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UK consumers want the metaverse and they are going to shop in it

A third of UK consumers plan to use the metaverse for online shopping and expect to see the brands they see on the high street in the ‘realverse’ have a presence in the virtual world.

According to a study by Vista, of 2,000 UK adults, most Brits (59 percent) are familiar with the metaverse and anticipate it’ll take around 15 years before it goes mainstream. 73 percent of respondents predict it will be most popular with Gen Z and Millennials amongst all age groups.

Although the metaverse may seem a long way off, the research shows that Brits’ shopping habits have shifted and that small businesses need to stay on top of emerging tech. Almost two thirds of Brits (64 percent) said that the pandemic increased their online shopping, with 65 percent saying it is important for small businesses to have an online presence. But as over three-quarters (76 percent) of Brits still enjoy shopping on the high street, the metaverse offers small businesses an exciting opportunity to blend virtual content with the real-world experiences that shoppers crave.

Of all the services that could be made available in the metaverse, Brits are most likely to use it for online shopping (29 percent). This was followed by social media (20 percent), concerts/live entertainment events (19 percent) and online streaming services (19 percent). It’s clear consumers expect the virtual high street to boast as much variety as the UK high street. The most popular small businesses on the metaverse’s high street are predicted to be fashion stores (17 percent), electronic stores (17 percent), everyday grocery stores (15 percent), booksellers (15 percent), vehicle showrooms (15 percent) and virtual estate agents (15 percent).

British shoppers also revealed what would be most important to them when engaging with small businesses in the metaverse, which include:

  1. Customer engagement (20%)
  2. Serving clients / customers quickly and efficiently (19%)
  3. Strong marketing, design and branding (14%)
  4. Making the store an immersive and impressive experience (14%)
  5. Focusing on in-person / in-store products (14%)

Vista has partnered with Georgie Barrat, best known for presenting Channel 5’s The Gadget Show, to reveal what the high street of the metaverse could look like and what it means for businesses. With these insights in mind, Georgie Barrat has shared some tips on how small businesses will be able to harness the metaverse to connect with their customers:

  • Revolutionise customer support: Customer support will be made easier through augmented reality (AR). Call-outs could be done virtually and AI assistants will be able to respond to frequently asked questions. The metaverse will allow small business owners to see and point to objects when advising customers, making it easier to give advice if a customer is struggling to assemble or fix a product or seeking guidance.
  • Adapt your marketing & design for the metaverse: While the metaverse will create a lot of new opportunities, in some cases it’s about taking what you’re doing and adapting it to this virtual world. From a search perspective, local shops, restaurants, and salons could use Google’s AR/VR tech to provide customers with a 3D experience of their listing. Some see the metaverse as the future of social media, so keep a close eye on platforms like Meta and Snap Inc., which are already active in this space and are shaping opportunities for business. In terms of design, 3D modelling and 360 videos will be key to creating virtual artefacts and locations. With interoperability being an important feature of the metaverse, content will need to work across the spectrum as users move between worlds.
  • Create an inspiring and unique space: The metaverse allows small businesses to build virtual environments that can tell their story in ways they never have before, not bound by location, budget or even feasibility. Your metaverse ‘shop front’, where consumers interact with products or services, could be on a beach, in outer space or behind a waterfall. A virtual showroom could be sleek paired back white space to chat with clients. Headsets and motion trackers will convey the nuances of body language, facial expressions, and tone, allowing you to connect with customers in a very personalised manner.
  • Offer a virtual ‘Try Before You Buy’: Within a virtual high street, it’s not a stretch to imagine customers using their digital twin to try on virtual clothes. AR allows people to see what a product will look like on them or place it in situ. Brands are already using this technology to allow customers to try on makeup, glasses, or place furniture in their homes. This tech is applicable to a range of small businesses including retailers, hairdressers & salons, interior designers, and estate agents.
  • Consider how your product holds value in the metaverse: The metaverse will have its own economy. In fact, we are already seeing very lucrative examples of this in the likes of NFT’s, the digital real estate market in games like Decentraland and brands selling clothes (or skins as they’re known) for people to dress their avatars in. So as a small business could you adapt your in-person product or service to be used in the metaverse? Just like a normal economy entertainment, fashion, design, art, advertising, and services will all hold value.

Emily Shirley, General Manager of Vista UK and Ireland comments: “The metaverse will open a wealth of possibilities for many small businesses, as it has the opportunity to revolutionise how every single person in the UK and beyond purchases goods and experiences services. While the metaverse won’t replace the physical high street, it will likely become a hybrid of virtual and in-person experiences.

“Although these changes may seem daunting to small businesses, we’ve seen first-hand over the last 20 years how they’ve already navigated and adapted to major shifts in the digital landscape. We are looking forward to the innovative ways that British small businesses will make use of this new technology.

“We’ll continue to partner closely with small businesses as we enter the next internet revolution together, providing tools and advice for every step of the way.”

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