February 7, 2022 /Technology

Will 2022 see the virtual reality flagship?

virtual reality retail flagship store design

The phrase ‘metaverse’ is gaining traction in the world of brands and retail, prompting companies to explore the possibilities that can arise from virtual reality and what this could mean for the role of the flagship.

 

Before we explore further, let’s take a moment to explore the world of Sci-fi, which works in mysterious and clairvoyant ways. Back in 1984, William Gibson predicted cyberspace, hacking, virtual reality and the world wide web in his novel Neuromancer. As we all know, this became a reality just years later. In society where facetime and whatsapp videos are the norm, we can look back even to see that the first mobile phone in the 70s was overseen by Martin Cooper, who credited the Sci-fi series Star Trek as an inspirational source for his vision. Video calls happened frequently throughout the series, yet it did so in a society where this was imaginary and not reality.  It is now 2022 and it looks as if the word of the year is going to be the metaverse. Yet, if we look back close enough, this term can be found in Stephenson’s Sci-fi novel “Snow Crash” that was published in 1992. Fast track thirty years and we are at a poignant point of what will be the start of the metaverse boom. 

 

So what is the metaverse? In simple terms, a metaverse is a virtual reality space where users can interact with a computer-generated environment and other users at the same time. This is a collective, parallel reality that is created by combining more than one virtual world with others to create a new universe that is seamlessly traversed. In the world of virtual reality, brands have been inspired by this vision to create branded concepts that enable their customers to participate in a new virtual world and also connect with others at the same time. Before we dig deeper into branded examples, we should ask ourselves how did we arrive at this meta moment?

An acceleration of virtual reality communities

Covid19 has supercharged the acceleration of virtual communities, whereby we used technology throughout the pandemic to maintain both our work and social lives.  The pandemic saw a new wave of socialising via technology and this has been notably through gaming. Last summer, we explored how the likes of Gucci and beauty brands including Glossier and MAC embraced interactive gaming as part of their strategies, blending reality with the virtual world to create new paradigms for consumers in our Post Covid19 world. Now, we are looking at how this trend for virtual communities has developed and what this could look like in retail.

Brands using the metaverse to connect with their audiences:

With consumers already in a climate of socialising online through gaming and collaboratively through live streams on social media, the next natural step has been for brands to create their own metaverses. Here we explore two examples that came to light last year:

 

Bravo’s Virtual Bazaar and Shoppable Instagram Series

 

Back in November 2021, Adweek reported that the broadcaster’s cable brand Bravo launched their interactive shopping platform Virtual Bravo Bazaar on Black Friday. The virtual shopping concept included several rooms dedicated to different network series such as Southern Charm,The Real Housewives franchise and Summer House. The rooms displayed several items for sale, including home décor objects and clothing items. Customers who tuned into the live streams could shop the products whilst watching the show.

 

Nikeland – A Roblox Flagship Metaverse by Nike

 

Nikeland is Nike’s response to the metaverse world. It is free to play and is inspired by the brand’s mission to turn play into a lifestyle for kids. Kids are invited to create an account whereby they can engage in real-life exercise through the touch of a smart phone whilst connecting to the gaming platform Roblox where they can create a character and participate in sports. The essence is that moving in real life powers the user in what they do in Nikeland. Games include parkour, dodgeball or jumping on a trampoline. To boost brand equity, the interface is inspired by Nike’s headquarters in Oregon. In incentivising the user, the movement created by participating in the games translates into ‘‘sports superpowers’ which includes long jumps for avatars or having extra speed.

 

Trading on the socialising factor, Roblox enables players to have a multiplayer set up where they can enjoy games in their ‘yard’ (this is the name given to a player’s home within the Nikeland space). Once this is set up, other players receive a notification about a game happening in someone’s yard and they can decide whether they want to join in or not.

The Virtual Flagship Opportunity

Nike and Bravo are not alone in their creation of metaverses to sell products during a virtual space. Skate brand Vans’ metaverse with Roblox enabled customers to buy digital skate gear. Gucci also teamed up with Roblox to release Gucci Garden, a unique and interactive virtual exhibit, selling a virtual handbag for $4,115. These metaverses created by brands empower their customers to escape into a new branded reality and to connect with others at the same time. They are able to engage, actively participate in the experience and shop. It is an escapist, social and creative experience for people to enjoy and brands have the opportunity to design this in a way that reflects their brand identity and vision, whilst also generating sales at the same time. Whilst metaverses are in their infancy, there is huge potential for brands to design retail experiences and to create their own virtual flagship that fosters community and also provide USPs for customers who chose to engage with their concept.

To take a look at your retail strategy in light of this information, get in touch with our team.