The Metaverse is coming, like it or not. It will either fail tremendously, or it will transform society forever. But what is it? And what does it mean for retailers?
The Metaverse is a digital, 3D space, accessed through tehnology such as Virtual Reality headsets. Think of it like a video-game world, such as GTA (but without the robbing and shooting!), but with a ‘real’ functioning society inside of it. You can socialise, purchase goods, and even work inside of it. People are already being paid salaries to work in the meta verse, creating content, goods and being tour guides for the virtual universe, but what does it mean for retail?
The Metaverse is currently the hottest trend in tech and with big corporations, so it’s no surprise that this has become a big talking point in the retail world. However, reactions seem mixed at best, from retailers and consumers alike.
The idea of shopping in the Metaverse means that consumers will be shopping inside a virtual shop, not leaving their house or visiting the physical store. This could be both fantastic, and terrifying for independent retailers. On the one hand, you can now reach more customers, and customers who cannot travel to you for other reasons (e.g. self isolation, sickness). These people can now visit and purchase their favourite items from the comfort of their homes. However, this means that the locality aspect, and convenience, of convenience stores, exists no longer. We will almost certainly see giant corporations such as Walmart and Amazon taking up most of the space in these virtual worlds. This is a costly environment, it costs real money to set up in the Metaverse, and lots of it too! Will will almost certainly see dark stores take advantage of this, as they are designed to have no physical shop front.
But will there even be many consumers to reach? VR headsets, while falling in price, are still around £300 upwards. Such as Meta’s (Formerly known as Facebook) own Oculus Quest 2, the standard for their Metaverse. Many consumers simply can’t afford this, or won’t pay that much. There is still some resistance to the idea of living in a virtual world it seems, and losing physical interaction is not something that we are willing to do just yet.
So in short, should retailers be worried or excited about the Metaverse? Neither at this point in time. Whilst this won’t be a convenience killer, it may slightly bring a new spin to the retail world for big corporations and dark stores. If retail space within the Metaverse and the development technology is made affordable to retailers, then we may see some of us trying it out, but I don’t quite think the audience is there to justify that at the moment. Convenience thrives on interaction between customers and retailers, locality, and community spirit, people aren’t ready to lose that to computers, yet.