Earlier this month, J.Crew announced the launch of the holiday version of the metaverse store it opened over the summer in partnership with experiential commerce platform Obsess. Beauty Brand L’Occitane also opened a holiday shop in the metaverse in November, which mimics a chalet in the Provençal French Alps. Bloomingdale’s also announced the return of its metaverse store this holiday, featuring a 3D interpretation of its flagship location.
Virtual stores appear to be the format of choice for many retailers this Christmas.
Brands have been incorporating various metaverse experiences into their holiday marketing campaigns for the past three years or so. However, this year seems to be the first in which more brands have been investing in ways to bring the fun of in-store shopping into the digital world by way of metaverse stores.
Metaverse ventures are not without their hurdles. After the hype around the metaverse mellowed out, some brands began to scale back their metaverse strategies. For example, Walt Disney axed the team responsible for mapping out its metaverse strategies, while social media giant Meta has lost about $46.5 billion since 2019.
Still, there is growing interest in virtual spaces. In Roblox’s third-quarter earnings report, the metaverse platform saw average daily active users rise 20% year-over-year to 70.2 million. Beauty brands like Fenty Beauty and Maybelline New York have continued to develop immersive spaces and activities on Roblox. Roblox has gained popularity with kids under the age of 13 but it also has niche communities on the platform for certain interest areas.
Melanie Nuce-Hilton, senior vice president of innovation and partnerships at not-for-profit data standards organization GS1 US, told ModernRetail that these virtual stores allow brands to reach a wider range of consumers. Users who don’t live in close proximity to a physical store can oftentimes miss out on the full brand experience.
A tactic that some brands like Bloomingdale’s are applying is to model their virtual stores after their flagship store. Bloomingdale’s virtual store features the flagship store’s holiday window display, gifting room and beauty bar that features its signature checkered floors. Crate & Barrel also teamed up with Obsess in November to create its first virtual store, which is a photo-realistic version of its new flagship store.
However, Melissa Minkow, director of retail strategy at digital consultancy firm CI&T said that there isn’t a lot of data that supports virtual store’s effectiveness in driving sales. Additionally, when brands invest in metaverse experiences like virtual stores they are taking funds aways from other areas that could generate returns.
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