try new things, test, iterate, and grow in the metaverse space. Over the next few years, virtual stores will create vast amounts of traffic and there will be more and more activity in 3D environments.
But what will be most interesting will be how brands connect this to individualized content to create truly personal, innovative, safe, and trusted experiences for users.