Metaversal Truths

Jan 31, 2022 by Krystina Gustafson

Is the metaverse the biggest marketing and commerce opportunity of 2022, or the biggest bubble waiting to burst? It depends who you ask. In reality, though, the answer is far more nuanced.

The number of news articles referring to the metaverse has spiked following Facebook’s name change to Meta in October 2021, hitting 12,000 in November and December. That’s more than 3x the references from the prior nine months, and a dramatic spike considering there were fewer than 400 references in any prior year, according to data from Factiva cited by The Washington Post.

The rise of the creator economy and explosion of online gaming spurred by the pandemic have also contributed to the metaverse buzz. According to Virtual Brand Group, an agency that designs, builds and operates brands’ metaverse experiences, users spend an average 78 hours per month on Roblox. That’s more time than they spend on YouTube, TikTok, Facebook Instagram and Netflix combined, VBG says.

So, what exactly is the Metaverse?

Again, it depends who you ask. There’s debate over everything from whether the metaverse will exist solely in augmented or virtual reality to if it’s already arrived.

At its most basic level, the metaverse is a decentralized virtual world where participants can interact with other users, purchase digital assets, and create an avatar or persona that can be used on any platform (read: it’s not owned by any single tech conglomerate). It relies on technologies including augmented or virtual reality, blockchain, cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which are unique digital assets managed via a blockchain.

Of course, the metaverse isn’t a new concept. The term “metaverse” was first coined in the novel Snow Crash, released in 1992, and has persisted in popular culture through books and films like Ready Player One. It’s not even the first time consumers have been able to interact in a virtual world and buy digital property or clothes. Second Life’s virtual world launched in 2003, and after a similar burst of excitement and rush to build virtual storefronts, a decline in users caused these pioneering shops to shutter.

Today, many consider video game platforms including Roblox, Fortnite and Minecraft to be the best examples of the metaverse, as they provide a place where players can come together to engage and purchase products in a fun virtual environment.

How are retailers and brands getting involved?

Many retailers and brands’ early metaverse strategies are being led by CEOs and CIOs. And while there are obvious opportunities for marketing and brand building, most are excited about the commerce opportunities the metaverse will unlock.

Sky-high prices for digital goods are an early proof point that brands can monetize this space. A virtual Gucci bag famously sold for over $4,000 in Roblox–more than its price in the physical world. Other companies including Macy’s and Coca-Cola have successfully sold NFTs; Coca-Cola’s first NFT collectibles generated over $575,000 in an online auction.

Elsewhere in the metaverse, Vans and Nike have both launched environments in Roblox, 3D immersive virtual spaces featuring exclusive branded virtual merchandise. Experts say an even bigger opportunity exists with product drops that straddle the virtual and physical worlds.

Nike’s shown its commitment to the metaverse by acquiring RTFKT, a technology company that creates virtual sneakers and collectibles. However, most brands and retailers will choose to work with agencies and technology partners.

Where is this headed?

For executives who’d like to serve as metaverse evangelists in their organizations, the Shoptalk 2022 agenda will cover the latest innovations and learnings from the metaverse, including which aspects hold the most promise longterm.

On the Shoptalk agenda, brand and retailer executives will be addressing the metaverse in multiple track sessions, including: Redefining Experiential Marketing: Exploring Opportunities Across Physical, Digital and the MetaverseThe C-Suite in Conversation: The Changing Role of the Marketer; and Tomorrow's Technologies and Their Potential to Transform Retail. Our session on Groundbreaking Digital Commerce Technologies: Social, the Metaverse and Beyond will highlight VC-backed technology companies whose solutions are designed to help retailers and brands seize new online selling opportunities. 

Relevant speakers include Martine WilliamsonCMO at RevlonJenny Campbell, CMO of Kate SpadeBob Sherwin, CMO of Wayfair; and Neha Singh, the Founder & CEO of Obsess

On the Main Stage, attendees will hear from Jamie SalterCEO of Authentic Brands Group, whose Forever 21 brand recently partnered with Virtual Brand Group on Forever 21 Shop City in Roblox.

Last but not least, Shoptalk is producing a mini-documentary that will provide a comprehensive look at the role of the metaverse in retail.

We hope to see you in Las Vegas March 27-30, 2022 to hear your thoughts on the metaverse and its future in retail.

Happy Sunday,

Krystina Gustafson
SVP Content