Retail in the Metaverse

What oppor­tu­nities are now avail­ab­le for companies

A vir­tu­al world that will be con­si­de­red as an addi­tio­nal rea­li­ty to our real world? This digi­tal space cur­r­ent­ly exists as a meta­ver­se on various plat­forms such as Decen­tra­land, The Sand­box or Fort­ni­te. We can gene­ra­te an ava­tar in the three-dimen­sio­nal exten­si­on so as to visit vir­tu­al con­certs or art exhi­bi­ti­ons and purcha­se digi­tal goods. What we alrea­dy know from inter­ac­ti­ve games like Second Life now has an ent­i­re­ly dif­fe­rent dimen­si­on. Sin­ce gamers and artists have alrea­dy dis­co­ve­r­ed the meta­ver­se for them­sel­ves, it’s now time for brands and the retail tra­de to explo­re the poten­ti­al here. At the moment, it’s a pro­mi­se – the pro­mi­se of an online world that will soon exist and which is lin­ked to our rea­li­ty as a vir­tual­ly per­me­ab­le world.

Are we initia­ting the next sta­ge of the Inter­net with the meta­ver­se – and if so, what does it mean and need for retail to be part of it?

On 10 Octo­ber, the digi­tal asso­cia­ti­on Bit­kom orga­nis­ed a round­ta­ble enti­t­led “Retail in the Meta­ver­se” as an all-day event in Babels­berg. In addi­ti­on to input from Dr Sebas­ti­an Klöß, Head of Con­su­mer Tech­no­lo­gy, AR/VR & Meta­ver­se at Bit­kom and Bian­ka Kokott, Digi­tal Trans­for­ma­ti­on Offi­cer, the­re were con­tri­bu­ti­ons from other indus­try experts, inclu­ding the Media­Tech Hub mem­bers Eric Wolff from Halos­ta­ge and Sven Blie­dung from Volu­cap as well as Anna Fran­zis­ka Michel from yoo​na​.ai and Ben­ja­min Heese from Feel­belt.

To kick off the event, Sebas­ti­an Klöß and Bian­ka Kokott out­lined the most important ques­ti­ons rai­sed by the topic: what about gaming? What about NFTs? What is the tax and legal situa­ti­on? Which defi­ned stan­dards alrea­dy exist? And how far has the tech­no­lo­gy alrea­dy come? The­re was soon agree­ment at the event as far as retail tra­de is con­cer­ned: it pays to be the­re from the very begin­ning. Not only to avoid repea­ting the mista­kes of bricks-and-mor­tar retail with regard to e‑commerce, but also to help shape the deve­lo­p­ment, sound out new busi­ness models and gene­ra­te learnings.

Pro­ducts and busi­ness models for the third dimension

For examp­le, the digi­tal and play­ful envi­ron­ment of the meta­ver­se makes crea­ti­ve pro­duct pre­sen­ta­ti­ons pos­si­ble. Food retailer Kauf­land had a store built in the meta­ver­se in the style of the Nin­ten­do Switch game. The children’s bicy­cle manu­fac­tu­rer Puky is giving inte­res­ted buy­ers the chan­ce to use AR to test the sadd­le height and their model of choice in digi­tal show­rooms. On an inter­na­tio­nal level, sports­we­ar giant Nike is expe­ri­men­ting with Nikeland whe­re users can of cour­se find digi­tal snea­kers, clot­hing and access­ories for their ava­tars bes­i­des ide­as for games and sports. And this invol­ves the tes­ting of all kinds of mone­ti­sa­ti­on and acti­va­ti­on stra­te­gies. The momen­tum is gro­wing inter­na­tio­nal­ly – many peop­le are alrea­dy pre­pa­red to spend money on vir­tu­al objects or exhi­bits. While a Bit­kom stu­dy repor­ted this year that 67 per­cent of Ger­mans say they have never heard or read about it, 27 per­cent of tho­se who are fami­li­ar with the con­cept of the meta­ver­se can alrea­dy ima­gi­ne shop­ping the­re – and it is even one in three in the 16–29 age group.

Vir­tu­al goods are more actively tra­ded. For retail com­pa­nies, this can give them the advan­ta­ge of being able to launch and test new vir­tu­al pro­ducts at a rela­tively low cost and thus expand their own port­fo­lio. Nike is also one who has coope­ra­ted in the meta­ver­se and laun­ched a sty­lish snea­ker edition.

