During Decentraland’s Metaverse Fashion Week on March 24-27, brands revealed a variety of retail strategies. They included NFT shopping, exhibitions, interactive experiences and Instagrammable displays.
Digital currency investment company Grayscale Investments estimated the metaverse to be a trillion-dollar revenue opportunity. In terms of marketing, the metaverse opens up a whole pool of new channels for brands, from virtual goods to immersive experiences. While not all consumers have become sold on the metaverse, they are heavily interacting in gaming environments. And a January 2022 Gartner report predicted that 25% of people will spend at least one hour a day in the metaverse to work, shop, attend school, socialize or consume entertainment by 2026.
Retail stores in the metaverse
Brands like Dolce & Gabbana and Etro focused their efforts on a catwalk. Other designers, both digitally native and traditional, focused on optimizing the retail experience for people shopping their digital boutiques. Many digital enthusiasts have called for the virtual retail experience to vary from the physical one, as digital experiences are not limited to specific designs or constricted by space. Despite the demands, Decentraland’s zones, boutiques and stores were quite similar to real stores — featuring NFT 3D garment displays, offering in-store browsing and prioritizing a dedicated brand presence were common strategies.
Prior to the event, Decentraland’s virtual shopping district already featured some retail stores and activations by several well-known brands, including Tommy Hilfiger, Elie Saab and Franck Muller. It also housed stores dedicated to digital-only brands, like DressX’s collaboration with Merts Otsamo and Nicholas Kirkwood’s White Rabbit NFT line.
Launched during Metaverse Fashion Week, Imitation of Christ launched its first digital collection, IOC GENESIS. It featured unique designs and wearables, including collaborations with artists Lynsey Addario, Nicole Buffett and 2 BAYC NFTs. The NFT garments came with additional exclusive perks for the user, allowing them to access future collections, see collection previews, and receive invitations to exclusive shows and events. Many of the NFTs available during the week offered similar exclusive access.
“These worlds are boring when they’re not gamified,” said Justin Banon, founder of blockchain platform Boson Protocol. “Not many people play a PlayStation game where you just go into a flat world and walk around, but billions play one where you’re doing loads of engaging tasks. After Metaverse Fashion Week, we are expanding on the gaming [aspects] of Portal, our Decentraland space. You’ll have to go and perform an obstacle course to be able to buy an item or get an NFT that gives you access to a special group.”
Physical retailers are using the metaverse to offer an experience
Metaverse Fashion Week was an initial experiment for brands looking to embrace gaming in the metaverse, but other, more expansive gaming experiences are coming to the space. For example, U.K. department store Selfridges has been working to incorporate more metaverse aspects into its physical store and digital presence. In October it partnered with designer Charli Cohen to debut the Pokemon Electric City game, and in January, it became the first store to sell NFTs (albeit not in crypto).
Other retailers have since followed suit. In March, U.S. department store Neiman Marcus is auctioning off its first NFT, an image of the company’s co-founder Carrie Marcus Neiman, in partnership with a women-led initiative and NFT project Boss Beauties. On a related note, French luxury boutique Colette, which closed its doors in 2017, recently collaborated on an NFT collection with cyclops artist Dour Darcel.
Selfridges also brought an in-store NFT collection by Paco Rabanne and the Fondation Vasarely to the metaverse with a dedicated exhibition space in Decentraland. While they were not available to buy during Metaverse Fashion week, they acted as a preview for interested collectors and will be available for purchase at a later date.
“For the first time, you’ll be able to view the exclusive UNIVERSE NFTs by Paco Rabanne and Fondation Vasarely in-situ in our flagship metaverse store,” Selfridges said in a LinkedIn post last week. “This is the first meta department store in the history of Web3, and anybody can visit. Interact as a guest or attach your crypto wallet to access all features, while keeping your in-world progress and digital assets safe.”
The presence of traditional multi-brand boutiques that were part of Metaverse Fashion Week was different from that of digital-first multi-brand boutiques by digital fashion house Republique and French accessories e-tailer Monnier Paris. While Selfridges focused on building an experience for the Decentraland user, with a flowing exhibition space and winding corridors displaying the artwork and Paco Rabanne pieces, the Republique boutique was more similar to an in-real-life shop. The virtual shop functioned in a similar way to an e-commerce shop and displayed 3D models of items on its walls. It was open 24/7 throughout the week, allowing visitors to walk in, view and purchase any of the designer apparel.
Italian footwear brand Hogan debuted a metaverse pop-up store featuring the brand’s first-ever NFT drop. Titled the“Hogan Untraditional” collection, it was a re-edition of the brand’s iconic sneakers. To celebrate the drop, the brand hosted an afterparty event in Decentraland on Saturday, in collaboration with NFT platform Exclusible. The event was hosted by DJ Bob Sinclair and featured the first-ever dance competition in the virtual world. Hogan’s metaverse pop-up showed a way brands can engage with their customers in a digital world that doesn’t require customers to make a purchase of any kind.
Advantages of launching in the metaverse
Whether choosing to be a temporary resident in Decentraland like Hogan or a permanent addition like Selfridges, establishing a presence on the platform can be quick for a brand to set up; it can b done within a few weeks, according to brands that have worked with Boson Portal. And costs vary, depending on the size of the project.
“[Oftentimes] brands and organizations are creating a persistent space and then doing their own campaigns there that are linked to other events and other marketing,” Banon said. “The perpetual spaces can become long-standing game environments that will have episodes, like you see in PlayStation games. And brand can have a permanent store, but as they release different collections, they can have different gamified activations and items that go along with those collections.”
While some marketing strategies can take time to execute, the opportunity to build on stores in the metaverse allows them to be constructed in a minimal amount of time, while still bringing in foot traffic for events and launches. Yu Oppel, founder of Gen-Z fashion brand Cider, said, “This opportunity for joining the Decentraland Metaverse Fashion Week came about in late February, and now we’re here. It took less than two months.” The brand was one of the first to incorporate an Instagrammable rainbow wall into its Decentrland store, allowing users to take pictures to share on their social media platforms. The flexibility of choosing which way to show up on the platform means that brands can delve into more entertainment or retail-focused strategies.
“With the metaverse, you’re not limited to building [a store on] one of the standard luxury streets you’ll find in a capital city around the world; you can create crazy stuff,” said Banon.
Katy Lubin, vp of communications at Lyst, added, “Already, we’re seeing early signals that [metaverse strategies] are resonating with real-world shoppers [based on IRL shopping searches]. Something we’re excited to explore is how the digital and physical world of fashion products can work together in the future and what that looks like as a shopping experience, from discovery to delivery. And we want to see if there’s a new way to unlock more value for our customers and for our brand partners.”