THE METAVERSE RISES. IS IT RETAIL’S SALVATION?
God bless the NFTs and the Metaverse… of course, Crypto too.
What You´re About To Learn
This article will surf how the new metaverse (which is not something entirely new for some niche subcultures) will reach mass adoption. How the traditional retail industry may be dying, and why the all-encompassing metaverse, along with cryptos and NFTs, can be the next revolution (and salvation) for the industry… Can be or already is?…
Two completely different events, unconnected for many years, have been taking place on Earth. First, the traditional concept of retail has been changing year after year, up to a point that many can state that retail is alive. From the big old concrete boxes up to cosmopolitan pop-up stores that were only announced through social media, from tough no return policies to being able to return a disliked item from any point of the world and getting a refund- all without talking to a human being.
The Retail Crisis
Why is this? Well… retail is the catalyst used by the largest companies (and small ones too) to capture people´s expenditure. From serving them with products they actually need to creating nonexistent needs through beautiful marketing. But since technology violently emerged in the 2000s and became mass adopted, it started to shape the consumer´s behaviour. One kid in a garage decided he would sell sneakers through an HTML 1 website and ship them himself, and suddenly you have a purchase funnel more efficient and modern than going to a brick and mortar store. Fast-forwarding 15 years, we found ourselves in a major and global retail malls crisis, where dozens of malls were forced to shut down in top-leading countries while Mr. E-Commerce started to boom.
Around 2015, e-commerce accounted for almost 7.5% of the entire Earth´s retail sales. And as of now (2021) it has almost tripled! The direction is clear. Not all brick and mortars will die, and not all e-commerces are the Coca-Colas of their niches. But titans such as Amazon, eBay, Alibaba, and other major retailer brands, have ensured plenty of wealth for years to come thanks to opening their digital storefronts. And they didn´t leave too much room for another titan to be born.
For a second, try to envision yourself in that position. You are the CEO of BlockBuster. More than a decade ago. You sit on your comfy couch, with a hot cup of coffee in your hand. At least once, I bet you’d think something along the line of “Can we be in a major industry point turning moment… those scarce and infrequent major trend shifts?”. At least I hope you managed to think that. Because BlockBuster certainly didn’t.
The Good Ol´ Crypto, NFTs & The Metaverse
Why have I explained all of the above? This takes us to the second event I mentioned in the beginning. The booming of crypto, NFTs, and the Metaverse. With all of that being mass adopted, that scarce and infrequent once-in-a-decade opportunity (like BlockBuster had) is here again.
Just a brief stop. If you wonder what the heck the Metaverse is, I strongly suggest you take a quick glance at this article: https://www.polarlondon.co.uk/blog/what-is-th-e-metaverse
“If I´m writing about it, it´s probably too late?” – but that´s not the case at all. We’ve seen how Facebook re-shaped itself as Meta, and are now investing heavily into metaverse-related tech. Tactile gloves enhanced VR and are even researching how you can smell things from the metaverse!
Facebook was the first galactic titan to make the move, which should be read as a validation event. “This is the way. We´ll lead”- That´s the correct reading.
Metaverse For Any Retailer?
But how can smaller companies, retailers specifically, be on the metaverse and take advantage of it (along with NFTs and Cryptos) right now? How to seize the opportunity before it gets mass adopted?
Staying on top of information and worldwide events is the first major step. Even though the metaverse is not highly “retailised” today, crazy things have been happening for a while.
Teenagers that get together for a real concert inside the game Fortnite. People investing in digital land and building their houses spending real money. And many more crazy things.
The next step for retailers, in my opinion (the next big thing), is the metaverse storefront. Imagine for a second, a potential customer from any corner of the world, taking a walk in a metaverse park sees your company´s ad. They like it. They decide to walk into your VR store. At this point, it can be a person, thousands of miles away with a VR goggle laying on the bed.
He or she will be able to pick up the product, try it, even feel the texture with the tactile gloves. And press a button and pay it in crypto. No middle-man, low fees, no wiring wait time.
What About NFTs?
Where do NFTs come into play? In all this process, the item the buyer has just purchased can be one of two things. Either a real pair of sneakers (to give an example) that will have to be shipped or metaverse sneakers, non-existent sneakers for his/her metaverse avatar. An NFT can be applied to both cases, although it could be better used for the later one.
To get a better understanding, an NFT is a token, much like having 1 Bitcoin in your wallet (super-oversimplifying it) with the exception that the token cannot be exchanged for others alike. It´s unique, thus non-fungible. One Bitcoin will always equal one Bitcoin, it doesn´t matter specifically which Bitcoin you have. With NFTs, it works exactly the opposite. That token is unique and it represents a single item. An item like a metaverse pair of trainers for instance.
This way, buyers can own trainers, or whatever they buy in the metaverse, and have the NFT acting as a blockchain decentralised certificate of ownership. For the first example, where the buyer wants real-life trainers, the NFT can also be useful. There have been cases where people buy real items, and they are handed the NFT that can later be redeemed (burned) in exchange for the real-life object. This means that the purchase process starts in the metaverse, the product is delivered in the metaverse as an NFT and ultimately, the buyer destroys the NFT and changes it for the real-life product.
The Final Take
The metaverse is here to stay. It´s no longer some techy and nerdy guy’s crazy invention. It will be mass adopted. It´s the future of retail- even sports and entertainment, to some extent. And the precise moment to hop on is now!
Building a meta-experience for your customers is no easy task. It requires developers with a very niche and specific knowledge. Many solutions are being developed as we speak that will allow any human to get their metaverse store up and running, much like Instagram does today. But relevant companies will certainly have to create their own “thing”. And the time to start? It’s now!