Gen Z ready to lead retailers into the metaverse

I wanted to take advantage of this week‘s article to step away from inflation for a moment and discuss a topic that comes up often enough to warrant sharing a few observations.

A colleague recently asked an e-commerce manager at a marquee luxury brand, “What topic would you most like to know more about?” The response was quick.

“The metaverse. It’s on everyone’s mind,” they said. “It’s the hot new thing. But what will it look like? For example, what does this mean for in-store sales versus online sales? »

For most retailers, the Metaverse is a fuzzy, mind-bending concept that’s hard to define. But experts promise that one day it will mean everything.

For now, about half of US consumers know little or nothing about the Metaverse.

If they heard about it, it was probably last summer, 2021, when Facebook renamed Meta. Overnight, the metaverse (also known as Web3) became a “thing” – the next frontier in branding and retail marketing.

The metaverse isn’t a thing, of course. It is an imaginary (virtual) world currently populated mostly by young gamers who spend hours in front of a screen or wearing headphones while creating and playing games with other young gamers around the world.

And it’s huge. Roblox, a leading gaming platform, currently reports that more than 20 million players use it every day and the average monthly player count is over 210 million.

What does gaming have to do with branding?

The ability for people to interact with each other in a virtual world is being touted by metaverse prophets as, at least, the future 3D version of today’s YouTube/Facebook/Twitter 2D influencers. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

For Nike

NKE
the future has already arrived.

Last November, the company launched an interactive “micro metaverse” game store on Roblox. Visitors to Nikeland can create their own avatars (the cartoon-like characters that represent players) and compete against others in sports-themed games.

Players can virtually dress up their avatars in Nike gear and apparel and spend the virtual money they earn while playing. It appears to be a runaway success, fueled in part by an NBA All-Star Week “appearance” by basketball legend Lebron James, who “coached and engaged with players.”

In his latest earnings reportthe company said that in its first five months, Nikeland was visited by 6.7 million people from 224 countries.

An early example of the Metaverse’s reach was a visually stunning mini-concert in 2020 by rapper Travis Scott on Fortnite, another online gaming site. The concert reportedly had over 12 million concurrent views and has since racked up over 185 million views on YouTube.

The Metaverse may become universal one day, but for now it is the province of Generation Z and, behind it, Generation Alpha (born in 2012 or later). For older generations, this is controversial.

A survey conducted last December for Variety Intelligence Platform by Hub Entertainment Research found that 45% of respondents aged 35 or older “indicated hating” the idea of ​​the metaverse. A third rated their feelings about it between zero and two out of 10.

Only 10% of Gen Zers turned it down, and it’s no wonder. According to a recent study by Vice Media Group and Publicis Groupe’s agency Razorfish, Gen Z consumers spend twice as much time interacting socially in the metaverse as they do in real life.

A third of Gen Zers said they would like to see brands develop virtual stores.

More than half said they felt more free to express themselves in games than in real life; 45% said their gaming identity is closer to who they really are; and more than three in four said gambling helped them relax and improved their mental health.

Gen Z may outgrow its metaverse obsession, but by then, these consumers — the greatest generation ever, nearly 30% of the world’s population — will have defined it. What it will eventually look like for brand managers and marketers is unknowable but ignorable at their peril.

Until then, there “will be no ‘Before Metaverse’ and ‘After Metaverse'” of its own, according to Matthew Ball, a venture capitalist and metaverse guru. “Instead,” he says, “it will emerge slowly over time as different products, services and capabilities integrate and merge.”

Certainly, this is something anyone can educate themselves on and perhaps even begin to understand what role their particular clientele may be interested in playing within the metaverse.

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