To build brand loyalty in the Metaverse, retailers must intentionally create purchasing journeys that exceed physical shopping experiences today.
Selling via social media was once an abstract concept that has now evolved into an industry standard. In a similar fashion, the Metaverse can revolutionise the way businesses sell products, potentially leading customers to quit physical shopping altogether. Now is the time for brands to work out how to create memorable experiences by translating their current customer journey into a virtual one.
What could the metaverse look like for retailers?
Bloomberg Intelligence predicts that the Metaverse market will reach $800 billion in the next two years. Retail businesses should view this as a powerful opportunity to advertise, sell, and build loyalty. What makes this channel particularly exciting is its potential to create a shopping experience like never before. An immersive virtual platform should allow customers to shop as they do in stores today, but with an augmented experience that’s not always possible in real life.
One example is the creation of a virtual retail environment to create interest around new product launches. Today, exclusive product ‘drops’ create a lot of publicity. Brands can replicate this phenomenon in the Metaverse by creating a digital setting for users to socialise with each other and interact with brand representatives who can help drive sales.
To increase engagement, brands can give users exclusive access to digital products. Digital products can take the form ofNFTs, which ‘unlock’ access to physical goods in the real world. This approach will prevent consumers from queuing for hours outside shops in the hope to buy limited items.
Users of the Metaverse also have ‘avatars’ to represent their identity and interact in virtual environments. Brands can leverage this by creating digital assets such as clothing, homeware, or virtual real estate. Recreating existing physical goods into digital formats can allow customers to be part of your brand without buying real-world products.
The metaverse in its entirety doesn’t exist yet. So what steps do brands need to take to prepare?
The very first step that retailers should take is to consider brand goals. Do you need to improve customer engagement? Do you want to build a community? Or do you simply want to explore better ways of showcasing products and educating customers?
Next, think about how you can implement (and more importantly, improve) your current customer’s journey in a virtual shopping environment:
- Plot out the critical customer touchpoints that your customer currently has with your brand.
- Consider how each touchpoint can be made easier from a customer experience point of view, and more interesting from an entertainment point of view. For example, can you improve your customer’s buying experience by making it more personalised with virtual concierge services? Can you prevent customers from abandoning your platform with AI-powered shopping assistance? Can you gamify elements of the buying experience to increase engagement and memorability?
Brands must also consider what technology is required to bridge the gap between physical and digital stores. However, don’t make the mistake of skipping the first steps – be intentional about what customer experience you would like to deliver and then look into the technology that can make this happen. When you have defined your customer journey, make sure you choose a platform that allows you to set up custom reactors to actions that customers take. This level of flexibility will help you create a platform that evolves alongside your strategy and any future technology innovations.
How do retailers build brand loyalty in the metaverse?
In the virtual world, customers will be able to interact with each other. From our experience, referral is a vital opportunity to create brand loyalty. Virtual communities can market your brand for you – but only if you have created an experience that is worthwhile. Think about how you can encourage customers to share their experiences, recommend products and socialise with each other to build more interest around your brand.
The metaverse also holds the potential to unlock loyalty schemes of the future. Loyalty programs have already progressed from physical cards to digital apps, and the next generation of loyalty programs will see consumers being rewarded with digital goods or exclusive access to virtual events.
Don’t rush to the future at the expense of the present
Many brands are rushing to get involved in virtual reality. But choosing technology based on ‘wanting to be one of the first’ rather than creating an improved, intentional customer experience will only damage your brand profile.
There are big risks in bridging the gap between the physical and virtual worlds. Remember that not all customers will be willing to venture into the metaverse; don’t alienate anyone by assuming that everybody will participate. The majority of customers who will “browse and shop virtually” are likely to be younger, but there’s potential that even younger generations won’t show interest.
Understanding your audience today will set you up for future strategies. Brands can experiment with gamified campaigns to understand which customer segments are already interested in gaming and technology, and who will be more likely to get involved in the virtual future.
The creation of unforgettable experiences
The metaverse is ultimately another sales channel with lots of experiential and creative potential. Retailers should be intentional about what experience they want to create rather than rushing to be one of the first to go virtual. Start with brand goals and mapping out customer journeys. Remember to collect data to understand your current customer base and use this information to drive future strategy.
Success for retailers in the metaverse will look like the creation of unforgettable experiences, leveraging referrals through social marketing, and solidifying loyalty by rewarding digital customers with digital assets.
Achille Traore, chief executive officer, White Label Loyalty