How will Companies Market Virtual Marketplace?
As COVID continues to drive a major e-commerce boom, retailers seeking differentiation are exploring a new virtual reality – the metaverse
The term “metaverse” was coined by science fiction novelist Neal Stephenson nearly 30 years ago, as a name for the place where people go when they don virtual reality headsets to interact within a game-like digital world. In recent years it has come to mean a kind of all-encompassing internet marketplace in which brands and retailers seek to heighten customer engagement, fintech companies seek to meet metaverse financial needs, and a slew of startups are creating entirely new virtual products, from avatars to cryptocollectibles.
“Retail is an area that’s expected to become increasingly involved in the metaverse over the next several years.” says Maury Rogow, CEO of Hollywood’s Rip Media Group. This, as Rogow notes, is to some degree a result of the COVID pandemic, which closed stores all over the world and forced consumers to shop at home via the internet. So far, global ecommerce has grown 25.7% in 2021 and is on track to increase another 16.8%. Growth at this level, Rogow observes, especially in an intensely competitive industry, is a powerful driver of change. While metaverse marketing is still relatively new, and its future unclear, it is widely expected to become a major component of successful retailers’ strategies in the near future.
Who’s in the Metaverse?
At the end of June, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told employees that the future of the company lies in the metaverse. In fact, Zuckerberg said the company’s aim is to have the public no longer see them as a social media platform, but as a metaverse company. Moreover, there currently are more than 90 startups that are building the foundations of the metaverse. Some of these companies come from the following industries: software engines, hardware interfaces, financial services, asset marketplaces, retail products, and more.
Since the metaverse is a virtual location, adds Rogow, companies can sell real estate within it. They can also develop their own cryptocurrency to use within this world. On the real estate side, companies can open stores in the metaverse, and the customer can purchase virtually to receive their items in the (real) physical world.
Southeast Asia’s RedFox Labs, an internet-technology firm, is one of the companies building its own ecosystem within the metaverse—a place they call RFOX VALT. This is a fully immersive virtual ecosystem that puts traditional commercial enterprises inside the metaverse and powers them with their unique cryptocurrency.
“In this place, you’ll find shops, billboards, art, games, meeting places and so on. Imagine you’re in the metaverse and you walk into your favorite restaurant and place an order to go. And soon after, that same order arrives at your own physical house. It gives a whole new meaning to take-out food,” says Rogow.
A single unifying metaverse doesn’t exist yet, but that hasn’t stopped companies like Facebook, Microsoft, Epic Games, Nvidia and Roblox, to name a few, from staking their claim. An August Washington Post article described it as follows: “To be a full universe, no single company could own the metaverse, similarly to how no one owns the Internet. But companies may try to monopolize their respective corners of the metaverse, just as a handful of large tech companies dominate online content today. Firms could do this similarly to how they make money off apps via subscription services, shopping carts and advertising.”
In this transition, just as in the early days of ecommerce, says Rogow, brands and retailers face a major challenge. For metaverse marketing to boost sales, recognition, and customer engagement, it will be necessary for a significant percentage of consumers to actually participate in the experience it offers. For this to happen, says Rogow, two things need to occur. The public needs to be educated on how the metaverse will affect the future of buying, and businesses need to be prepared for the next level of storytelling.
To succeed at the next level of storytelling, says Rogow, brands and retailers should make certain that the stories they are telling are as compelling and well-crafted as possible. As for the medium to tell their story, the choice should be video as consumers are used it, he adds. Video marketing is an effective tool for marketing. Videos run the gamut of messaging—from a very simple message to a special-effects-laden production and even by the use of animation. Videos capture consumers’ attention as it is the basic component of today’s online retail marketing, and it is—and continues to be—essential to the world-creating activities of the metaverse.
“There are rules for storytelling; it is important to know what they are and how best to use them. It is of dire importance that the message—the promise of the metaverse—and the consumer connect, and video is that bridge. Video will connect today’s marketing to metaverse marketing. It will be an essential part of carrying well-crafted stories into the future of retailing.”