We've been hearing a lot about the Metaverse lately. And while we don't know exactly what it will look like, there are some things that are for sure. For starters, it's going to be pretty awesome! Second for all, eCommerce is going to play a big role in this new world order! What do you think? Is eCommerce ready for Metaverse?
What is the Metaverse?
The metaverse is a term used to talk about the persistent, shared, 3D virtual spaces where we will be spending much of our time in the future. Imagine an online virtual world like Second Life or Sansar that exists side-by-side with the real world and made up not just of static buildings; but instead, full environments like forests, deserts, and oceans! And imagine all these environments stuffed with 3D avatars doing everything we do in the real world: shopping, working, playing sports.
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality will be a big part of this future as well! Many virtual spaces will be designed for augmented reality experiences where you would see your avatar interacting with a virtual world while real-world objects would appear transparent.
What about eCommerce?
Of course, the metaverse is going to have a big role for eCommerce as well! In fact, it promises to take several things that we think of today when we think of platforms for online shopping and add some exciting new features. For example, imagine a future where you simply voice-activate a request for a product and the item appears instantly in your hands from a 3D warehouse somewhere, or perhaps materializes as an avatar-sized version of itself that you can then take into another environment to try it on! Sound crazy? Not anymore, now that Amazon is opening up their own 3D warehouse in the cloud!
Even today, though, eCommerce is already changing. Consider that 30% of US adults have shopped for products or services in virtual worlds like Second Life. And many of us are already used to buying online and getting items delivered to our doorsteps within minutes thanks to services like Amazon Prime Now which was launched only a little more than a year ago.
How will eCommerce work in the Metaverse?
So, what does this all mean for eCommerce in the metaverse? Think of a virtual shopping mall or store where you could buy items with a simple voice-activated command! Everything is digital so it's no different from buying something on Amazon.com today, except that you'll have a much more immersive experience and even be able to try on different outfits to see how they look before you buy them!
And don't forget about augmented reality. Once you step outside your house, all the items in your shopping cart could appear right there in front of you without having to carry anything with you (except maybe an augmentation that let's other people see what clothes or accessories you're wearing from your shopping cart).
In the same way that eCommerce has evolved over the last 20 years, we're going to see a lot of changes as it continues to evolve in coming decades. Big brick-and-mortar stores will likely go away or become virtual stores themselves. Delivery services might be completely automated and instant based on teleportation technology rather than vehicles.
In fact, it's probably safe to say that eCommerce has a bright future in the Metaverse! When Second Life launched over a decade ago, many people were skeptical about virtual buying and selling. Now we're starting to see more and more of it happening on a daily basis with companies like Amazon showing us new applications every day.
In the future, most of us will be spending a significant amount of time in virtual spaces, so it only makes sense that we'll want to buy products there as well!
The Future of Ecommerce in Virtual Reality
Virtual reality is here to stay. Although it has existed in various forms for the past several decades, we are finally at a point where high-quality virtual experiences are widely available and affordable. High-end VR headsets like the Rift and Vive continue to drop in price (and should eventually be included with all premium VR experiences), while mobile VR devices like the Gear VR are bringing virtual experiences to everyone with a smartphone.
Virtual reality is often talked about as entertainment technology, but its applications reach far beyond video games and home theaters. Several industries are using VR in many different ways to augment operations, increase efficiency, train employees, showcase products, drive sales and more. While there are many different ways virtual reality is being leveraged, one of the industry's biggest opportunities comes from ecommerce.
eCommerce in VR
Many believe that ecommerce will be one of the first use cases for virtual reality, and it is already making an impact. According to SuperData Research , social platforms like Second Life are driving almost $500 million in annual virtual item sales. This is largely attributed to the role that social platforms like Second Life play as marketplaces where users can buy and sell goods, especially for niche audiences or unique items.
For example, you might find a user selling only high-end golf clubs in VR. Or maybe someone who custom makes leather holsters for various weapons. Even though the golf club or weapon might only appeal to a very small audience, if that user can make it "go viral" and their product becomes popular within the VR community, they have an opportunity to grow their brand.
Although this is just the beginning of virtual item sales, we are likely to see this market continue to expand as companies begin to adopt more widely. For example, the gaming industry is expected to drive over $5 billion in virtual goods sales by 2020, almost double what it brought in this year.
You might even have a chance of selling your own items on eBay or Etsy within the metaverse one day! As companies start selling their products directly through VR apps or spaces, it will be as easy as uploading your product images to a 3D model and navigating to an ecommerce platform.
What are some other examples of how commerce might change in the future?
In the future, you will be able to browse online stores from within virtual spaces with a simple UI overlay. The user will click on an item in your space and be presented with a 3D rendering of the product in their own personal inventory that they can then add to a cart or wish list in real-time. When they're ready to make a purchase, they can simply click a button that will direct them to whichever retailers or marketplaces they prefer.
For example, let's say you're viewing a concert in VR. Once the show is over, you'll be able to head to your personal inventory and select the artist's merchandise from the vendors who had booths set up. From there, you can click on the artist's t-shirt and it will appear in front of you tagged with price and sizing information. You can then select your size and checkout without ever having to leave the space!
What does it mean for ecommerce stores?
We're also seeing companies begin to sell their products directly through VR apps or spaces, or perhaps there will be a marketplace where users can buy and sell virtual items. Virtual spaces offer an opportunity for retailers to digitally showcase their products within shopping apps, but unlike static images, users can actually walk up close to inspect the product more closely before they make any purchases. This reduces returns after purchase because customers are able to see exactly what they're buying and the retailer gets to eliminate inefficiencies like shipping and inventory.
Retailers can also offer their products within specific location in a virtual space, so if someone is at a concert they might be able to buy a t-shirt from the artist that was sold only during that event. However, as we grow to include more people into these spaces or create open worlds for socializing and playing, it will be important for retailers to ensure that their products are up-to-date with current trends.
Why would people shop online if they could just buy everything from a vending machine or kiosk at their house, office, or public space?
Well, there is definitely a time and place for everything. Some people may want to browse different options before making a purchase decision or would rather shop from the comfort of their home than at their desk. Other people might just prefer shopping online because they're not in front of the actual product and can't try it on before they buy it.
What's more, the purchasing experience would be much more streamlined if everyone has a VR headset. When someone can simply walk up to an object in VR and pick it up to inspect its features or get a closer look, or when they are able to try on different outfits without ever leaving their room, the online shopping experience will be far less daunting.
How does this relate to virtual reality and augmented reality technology?
With the rise in popularity of virtual and augmented reality technology, we're able to create spaces that make it easier to shop online. Instead of browsing through a website or selecting from different product pages, retailers can give customers an opportunity to virtually browse through their products while they're still in the comfort of their own home.
When you get right down to it, the possibilities are endless with virtual spaces. We can create immersive content that allows customers to shop from within their favorite brands and retailers. Users will be able to purchase items directly through personalized experiences in virtual space without having to leave their home or even take off their headset!
The future of online shopping is looking very promising and we're excited to be on the front lines of creating innovative technology that will ultimately improve the online shopping experience. The Metaverse is an idea that imagines a network of interconnected and immersive virtual reality worlds. There are many different visions for what the Metaverse will look like, but it's safe to say there will be some changes in how we buy things online. How might eCommerce work in the future? It may not just mean buying something from Amazon or eBay anymore, you could purchase anything you want with a few taps on your phone! Imagine going into any store and being able to try clothes on without trying them on or even ordering food at restaurants using augmented reality technology instead of waiting in line. This all sounds pretty futuristic right now, but these advancements aren't too far away when looking out 10 to 20 years down the road.