By Piyush Gupta, CEO, VOSMOS
The last two to three decades have seen an unprecedented wave of technological transformation across a myriad of industries. No industry exemplifies this more than retail. The emergence of the internet and smartphones had been the primary catalyst for this seismic shift, with traditional brick-and-mortar stores being supplemented by e-commerce websites and apps. However, the evolution of the retail industry did not stop there; social media have increasingly become the new frontier of retail, offering a novel way of shopping online.
In the latest chapter of this digital revolution in the retail industry, the Metaverse presents a tantalising glimpse into a future where individuals can live, work, and shop in an entirely virtual realm. This immersive and interactive virtual world is poised to unlock a new frontier of possibilities, and savvy businesses and consumers are keen to explore its full potential.
The Metaverse promises to be a game-changer, reshaping the retail landscape and redefining how brands and consumers interact with each other in the digital age. The prospect of Metacommerce is an exciting possibility that has captured the imagination of consumer brands worldwide. By embracing this vision, they hope to provide customers with real-time, immersive, and interactive experiences like never before.
For consumers, this new era of shopping transcends space and time, enabling them to visit and explore virtual stores, try on clothes in 3D fitting rooms, and even take in 360-degree views of products. But why stop at just clothes or everyday goods? Metacommerce expands shopping possibilities beyond the physical world’s constraints. Customers can immerse themselves in a virtual world where they can do more than just purchase items – they can engage in experiences that stimulate their senses. For instance, taking a test drive in a new car or getting a beauty consultation from a personal advisor, all in a digital realm. In addition, the convenience of trying on accessories, sunglasses, and makeup online to see how they look and feel has revolutionised the shopping experience.
As the Metacommerce vision gains momentum, consumer brands are eager to tap into the limitless potential it offers. The integration of AI technologies in virtual shopping experiences is set to revolutionise the retail sector by enabling brands to track customers’ activity, purchase history, taste, and demographic profile. Armed with this invaluable data, retailers can offer personalised clothing recommendations and encourage purchases in real time.
An article in the Harvard Business Review (‘How Retail Can Thrive in a World Without Stores’) in 2017, had highlighted the internet as the contemporary and primary gateway for retail stores. It went on to emphasise that brands who fail to integrate the best aspects of in-store shopping with the convenience of online shopping risk being left behind in this competitive landscape. The growing popularity of virtual shopping is a nod to that prediction. The Metaverse has the potential to further transform the retail industry by bridging the gap between virtual and physical shopping experiences.
Globally brands and retailers have already taken the plunge, offering customers the option of doing transactions in a purely digital environment. Using VR headgear linked to their smartphones, consumers can tour a virtual store that replicates the physical retail experience. By offering this unique experience, businesses can create a strong emotional connection with their customers, encouraging them to become repeat customers and to continue shopping with them.
As virtual reality-based shopping experiences continue to gain traction, the industry faces several practical challenges that must be overcome to ensure widespread adoption. One of the most significant hurdles is the digitalisation of sensory elements like texture and smell, which are crucial for replicating the in-person shopping experience. In high-end and in-store retail, the human interaction element is also critical, and finding ways to replace the customer service/salesperson who aids shoppers on their journey will be a crucial factor in the success of virtual shopping.
Additionally, the industry must find ways to achieve economies of scale and reduce costs to address the consistent financial challenges faced by e-commerce businesses. This will require the development of industry-wide Metacommerce frameworks in various areas of e-commerce, similar to the payment standards that have been successfully implemented.
As we increasingly move towards a digital world, brands must prioritise engaging retail experiences to stay ahead of the curve. Creating an immersive environment in the Metaverse demands the use of visual and auditory cues to evoke emotions and create a lasting impression. While it may seem like a daunting task, brands must remember that they have attempted similar feats before and should continue to push boundaries to provide their customers with truly transformative experiences.