The­re was con­sen­sus in the round­ta­ble, howe­ver, that one shouldn’t resort to action for action’s sake. You need to have a rea­son for having a pre­sence the­re – and that also goes for bricks-and-mor­tar retail. What incen­ti­ve can be given to the users? Sebas­ti­an Klöß empha­sis­ed in the sub­se­quent dis­cus­sion that the meta­ver­se is not repla­cing retail. It is just ano­t­her addi­tio­nal chan­nel. This is not a new world repla­cing the old one – rather, it is an invi­ta­ti­on to expand.

The crea­ti­on of digi­tal, three-dimen­sio­nal con­tent is necessa­ry for the pre­sence in the meta­ver­se. Media tech­no­lo­gies such as Aug­men­ted Rea­li­ty or Vir­tu­al Rea­li­ty are thus cru­cial ele­ments for the meta­ver­se. Apps with AR alrea­dy exist showing us what the snea­ker we are cur­r­ent­ly inte­res­ted in online would then look like on our foot. And thanks to the tech­ni­cal deve­lo­p­ment in 3D data, it’s much easier and che­a­per for retailers to pre­sent their ent­i­re pro­duct ran­ge online or to replace it in the com­ing sea­son. The time-con­suming, expen­si­ve extra­po­la­ti­on and scan­ning of pro­ducts was an obsta­cle for a long time.

The future of shopping?

“If you igno­re all the hype, then it’s obvious one needs an expe­ri­ence for retail in the meta­ver­se, some­thing com­ple­men­ta­ry that not only repres­ents my need for con­sump­ti­on, but also mana­ges to com­bi­ne all of it with some­thing enter­tai­ning,” says Bian­ka Kokott.

Ava­tars, for examp­le, are good ways of enab­ling us to slip into com­ple­te­ly dif­fe­rent roles. The meta­ver­se as an exten­si­on of my world also inclu­des a gre­at social aspect: an exchan­ge of infor­ma­ti­on bet­ween peop­le is a basic human need. “We get a colos­sal added value with the meta­ver­se – we are able to arran­ge to meet with others and inter­act in groups or even chan­ge groups. This goes way bey­ond my life in front of a screen. Ava­tars and the­se mee­tings give us a sen­se of pre­sence that will beco­me even more important in the years to come,” says Klöß.

The slow tes­ting also app­lies to the tar­get group. Pro­spec­ti­ve cus­to­mers can slow­ly be intro­du­ced to the meta­ver­se by taking small steps or using rea­li­ty-enhan­cing offers like AR. To do this, the retail tra­de has to under­stand the cus­to­mers’ needs and think out­side the box of the real ever­y­day world.

At the end of the day, it could be con­clu­ded that it doesn’t take mil­li­ons to put the first fee­lers out in the direc­tion of the meta­ver­se. The retail com­pa­nies should enga­ge with this sub­ject in the future and enter into a dia­lo­gue with experts from the film, games and digi­tal sec­tors who can alrea­dy offer many inter­faces with the meta­ver­se. The par­ti­ci­pants were then given a tour of Halostage’s vir­tu­al pro­duc­tion stu­dio and the Volu­cap volu­metric stu­dio in Babels­berg. Halostage’s LED wall allows sce­nes to be filmed rea­listi­cal­ly in front of every kind of set­ting that is being pro­jec­ted in the background.

Thanks to the reso­lu­ti­on of 32 came­ras and a uni­que ligh­t­ing sys­tem, the Volu­cap is one of the few stu­di­os world­wi­de that can scan peop­le in moti­on in three dimen­si­ons. Both record­ing tech­no­lo­gies were ori­gi­nal­ly deve­lo­ped for the film indus­try and are per­fect­ly sui­ted for the meta­ver­se and the new reality.

About the pro­gram­me of events: 

Bit­kom hosts regu­lar round­ta­bles under the meta­ver­se forum by bit­kom ban­ner, brin­ging tog­e­ther the key meta­ver­se play­ers from its net­work and bey­ond. This pro­gram­me of events will see the meta­ver­se being dis­cus­sed from the per­spec­ti­ves of AR & VR, block­chain, intel­lec­tu­al pro­per­ty & digi­tal con­tent, mar­ke­ting as well as law and taxa­ti­on. Par­ti­ci­pants can look for­ward to pre­sen­ta­ti­ons by renow­ned experts.

About MTH Blog

The media technologies of the future are already being used today – not only in the entertainment sector, but also in a wide variety of industries. Christine Lentz meets up with tech enthusiasts, established companies and researchers for our monthly MediaTech Hub Potsdam blog to tell the stories behind the innovative business models.