HomeINDUSTRY INSIGHTMetaverse dubbed as the future of retail

Metaverse dubbed as the future of retail

The Metaverse has often been labelled the next big thing by experts but what exactly is it and will it change retail as we know it?

The Metaverse is a virtual universe that people can enter using virtual reality or augmented reality technologies.

In simpler terms, it is a 3D version of the internet. Once in the Metaverse, users can walk into storefronts found on the internet and shop, go to hyper realistic concerts, or interact with other people in the platform.

Still in the early stages of development,  global companies such as Google, Apple, Microsoft and Meta are investing big bucks in the hope of getting a head start in this new world.

Sean Duca, Vice President and Regional Chief Security Officer at Palo Alto Networks says mentioning the Metaverse to retail business owners makes their “ears prick up”.

Read more: Combating cybercrime: three steps for Kiwi businesses.

However, he believes the Metaverse is still a few years away before it is fully established and is considered mainstream.

So, how can retailers make use of the Metaverse?

Retailers are beginning to investigate how they can incorporate the Metaverse into their retail strategy. Similar to the online shopping experience, the use of the Metaverse for shopping experiences is expected to take off.

“Retailers are keen to see this as another channel as part of their omnichannel strategy and will see mass adoption in the next two years,” says Duca.

He adds that retailers will need to start planning for the Metaverse, because “if they miss the hype circle now it will go downhill from there”.

Rupert Deans, Founder and CEO of Plattar, a 3D and augmented reality platform says the shopping experience on the Metaverse will change the retail industry “dramatically”.

“It will fundamentally transform how we shop and will become a seamless experience,” he says.

Rupert Deans, Founder and CEO of Plattar.

For retailers to tap into the Metaverse, they need to begin looking into digitising their stores as soon as possible, says Deans. The technology used for digital storefronts are the building blocks of the Metaverse and as time goes, will become developed and more accessible.

“Technology is going to enable a new consumer base, it will help customers style living rooms, become smarter, recognise textures, recommend things.

“The machine learning will unlock a powerful new customer experience and generate a whole new outcome,” he says.

Duca says the use of the Metaverse for shopping is comparatively different to an online experience where it is a one transaction type relationship. The Metaverse is a lot more immersed, with more opportunity to get a lot more information regarding the product and retailer.

But the technology for this new universe wasn’t always this smart.

Deans says that technology has come a long way from where VR and AR originally was where “it used to be a very clunky experience” and people thought it was a “massive gimmick”.

He says the experience using the technology was a process, where customers were prompted to download a third-party app. Nowadays, the experience is much more seamless, with the use of cameras or in-store and online technology.

Covid-19 limitations enabled Plattar to further its technology and “push the boundaries” to create solutions caused by a global lockdown.

Plattar was able to support spa retailer Spa World to make use of its technology to create solutions for customers, allowing them to fit their products with the customers own camera.

Kenneth Norness, Head of Global Marketing at Spa World says that the company was always interested in tapping into the space, but it was “perfect timing with Covid”.

He says that for customers during the pandemic, it was hard to visualise spas in their own space, which resulted in Spa World getting in contact with Deans. With the use of 3D configuration and renders, customers can fit spas according to scale, ensuring they are not purchasing the wrong size.

Spa World
Spa World uses VR and AR technology as part of their retail strategy and are hoping to expand in the future into the Metaverse.

Following the introduction of the technology in their retail strategy, Norness says that the company “saw an instant uplift”. This is only the beginning for Spa World and the company has now set up a two-year timeline with the intention of cracking into the Metaverse.

To do this, Spa World is planning to create a conceptual retail store in the universe to give customers a digital and visual experience of how their spas will look in their own homes instead of looking through their phones.

However, Norness says there are a few challenges in the way before they focus on tapping into the Metaverse.

With a demographic of 35 to 65-year-olds, Spa World is waiting for its younger customer to take on the VR technology before heading into the Metaverse. Those customers will be more inclined to use the Metaverse, Norness adds.

There is “still a bit to go” in the Metaverse space, with the current technology providing “friction in the metaverse”. But it will “only continue to grow” becoming the new global shopping centre, he says.

Duca agrees, admitting that retailers still have time to plan a strategy for heading into the Metaverse, because those without one are at most risk.

“The challenge is not knowing what to embark on. Think about what you’re actually going to do,” he says.

The Metaverse comes with some risks for retailers say Duca as there are not yet any regulations in place and more potential impact for reputational and commercial damage.

He adds that fraud can exacerbate as more people join the Metaverse, creating “a larger attack surface” for cybercriminals, similar to the rise in online crime.

“Every business needs to check the vulnerabilities and issues in their tools. Security is not often talked about but there is a shared responsibility to protect,” says Duca.

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Bernadette is a content writer across SCG Business titles, The Register and Idealog. To get in touch with her, email bernadette.basagre@scg.net.nz