Metaverse Mania: The Latest in Retail’s Hottest Trend - Retail Innovation Conference & Expo

Metaverse Mania: The Latest in Retail’s Hottest Trend

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Whether they’re contrarians or loyal believers, it seems like everyone in the retail industry is talking about the metaverse and the much broader topic of web3.  
 
Web3 is defined as the next iteration of the internet, which is decentralized and is developed through a series of distributed technologies like blockchain. In the Web2 era, big corporations controlled the flow of information between individuals and companies. But with Web3, individuals will have more control over the creation, sharing and exchange of data, and that includes virtual worlds and even digital items. This is where the metaverse comes in.  
 
Some try to define the metaverse as a specific channel or thing. But Cathy Hackl, renowned metaverse expert and strategist, has explained that the metaverse represents “your digital lifestyle catching up to your physical life.”  
 
She continued in her interview with CoinDesk: “Even Snapchat, the things that they can do with the camera for augmented reality – that’s a metaverse play. That’s all part of the metaverse. I have a pretty expansive view, and part of that comes from working in VR (virtual reality) hardware, spatial computing and augmented reality hardware. And when people think the metaverse is only virtual reality, or only fully immersive, I think that’s a pretty narrow view. And a pretty dystopic one.”  
 
Hackl expanded upon this view during her keynote at the Retail Innovation Conference & Expo. She took the stage with Roxanne Iyer, VP of Global Consumer Engagement at Clinique, to discuss their unique partnership and how they developed a metaverse strategy that harnessed the true power of web3 by converging digital and physical, and including their community every step of the way. While their session was brimming with valuable metaverse insights, a lot has happened since our time in Chicago.  
 

The Latest Metaverse Projects & Partnerships 

More experts and trusted firms are attempting to quantify and predict the impact of the metaverse — especially for retail. McKinsey recently revealed that the metaverse has the potential to create $5 trillion in value by 2030, and retail brands are eager to get a piece of that value. Here are some of the latest projects and initiatives that really stood out to us:  

Lowe’s takes “world building” literally  

The home improvement retailer is making 500 3D products available to download for free through its Open Builder asset hub. Metaverse creators will have access to virtual goods like lighting, patio furniture, area rugs, kitchen and bath accessories and décor accents, all inspired by items from the retailer’s real-world shelves. These goods will be interoperable across platforms, so creators can use these digital assets in both metaverse and non-metaverse virtual environments, including gaming platforms, augmented reality activations and for creative design purposes. 

American Eagle gives NFT creators IRL cred 

The true value of the metaverse is being able to bring digital and physical worlds together in a meaningful way. (Product designers and store strategists, fear not! You are more important than ever.) American Eagle is working towards this finish line by taking an incremental approach to testing, learning and innovating through different metaverse projects. The retailer’s latest initiative is the closest to the “phygital” goal: an NFT store! Now, this isn’t like your typical NFT store where a brand launches a collection of NFTs for purchase. AE partnered with a variety of NFT designers and creators to develop designs for products. These items were used to develop unique designs for physical goods. Who knows, maybe they’ll one day offer digital twins to these designs in the future!  

Timberland brings design program to Fortnite 

Through a partnership with Epic Games’ Unreal Engine and the CONCEPTKICKS Innovation platform, Timberland launched its semiannual CONSTRUCT: 10061 design program within Fortnite. The program gives users an inside look into the real-world design process through a virtual, immersive gaming experience within a custom Timberland Fortnite island, as well as a series of boot designs that also were available via AR. CONSTRUCT: 10061 Fortnite launched at Milan Design Week, which means the brand also gave visitors access to physical prototypes, live gaming and real-life interaction with the creation of a fifth “Metaboot” within Fortnite.  

Rebecca Minkoff goes all-in on NFT benefits 

I always love seeing how Rebecca Minkoff and her team embrace new trends and push tech limits. The designer’s foray into the metaverse and, specifically, NFTs, is no exception. Her latest collaboration with Mavion.world was an NFT capsule collection that launched alongside NFT.NYC. While the collection gave NFT holders direct access to Mavion.world’s independent designers, it also masterfully blended digital and experiential benefits, including tickets to the Rebecca Minkoff NYFW show, a $500 Sofi Card to spend on cryptocurrency, a limited-edition accessory item handmade by one of the five independent designers from Mavion.world and more.  

More Tips for Metaverse Success 

These four examples show that brands and retailers are eager to test the creative opportunities within the metaverse. Most of all, they’re looking beyond immediate, up-front benefits and are thinking about long-term community building and loyalty creation. In an era driven by decentralization and individual contribution, brands always need to think about the unique role their fans and consumers play. If you want to get more insights and best practices to help you develop your metaverse strategy, here are some recent articles from some of Retail TouchPoints’ incredible community of experts:  

 
We’ll continue to see new projects and best practices emerge from the metaverse through 2022 and beyond. So, you best believe we’ll be touching on related topics during the 2023 Retail Innovation Conference & Expo. If you have led a killer NFT project, helped launch your brand in a new world, or are using AR in new and innovative ways, we’d love to hear from you. We’re looking for new speakers for our 2023 and you can submit your session idea now!  
 

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