There’s plenty to be excited about in Metaverse and Web3, especially for retailers. This is especially true for brands struggling to keep up with digital experiences using today’s technologies. With emerging tools, businesses can finally unleash the true potential of e-commerce while creating unique new experiences.
By now, most people will have seen videos of the Metaverse and what it could potentially accomplish in the future. For some, it’s an exciting prospect. For others, there is some hesitation. But what this first phase does is enable companies to prepare for the future. In retail, it could provide a much-needed boost at a time when consumers are increasingly demanding better ways to merge the physical and virtual worlds.
It reminds us of the fact that young buyers have a growing influence on the direction of the industry. And for now they expect more. According to research by WP Engine, 57% of Gen Z and 68% of Millennials expected to maintain their digital habits after the pandemic. However, brands have had mixed results when it comes to seamless experiences that will inspire shoppers to integrate digital into their everyday lives. A new, interactive Metaverse could completely transform e-commerce, delivering on the promise of combining the best elements of an in-store and online shopping experience.
Meanwhile, Web3, the framework on which the metaverse is built, can help build trust by helping brands get closer to consumers. This can affect and benefit from how Gen Z rates products and services. For example, we could see consumers accessing creators directly without an intermediary, controlling how and with whom they share their personal information. This means building trust between the buyer and the brand.
It is a victory from two points of view. For brands, they can own relationships with consumers and sell directly to them. For consumers, they have the inherent confidence that Web3 is built on, to give them peace of mind when exploring new shopping experiences. They decide with whom they share their data.
Humanize the experience
A Forrest survey found that 13% of Brits and 19% of Americans believe brands should create more brand experiences in the metaverse. Yet a larger proportion (33% and 29%, respectively) still do not understand what the Metaverse is, even after receiving a description of it. Meanwhile, 36% of Brits and 27% of Americans say they don’t need the Metaverse at all. This tells us that the metaverse should not be a solution looking for a problem. It must have a focus that gives consumers what they need in a time of rapidly changing commerce.
We’ve seen digital experiences grow, especially during the pandemic when everyone was forced to shop online. But the digital experience should be much smoother than living on a web browser or mobile app. This should go hand in hand with and reinforce physical purchases.
There’s a lot at stake here for brands selling products where appearance, size or experience are crucial when making a purchase decision, such as home furnishings, clothing, eyewear and makeup. How do you know if that coffee table you saw online will match your living room decor? How do you know if this outfit will look as good on you as the gorgeous model on the site?
For example, by offering a virtual trial before you buy, buyers can feel more confident in their purchasing decisions and reduce the number of items returned.
Turning vision into reality
Virtual worlds sound great – so how do you get there? An engineering marvel like the Metaverse requires a hyper-flexible software platform for virtual e-commerce environments. For the metaverse to become an extension of their existing retail offerings, brands must prepare their digital stores for different types of virtual media, devices and formats. The technology exists today with headless architectures that help pave the way.
Headless is a type of web architecture that decouples the front of a website (the graphical user interface or GUI) from the back (where code and data reside). In this architecture, the front-end and back-end operate independently of each other. And with that independence comes the freedom to use different mechanisms to develop and display content. You are no longer tied to a single technology where you have to keep the front and back together. This means developers can create a front-end UI that adapts to any user, application, or screen, while keeping the back-end secure and robust elsewhere.
Companies are already using headless for various use cases. According to WP Engine research from 2021, 64% of companies are using a headless approach, which is an increase of almost 25% from 2019. More companies plan to adopt this approach soon. Many use it to develop content that can be displayed on many different channels, including mobile apps, smartwatches, voice assistants, and digital newsstands. But headless also helps companies prepare for the future by setting up the infrastructure now to deploy new experiences tomorrow. So even if a retail company decides they don’t want to venture into the metaverse right away, they can still use headless now to create content that can live in the metaverse once the company is ready.
Headless software architectures are responding to the increasingly fragmented world of omnichannel experiences. Some companies choose to rely on WordPress and are backed by one of the largest developer communities in the world. Best of all, by going open source, brands can integrate a multitude of services and tools, creating a positive cycle of better experiences, more users, and greater business impact.
The Metaverse may seem like a distant extravaganza to many companies, but many things are being implemented these days. Either way, it’s not just about whether the technology is ready. In many cases yes, depending on what exactly a company wants to create. The biggest question right now is whether brands are ready to evolve with their customers and create new ways to build relationships. It’s about consumers connecting with the brand and being loyal advocates of the brand, rather than just buying from it. This is the change we want to make. The metaverse will be an important way to achieve this.
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