Can the metaverse transform e-commerce?

Published on 29/04/2022 by Emilie Audubert and Eduardo Garcia

At the intersection of multiple technologies, the metaverse is shaping up to be a potential revolution for e-commerce companies. Learn more in this Capterra article.

e-commerce in the metaverse

On October 28, 2021, the concept of the metaverse gained renewed interest in the world of new technologies. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, announced the group’s name was changing to Meta, along with his intention to deploy nearly 10,000 employees in Europe entirely dedicated to the project.

Although it was popularised by the video game industry, the metaverse is now attracting growing interest from the corporate world for the potential it offers for online sales and marketing. Nike is one of the companies that have already indicated their willingness to invest in it: the brand has launched its own metaverse called Nikeland, in collaboration with the Roblox platform, where users can now purchase items for their own virtual doubles.

How can this concept, considered by Gartner to be one of the most influential future technologies to watch, play a significant role in the evolution of online commerce? What makes it such a powerful innovation for customer experience?

Discover Capterra’s insights on the new concept.

What is the metaverse?

Definition of Metaverse

Derived from the contraction of the words “meta”, meaning “beyond”, and “‘verse” from “universe”, the metaverse is defined as an immersive and connected digital world where its users, taking the form of avatars, can go about their usual activities. Alongside Facebook/Meta, which has been identified as a potential leader in the development of the metaverse a number of companies have also indicated their willingness to engage in the development of this type of digital universe.

Although the metaverse may seem like a novelty, the concept has been around since 1992 and has seen several developments before the announcements made by the various players in the current digital industry.

A virtual world born of fiction

The notion of the metaverse first appeared in Neal Stephenson’s science fiction novel “Snow Crash“. The main protagonist of the novel lives in a virtual world with a personalised avatar, a term popularised by Stephenson’s novel, accessing a metaverse through special glasses and headphones.

This dystopian novel has been cited several times as a major influence on the development of the metaverse because its vision is regarded as a reference by leading figures in Silicon Valley, such as the founders of Google and Amazon. The book identifies the main criteria associated with the development of the metaverse as defined by Zuckerberg, namely:

  • User immersion through the use of an avatar and specific technologies (connected network, augmented reality and virtual reality.
  • Access to a digital world that can be entered or left at any time
  • The permanence of certain elements (purchased objects, real estate, neighbourhoods, and streets to be explored)

The video game sector spearheads the beginnings of the metaverse

While the concept of the metaverse may have originated in fiction, very real elements of this digital universe have emerged. The video games industry was the first to use the type of code that Facebook wants to develop.

The game platforms Fortnite, Minecraft and Roblox share common features with the principle of the metaverse: a space where a community of players can socialise around activities that transcend the game itself. We have seen events such as virtual concerts by real artists. Online shopping and sales activities have also taken place, with the option to customise avatars with exclusive clothing from brands such as Balenciaga, or art sales via NFTs.

While the world of video games offers similar potential to that of the metaverse, there are fundamental differences between the concepts. The number of users remains limited, and users cannot access different digital worlds (e.g. from Fortnite to Roblox) without having to disconnect from each platform. Furthermore, the integration of non-entertainment activities, such as virtual work meetings or distance learning activities, has not been included. These are the kinds of activities that companies focused on the design of the metaverse are aiming to develop.

Social distancing has led several companies to rethink their customer engagement strategy. Borrowing from the world of video games, gamification is one approach to immersing the consumer and providing an experience free of physical constraints.

By offering entertainment activities related to the brand, as Disney did with a virtual treasure hunt in their theme park, this principle can be used to maintain a special relationship with customers.

This principle can also be used internally to improve the motivation and performance of employees around tasks that are deemed not to be fun. One example of the application of gamification is earning points by completing informative quizzes on standard company safety standards.

Opportunities for online business in the metaverse

Given the favourable conditions for the development of online sales, with a year-end turnover for eCommerce at around £185.22 billion pounds and a 20.5% yearly growth in 2021, the metaverse provides potential for new development opportunities for businesses. 

