To answer that question, we would have to first understand what the metaverse is and then analyze its implications for business. At Polycount, our working definition of the metaverse is a shared network of persistent 3D virtual spaces within which people (represented as avatars) as well as all kinds of intelligent objects and agents, can interact within virtual environments. In this blog post, I will begin to unpack this definition and relate it to specific business opportunities. In subsequent posts, I will extend the process of unpacking our definition covering additional commercial opportunities and such key items as avatars and intelligent agents including digital influencers.
“A shared network of persistent 3D virtual spaces.” The metaverse is made up of a growing and complex variety of persistent virtual spaces ranging from virtual worlds like Decentraland , Roblox and Sandbox to social VR platforms like AltspaceVR. Each of these virtual environments presents unique opportunities for businesses to engage with customers in ways that are frequently reminiscent of the real-world but surpass or supplement the real-world in certain critical ways. In this blog post I will use the example of the virtual pop-up to highlight some of the advantages of having a virtual world presence.
In the real-world, the pop-up retail store has become a major trend popular with both retailers and consumers. Pop-up stores, as the name implies, are temporary, appearing for a limited time for a specific use case. Brands use pop-up stores to create unique experiences around a new product, reach new customers, highlight special events or gather marketing insights. Increasingly however, brands are realizing the value of virtual pop-ups.
Offline TV, the gaming and entertainment collective, opened a pop-up store in Los Angeles in early December 2021. But the Offline TV team quickly realized that the 7-day duration of the pop-up event was not enough to allow more than a fraction of it’s massive 3.0M fan base to attend. Partnering with McDonald’s, they turned to Polycount to create an online counterpart; much to the delight of their fans.
In this instance, the opportunity was to extend a real-world pop-up store into the metaverse, but companies are now creating pop-ups that have little or no connection to the real-world. Decentraland, perhaps the best known of all the virtual worlds, has become a venue for buying and selling digital real estate which can then be re-sold but also rented for specific commercial purposes. Miller Lite recently rented Estate 44-45 for the “Meta Light Bar” a unique pop-up that included entertainment by fan favorite J. Balvin as well as a variety of Miller Lite themed virtual swag that fans could purchase for their avatars.
Other companies are recognizing the need to establish a connection between the real world and the virtual. Gucci, which placed a whole series of pop-up stores in luxury shopping centers worldwide for its 100th anniversary also created a VR pop-up which it hosted on Roblox. It was in that virtual store that it sold a digital-only bag for $4,115.
From these examples, what can we conclude about businesses needing a presence in the metaverse? Let’s look at some of the advantages as revealed by our discussion of virtual pop-ups. For one thing, these give brands the ability to engage with consumers who will not be able to attend a real-world pop-up event. Another advantage is that a company can use a virtual pop-up to create events that cannot be replicated in a real-world store. Finally, as the Meta-Lite bar and the Gucci example demonstrate, companies can offer unique lines of merchandise designed for use in virtual worlds only.
Consumers are steadily shifting their attention toward virtual worlds for a whole variety of experiences from gaming to sports and entertainment and expecting companies to follow. Forward-thinking businesses large and small are exploring the ways to maximize their interactions with online consumers whether through online pop-ups or establishing a permanent presence in the metaverse. Does every business need a presence in the metaverse? The answer may well be yes.
Stephen H. Haliczer
Director of Metaverse Research