June 15, 2022
The Metaverse: A Virtual World offering Real Opportunity?
By now, we’re all aware that the future is digital, but does this mean that the future will also be virtual?
The ‘Metaverse’ is being hallmarked as the next giant step in human communication and commerce, but to many it remains a foreign concept associated with Mark Zuckerberg and Meta. That’s because attempting to picture a future controlled by a new abstract technology can be rather overwhelming and it’s easy to feel lost.
Here we aim to take a broad view of this new reality, and what it potentially means, at this fledgling stage, for the future of both retail and packaging.
A (Tentative) Look into the Metaverse
So, what exactly IS the Metaverse?
In short, the Metaverse is a virtual-reality space in which users are able to interact with a computer-generated environment and with other users. The term originated with gaming platforms such as ‘Second Life’ that create virtual worlds in which virtual characters could explore and socialise.
Given how integrated the Metaverse currently is with the internet and current technologies, mainstream audiences fail to grasp what is so unique about it. That’s because, in its current state, the metaverse is largely just an extension of the internet and another tool to connect virtually. This is set to change rapidly though. Zuckerberg and many other leaders of the industry have said we are 5-10 years away from the metaverse truly being realised.
However, the very early stages of e-commerce in the metaverse are already here. Amazon has incorporated early Metaverse technology into its marketplace. Its newest AR shopping tool, Room Decorator, allows users to see what furniture and other home décor will look like in their own spaces. They can view multiple products together, and even save the AR snapshots of their room to review later.
In another example, high-end sunglass brand, Warby Parker, has a virtual try-on app that allows users to try on every pair of frames in its product catalogue before buying. This enables them to buy products online without having to take a leap of faith as to the product’s fit for their face.
Offering new ways for brands to reach their customers, enhancing experiences and facilitating new revenue streams, the Metaverse symbolises incredible new potential for e-commerce particularly as, more recently, this has expanded to online retail and packaging experiences able to connect a physical product with a digital world.
Luxury in the Virtual World
There’s always an expectation for luxury brands to provide more than simply their wares; customer experience, bespoke add-ons, personalisation and cutting-edge innovations are part and parcel of the industry. But, as the market evolves with an up-and-coming generation and digital demands grow, luxury retail needs to adapt to serve the evolving needs of consumers.
The very concept of the metaverse is changing the face of the luxury industry. Today, there is now an expectation from consumers in this space that they will be met with enhanced customer experiences, especially of the digital kind.
In terms of providing a more remarkable customer experience, Gucci took to gaming platform Roblox to host a virtual exhibition. Players could purchase digital models of genuine Gucci products for a small amount of in-game currency. It was a new and unique experience for Gucci fans. It was also a way to create a new revenue stream as they sold digital representations of Gucci products in the form of NFTs.
As part of a multi-experience campaign Johnnie Walker launched its seven bottles from its rare Master of Flavour series, each valued at US$35,000. They were all sold in crypto currency within just three minutes – via a virtual experience that offered buyers the chance to own seven extremely rare, vaulted bottles of blended Scotch whisky paired with seven one-of-a-kind works of art.
Adapting to The Future of Digital Packaging
In an ever-changing world, it’s vital for both brands and packaging designers and suppliers to seek out longevity and innovation by delivering ever-more engaging experiences to consumers.
In evolving their secondary packaging solutions for the Metaverse, brands can create an exceptionally unique experience for consumers because, though digitally enhanced packaging is becoming more commonplace, it’s essentially still unique.
By adapting to the future of digital packaging early, brands can be viewed as cutting-edge and forward-thinking. By integrating products and packaging into the Metaverse brands can also engage consumers in an entirely new and interactive way, utilising the opportunity to make strong and meaningful connections with younger audiences and creating an intimate level of marketing to a generation who have scrolled on social media for over a decade.
How Would it Work?
We have ideas about how the Metaverse will unfold, but beyond these insights, there is also a significant amount of ‘white noise’. What we do know, at this stage, is that the virtual world opens up new scenarios for customised packaging experiences, virtual unboxing, and testing new designs
For a start, ‘Metaverse Packaging’ can be created through Augmented Reality. This entails allowing consumers to view products digitally within their environment, for example, by clicking on a web link or by scanning a QR code. The link or QR code could then bring up a product in 3D on a user’s interface (e.g. a mobile phone or tablet) and allow them to place this within their physical environment through the camera on their device. Thus, integrating the physical and digital world.
Retail environments can also be created virtually for a consumer to experience a ‘store’ in the Metaverse. This could be a replica of an existing store or something completely new and artificial! Naturally, this would require virtual packaging! The future of virtual retail opens the door for new opportunities in unique interactive packaging experiences. Not only that, but brands will also have to start thinking about how their packaging design may differ for this virtual world, just as they had to rethink packaging design for ecommerce.
Options and Opportunities
Packaging for products online and in-store could also differ, as there are unlimited abilities with digital packaging and the way products can be presented to consumers in the digital world. Packaging in the virtual world can be enhanced with interactive visual effects and providing virtual ‘unboxing’ experiences where consumers can digitally unbox the product.
A whole array of options exist; on-shelf packaging maybe doesn’t have to be as protective or have the same regulatory requirements. So you may actually be able to have different packaging. In other instances the packaging may need to be accurate to exactly what the consumer receives. There may be a variety of different requirements depending on the product or industry. There are multiple facets that this whole new digital or physical packaging world can encompass.
However, whatever the question marks today, by learning more about the Metaverse and becoming more involved, opportunities to succeed will become easier.
Embracing the Metaverse may be challenging right now, but taking on that challenge will reap long-term benefits tomorrow. A new door for e-commerce is open for brands and packaging suppliers that dare step through it.
See you in the Metaverse!
IPL Packaging is a global luxury packaging supplier with offices in the USA, Europe, Mexico, Asia and Africa. Approved manufacturing is available in several Asian countries, as well as sites in Eastern Europe. We create bespoke, tailored and exclusive packaging for any premium or luxury brand and lead the entire process, from conceptualisation and design to production and delivery.
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