As innovations in the metaverse propel forward, many retail brands are keeping an eye on the possibility for merging in-person shopping with futuristic online experience. Combining AR, VR, 3D, cryptocurrency, blockchain technology and more, the opportunity for expansion in the metaverse is enormous. have already activated in this space, achieving a 2.5x increase in conversion after letting users ‘try before they buy’ digitally. And with brands like Nike, Dove, Unilever and Dolce & Gabbana also flexing their muscles in this arena, it’s time to activate in the metaverse.

We spoke to Gaston Tourn, CMO at Appear Here, about the rich hybrid commerce experience that the metaverse offers, where both physical stores and digital spaces come together to offer consumers an out-of-this-world retail experience. Hear his thoughts below.

Retail in the metaverse: an interview with Appear Here

Is digital commerce a novelty, or is it here to stay?

I think we need to stop thinking about digital commerce as something different from offline commerce. With mobile phones, the digital world is everywhere. We browse physical stores checking products on Google and social media platforms. But, viceversa, the digital world wouldn’t exist without physical commerce. In fact, online media platforms have been affected by the lack of physical retail during lockdowns. Google analytics firm SEMrush found that there was a huge decline in search queries for brands. They observed a correlation between the loss of stores with a decline in our ability to remember their names while looking online. Commerce is everywhere and, if you want to succeed, you need to be everywhere.

Are there any brands in particular you’d be interacting with in the metaverse?

I’m particularly interested in seeing more independent brands in the metaverse. Most of the brands that made headlines were big brands, which doesn’t particularly fit Meta’s narrative of building a more equitable digital world. I’d like to see more purpose-led and independent brands launching their concepts in the metaverse.

How will digital retail experiences feed into and enhance physical activations in stores?

I’m not sure digital technology is necessarily needed to enhance the experience in physical stores. After two years living on screens, we want to go to a store to actually reconnect with other humans. I’d use technology only to guarantee convenience, ensuring you can complete your purchase online or pick up a product you bought online. But for the actual experience, I’d focus on building strong connections both with the brand and the other people in the store. 

Think coffee shops in fashion stores, art galleries in coffee shops, spaces for gathering and meeting with other human beings. With the pandemic fading away, we need more face-to-face interactions than ever before.

With so many capabilities in the ever-growing metaverse space, what’s something that’s missing which physical stores still have?

Touch, smell and taste. IRL is the richest channel to communicate a brand message. It’s the only channel where you can use your five senses. A common feeling most of us had during the pandemic is that we stopped feeling. With endless lockdowns and the world shut down, the world became numb. We lost our senses, literally. This has huge implications for brands. Building a brand means connecting emotionally with your community. But how can you connect emotionally when there are no senses left? People want to touch and feel products before deciding whether or not to buy them. IRL is the only channel that allows brands to get real.

How intrinsic will in-store activations be to retail marketers this year? Where do they sit within the marketing strategy?

Physical stores will be key for brands wanting to reconnect with their communities and build brand equity. Do you remember the last time you bought something online? Most likely, your customers also don’t have any memories of buying on your website. By contrast, in-store experiences build much stronger associations with the brand. This is because IRL is the only channel where you can touch, smell and taste a brand. A study called ‘Smells and Emotions’ by psychologist Silvia Alava found that people remember 35% of what they smell and only 5% of what they see. If you want to be remembered, focusing on real connections in the real world will get you there much faster.

Virtual worlds such as Roblox are increasingly attracting attention and investment from fashion and apparel brands, since the platforms give companies the opportunity to connect with younger users and create awareness for their products,” according to Fortune 500. At Marble, we’re interested in seeing these developments come into fruition and the expansion of retail in the metaverse space. If you want to chat to us about an upcoming physical, digital or hybrid project, drop us a line