New potential for multi-channel presence

With the advent of social networks, many companies have been able to seize the opportunities represented by multi-channel selling. The growth of e-commerce has also been developed in line with the growth of consumer habits, with online shopping increasing, especially in the wake of the pandemic.

While Facebook/Meta has declared itself as one of the major players in the future of the metaverse, other companies have expressed their desire to develop their own metaverse. Adidas has announced the creation of its own digital universe, the Adiverse, in collaboration with the Sandbox platform. The company has marketed digital accessories and associated exclusive physical products.

Fashion companies are not the only ones to jump on the bandwagon: players in the restaurant, education and entertainment sectors, such as Netflix, are involved in projects linked to the metaverse.

Providing a variety of sales platforms to customers is an important consideration for businesses. Having an optimised multi-channel sales strategy allows them to expand their visibility and presence online while integrating their more traditional physical sales channels.

Multi-channel e-commerce software can help companies to centralise the management of their different sales channels.

Towards a new generation of marketing?

From virtual fitting rooms to digital versions of stores, V-commerce (virtual commerce based on augmented reality or virtual reality) cutting-edge technologies are already in use to promote new brands and product experiences to customers. The integration of these technologies into the metaverse will be able to offer customers the possibility of an immersive experience and allow them to test the products offered for sale in a lifelike way in 2D or 3D.

Influencer marketing is one of the other trends embraced by the metaverse. This principle has already become widespread for many businesses who are not afraid to call upon influencers to promote their products and brands to their followers. According to the Influencer Marketing Hub, influencer marketing could be worth €15 billion by the end of 2022 (£12.6 billion), making it one of the fastest-growing sectors.

While some actual influencers could enter the metaverse, other options have also been devised by leading brands. For example, Prada introduced the public to Candy, a virtual influencer, who has been chosen to represent the brand. Other influencer initiatives have emerged in Asia and America, where some avatars such as Lil Miquela are recording sales of $7,000 (about €6,196) per post. 

Whether carried out by real or virtual influencers, influencer marketing allows companies to amplify the reach of their message to a targeted audience. By promoting products or services to their online community, influencers can be used to increase sales and deliver valuable brand visibility.

Influencer marketing software can help you manage the selection and tracking of influencers.

Challenges for the metaverse

While the meta-verse offers new opportunities for brands to explore, it is still a very challenging area.

One of the first challenges is technological. If the concept of the Metaverse advocates immersiveness, this requires, above all, the right equipment. For example, Facebook had already invested in the sector by buying the Oculus brand, but the market for virtual headsets and glasses, although growing, is still young and under development as far as the general public is concerned. 

Another important issue is the legal regulations around and within the metaverse. In addition to questions relating to the security of information, the appropriation of collected data, and respect for the privacy of users, there is also the question of the management of potential offences and crimes committed in this digital universe, and consequently the question of a legal framework, which remains undefined at present.

Finally, the economic ecosystem on which the metaverse is founded is still in its infancy. The metaverse is based on a virtual economy in which economic exchanges are carried out by means of NFTs, and it highlights the security, volatility and management of these assets are still at the core of the debate

Essential preparation for the metaverse

Although the metaverse may represent new opportunities for brands in terms of online presence and sales, brands must also first understand and deal with the new issues associated with it. The principles of cybersecurity, investments in technology and having staff trained to use it, as well as the strategic development of the brand’s presence in the metaverse, are all issues that need to be analysed.

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This article may refer to products, programs or services that are not available in your country, or that may be restricted under the laws or regulations of your country. We suggest that you consult the software provider directly for information regarding product availability and compliance with local laws.

About the authors

Content Analyst for Capterra, on the lookout for the latest technological and strategic trends for SMEs. Specialized in e-commerce, passionate about podcasts and pugs.

Content Analyst for Capterra, on the lookout for the latest technological and strategic trends for SMEs. Specialized in e-commerce, passionate about podcasts and pugs.

Content Analyst for the UK. Providing research and digital tech tips for SMBs. MA in Journalism. MA in Diplomatic Studies. Animal loving, sea revering, Mancunian

Content Analyst for the UK. Providing research and digital tech tips for SMBs. MA in Journalism. MA in Diplomatic Studies. Animal loving, sea revering, Mancunian

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