What is the metaverse and how will it change ecommerce?

Marketing
Oct 15, 2021
Henry Bewicke
Henry Bewicke
Content Wtiter
5
Min to read

Many of the world’s biggest tech companies, including Microsoft and Facebook, have started touting the concept of the ‘metaverse’.

The term has seen a huge increase in search volume over the last couple of years..

Search volume for the term 'metaverse'


In this blog post, we’ll give you a rundown of the metaverse as a concept and the impact it will have on ecommerce in general.

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What is the metaverse?

The metaverse isn’t a reality yet. But, in a decade it certainly could be, given the projected investment by many leading tech companies.

In simple terms, the metaverse is a virtual reality/augmented reality world that will allow people to shop, play games, hang out with friends, and enjoy all sorts of other entertainment from the comfort of their own homes.

The metaverse has the potential to fundamentally change the way we live our daily lives, if done right. It will create something more akin to the cutting edge digital worlds we’ve all seen in science fiction movies and books.

People will hop into the metaverse for a work meeting at 12 and be able to catch up with an old friend for a virtual lunch right afterwards. In the evening they can do a bit of after work virtual shopping followed by some fully immersive gaming. All of this will be through a simple VR headset.

Woman using a VR headset in her living room

The metaverse is an exciting prospect for consumers. But it’s arguably an even more exciting prospect for big business.

It will create an entire new digital economy based around people’s interactions in and with this new digital world.

Ecommerce in particular will be fundamentally different in this new interactive metaverse, seamlessly blending the best parts of in-store and online shopping.

Live shopping has taken off recently for the same reason — it offers consumers an exciting new blend of interactive shopping features. 

But the metaverse will probably give rise to completely new features that we’ve never seen before.

Metaverse definition

At the moment there are a number of slightly different visions of the metaverse. Most of the businesses working on metaverse-related projects have different ideas.

But they’re all based around the core metaverse concept — a multifaceted virtual world that will offer individuals a diverse range of digital experiences and opportunities to interact with others.

It will contain a wide variety of different but interconnected digital environments. These will offer spaces for leisure activities, social gatherings, shopping, work and much more.

But achieving this vision of a singular metaverse will require close collaboration between lots of different parties. Unless features are aligned and intellectual property and frameworks are shared, we’ll never get a true metaverse.

A man gaming on a PC

Visions for the metaverse

Let’s take a look at a few examples of metaverse projects being worked on by some big companies.

Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg spoke about his grand vision for the metaverse in a recent interview with The Verge, describing the it as “an embodied internet, where instead of just viewing content — you are in it.”

Facebook has big plans for the future, and it clearly wants to position itself as a leader in this new era of the internet. At the moment, their metaverse offering includes Oculus (VR headsets), Portal (video calling device) and Horizon Worlds (an open world VR game environment. But there’s still a long way to go until Facebook has a cohesive metaverse offering.

Mark Zuckerberg predicts that an entire digital economy will spring up around the metaverse. This prediction seems inevitable, but it remains to be seen what Facebook's metaverse will look like as of now.

Roblox

Online gaming platform Roblox also has aspirations to be a leading figure in the metaverse transition.

Roblox witnessed a huge rise in popularity over the past couple of years, reaching a valuation of $38 billion when it listed on the NYSE in March 2021, up from just $2.5 billion back in 2018.

One of the main draws of Roblox is its customizability. Players can build their own mini games (or experiences, as Roblox calls them), and even earn money for their creations thanks to Roblox’s in-game currency — Robux. 

“Roblox’s vision for the metaverse is to create a platform for immersive co-experiences, where people can come together within millions of 3D experiences to learn, work, play, create, and socialize.”

Roblox’s current offering isn’t geared towards much outside of the setting of ‘gaming’. But Roblox is probably the best example of a single platform that encompasses a wide variety of different online worlds.

Roblox allows players to create their own avatar with custom accessories and use them across all in-game experiences. This will be very important to users in the mature metaverse, whatever that may look like. But it also has huge potential as a source of revenue.

A booming in-game economy has already sprung up around the sale of custom accessories. Roblox recently hosted a virtual in-game experience in collaboration with Gucci. Players could buy a variety of Gucci branded in-game clothes and accessories — one virtual Gucci handbag even sold for $4,115

The main challenge will be finding out a way to transfer virtual Avatars and items across different platforms once the metaverse starts to come together as one environment.

Epic Games/Fortnite

Fellow games platform Fortnite has its own vision of the metaverse that is somewhat similar to Roblox’s.

Fortnite wants to build upon it’s huge popularity as a game, and expand its offering to become a place for other types of digital entertainment.

It recently teamed up with Ariana Grande who performed her virtual Rift Tour for millions of Fortnite players. They can buy virtual merchandise from the tour, including an Ariana Grande avatar, an emote, a glider that they can use in-game. Fortnite also unveiled a range of Balenciaga branded in-game accessories.

A person playing Fortnite on a Nintendo Switch

Promotions in the metaverse

Promotions will be just as important in the world of the metaverse as they are in ecommerce at the moment. Even in the early iterations of the metaverse that have been built by the likes of Roblox and Fortnite, a clear digital economy has emerged.

This will only continue to grown as other brands like Facebook develop the metaverse outside of gaming, incorporating other forms of entertainment and VR business environments. In all of these cases, promotions will have the same impact as they do now. They'll be used to increase the attractiveness of in game items, keep customers within one section of the metaverse, and encourage new people to enter the metaverse via referrals.

Normal ecommerce businesses will also still have their own operations. They'll probably just be hosted on the metaverse as a 3D, VR-accessible shop instead. One thing that will be essential in the metaverse ecommerce environment is flexible headless software systems, as businesses will need to prepare their stores for all sorts of different media and virtual formats.

To find out more about headless commerce systems, download our ebook - Building a headless commerce stack from scratch.

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Best Practices for loyalty programs
How to gain a competitive advantage
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