In 2022, we see a further evolution into the metaverse.
An evolution that will have a dramatic effect on the future of retail and how brands bring their product or service into consumers' lives through virtual shopping and digital experiences.
So, what is the metaverse?
Let's keep things brief with a short, simplified overview of what is a complex, digital world!
The internet is being enhanced by something called the metaverse: a virtual reality that covers everything from art to shopping and even work.
The metaverse is essentially the digital universe (or worlds) that will house our virtual experiences. It allows for gaming platforms, virtual stores, cryptocurrency purchases and so much more.
The metaverse's impact on retail
What's interesting is how the metaverse will change retail experiences for both consumers and brands. With only sight and sound, our senses are limited, potentially leaving much to be desired. Our senses of smell, touch and taste, which are unavailable in the metaverse, play a huge role in our real-world experiences, leading us to ask:
- How will digital spaces compensate for this?
- How can brands tap into the available senses to create an immersive experience for the consumer?
- And how will we replicate real-world experiences in an environment with only sight and sound?
The role of senses in retail
Senses play a huge role in the retail experience. In fact, appealing to customers' senses is one of the most effective ways to create a psychologically appealing retail environment. This is because our emotions are deeply-rooted, and our senses are some of the closest things we have to those of our primitive ancestors. Since the dawn of civilisation, humans have been drawn to products that evoke emotion.
So, how will we replicate real-world retail experiences in an environment with only sight and sound? And more importantly, how can brands appeal to the available senses when marketing their brand in the metaverse?
Creating immersive retail experiences in the metaverse
Let's start by considering how brands will create engaging and memorable retail experiences; immersive experiences that far exceed reality.
As it turns out, there's evidence that suggests virtual reality will play an even larger role in future retail experiences than augmented reality due to its greater ability for providing immersion, however, we fear it leaves a lot to be desired in its current state.
Insight into human psychology shows us that if you want to inspire action - be it buying or signing up for your service/product - then the first few seconds really matter. We're looking at ways companies can capture attention by stimulating customers' emotions through each of our senses and how the limitations within the metaverse may affect this; will brands struggle to replicate real-world experiences that make a connection with the consumer and evoke responses?
Sight: real-world and metaverse retail
When it comes to sight, retailers have always known that this is the first sense to be stimulated. Creating visually appealing environments, whether they be physical or digital, are absolutely vital for the success of any brand.
This same methodology applies to both the real-world and digital space, meaning that brands should focus on creating a visually stimulating environment in the metaverse. We'll look into how they can do this a little later.
Sound: real-world and metaverse retail
In terms of sound, retailers understand that music genre, pace and tempo each have significant effects on consumer behaviour. Slow music makes shoppers browse slowly; fast music makes shoppers walk quicker.
In the metaverse, we need to focus on creating a soundscape that is stimulating and encourages purchase decisions. This is perhaps the easiest of the senses to be appealed to virtually.
Smell: real-world only
The use of smell in retail is an often overlooked but powerful tool. Research shows that up to 75% of our emotional reactions are due to smell, making it one of the most important senses when it comes to retail experiences. Many supermarkets have played on this tactic over the years, with freshly baked bread filling stores from back to front, enticing shoppers to traipse down the aisles until they get to that metaphorical pot of gold!
Unfortunately, this isn't something that's easily replicated in digital spaces like the metaverse. This perhaps puts metaverse retail at a disadvantage, but there are ways to try and combat this. More on that later.
Touch: real-world only
In terms of touch, retailers know that it's important to create a tactile experience for customers. This means providing a variety of textures and materials for customers to explore. It also means making sure everything feels good quality - from the products themselves to the packaging they come in.
In the metaverse, this again is something that's not easy to replicate. We'll cover a few suggestions as we explore how retailers can market themselves in the metaverse.
Taste: real-world only
Being able to try before you buy is a powerful tool for retailers and something that's had proven success in physical stores.
Unfortunately, we can't replicate taste in the metaverse, although we may be able to intertwine online and offline experiences to ensure we incorporate the sense of taste.
The metaverse vs online retail
Although there may be skepticism around retail in the metaverse, there's an argument that online shopping has done just fine over the last decade. In fact, more than just fine! Research shows that there has been a steady 15-year decline in high street shopping, whilst online shopping has risen rapidly.
Surely, the metaverse, with its immersive, 3D, AR and VR capabilities is actually a step up from our usual, perhaps mundane, online shopping experiences?
Leveraging sensory marketing techniques in the metaverse
As we move into an increasingly digital world, it's important for brands to focus on creating emotionally appealing retail experiences that appeal to all of our senses. In the metaverse, this means using sight and sound to create a space that feels as real as possible.
It also means considering clever tactics to allow for taste, touch and feel to be a part of the metaverse shopping experience.
Visual retail marketing in the metaverse
One thing marketers can be sure of is that a visually appealing environment will help customers develop positive associations with a brand's product or service, making them more likely to buy it.
This means using colours, shapes and textures to create an attention-grabbing virtual storefront where consumers are immediately drawn in, rather than one filled with clutter and poor design choices. One way of doing this is by using light and dark colors to create contrast and depth, while also making sure storefronts are well-lit. Another way is through the use of animation and motion graphics; something we already see in online retail experiences today.
Once inside, the next challenge for brands is figuring out how best to engage consumers' emotions through sight and sound alone so that people see their goods or services as having genuine value over competitors'. While this may seem like quite the task at first, it's nothing that hasn't been done before in ‘real life’. With careful attention to detail and a focus on providing an immersive experience, brands will be able to create retail experiences that are second to none – even in a virtual world.
Auditory retail marketing in the metaverse
Using audio cues creates an immersive experience. This could involve playing music with an appropriate mood or ambiance, or including sound effects that help evoke the feeling of being in a particular place.
This can be achieved by using sounds that are familiar to us or that evoke positive emotions. For example, nature sounds have been shown to be relaxing and stress-relieving, while upbeat music can create a sense of excitement.
Appealing to our senses of smell, touch and taste in the metaverse
Brands can't immediately appeal to smell, touch or taste to create an emotional response inside the metaverse, however, they can focus on creating virtual environments that feel as real as possible. This can be done by using high-resolution textures and realistic lighting effects, as well as by simulating different surfaces.
Although these are powerful senses to appeal to in retail environments, ecommerce brands have seen huge success with shopping online where they, too, have not been able to appeal to smell, touch or taste, so perhaps it's not a disadvantage after all...
There are always ways around this, too. An alternative to appealing to these senses online is to appeal to them offline.
Clever marketing tactics like free delivery and returns for 'tester' products will encourage shoppers to purchase items so they can try them out risk-free - once they receive an item, if you can appeal to their senses of smell, touch or taste through your physical goods, they likely won't be sending your item back!
So, what is the future of metaverse retail?
As we move further into a digital world, it's important for brands to focus on creating emotionally appealing retail experiences. In the metaverse, this means using sight and sound to create a space that feels as real as possible.
It also means considering clever tactics to allow for taste, touch and feel to be a part of the metaverse shopping experience. While this may seem like quite a task at first, it's nothing that hasn't been done before in the real world.
With Nike and Walmart taking some of the first steps into metaverse retail, it's worth looking to them for guidance and tactics; attention to detail and a focus on providing an immersive experience will be key to brands being able to create retail experiences that are second to none – even in a virtual world.
Not to mention gamifying experiences, but that's a whole other topic!
No-one can be certain about the future of retail in the metaverse, given the early stages we are in with this evolving digital universe, but Adcock Solutions is excited to explore the possibilities of sensory marketing in virtual spaces and help brands create unforgettable customer experiences.