Mike Edmonds, Senior Director Business Strategy Worldwide Retail & Consumer Goods at Microsoft discusses the metaverse and its opportunities.
It seems like every day a new piece of content is published on the metaverse that defines the metaverse, projects the market size, and offers frameworks for conceptual understanding. These whitepapers and blog posts are tremendously helpful and have shaped some of our thinking on the topic. Despite the excitement around what is now the hottest buzzword in tech, many companies are struggling to understand what’s in it for them. I’m engaging with retailers, consumer goods companies, and partners on a daily basis and what I hear often is a simple yet complicated question:
“What does the metaverse mean to my customers and my business?”
What’s missing in the conversation are discrete use cases that describe how the metaverse can impact a retailer’s business. The purpose of this article is to fill in this use case gap and describe potential opportunities for retailers and consumer goods companies that can be enabled by the metaverse. To begin answering the question, “what’s in it for me?”
Identifying Opportunities for Retailers
“The metaverse is creating an entirely new feedback loop and opportunity for business. We are enabling metaverse experiences at all layers of our stack, so customers can more effectively model, automate, simulate and predict changes within their industrial environments, feel a greater sense of presence in the new world of hybrid work and create custom immersive worlds to enable new opportunities for connection and experimentation.”
At Microsoft, we break down the metaverse into three strategies: consumer, enterprise, and industrial. Each strategy unlocks specific use cases based on related opportunities and enabling technologies. This breakdown offers an effective way for retailers to identify where metaverse can have an impact, providing context to dive deeper into specific use cases. Although each strategy is distinct, retailers and consumer goods companies will enable capabilities horizontally across each strategy to drive customer value and business outcomes.
Three metaverse strategies that will shape our future
Centred around online gaming and Xbox, providing a platform for users to collaborate. Use cases within the consumer metaverse unpack how individuals in their daily lives might be able to engage with immersive experiences to explore, play games with their friends, and shop.
Use cases include:
Virtual Stores. Immersive shopping experiences brought to life through digital store experiences inclusive of digital products, interactive content, and store associate interaction. Virtual stores enable brands to interact and connect with their customers at a new level
Virtual Worlds & Experiences. Branded worlds & pop-up experiences for consumers to shop and interact with other customers. Virtual worlds enable brands to build a community within their shoppers and create more touch points & upsell opportunities between the shopper and brand.
Augmented Store Experiences. Use a mixed reality in-store to drive engagement, connection, and conversions of physical products such as virtual fitting rooms, virtual try-ons, and body scanning.
Games & Engagement. Branded game experiences that provide interactive ways for customers to engage. Many early experiences retailers are lighting up in the metaverse are gamified as it offers an easy incentive
Branded Virtual Products. Creation of virtual products, either recreated replicas of traditional physical products or digital only, for consumer avatars to use in the Metaverse
NFTs and Loyalty. Virtual items that serve as membership into branded loyalty programs based on incentivised behaviour.
Enterprise use cases focus on opportunities for employees. How retailers can tap into the metaverse to create immersive experiences for their employees to collaborate seamlessly, learn new skills, and empower front line workers.
Use cases include:
Training. Empower employees with immersive virtual or mixed reality experiences to learn new skills, processes, and procedures and improve knowledge retention
Product Design & Collaboration. Create private, secure, virtual spaces for geographically distributed teams to collaborate on product design and development lifecycle
Employee Recruitment & Onboarding. Attract, ramp-up, and retain talent by creating private, virtual worlds for employee collaboration and culture building
Front Line Worker Empowerment. Provide front line workers with the confidence they need to engage and convert customers through immersive experiences tied to unified customer profiles
Store Layout Visualisation. Create virtual planograms for associates to collaborate on core store visualisation tasks such as merchandising, store layout and seasonal updates.
Fuelled by real time data and sensors that will bring IoT, AI, and AR/VR/MR together for continuous simulation with digital twins to drive efficiency, scale, and insights to factory floors and supply chain fulfilment centres
Digital Twins. Fuel the digitisation of physical assets with real time data to design, analyse, manipulate, and optimise products in a scalable manner through continuous simulation.
Manufacturing Design, Safety & Testing. Virtually test and install new devices and software to simulate interaction with existing assets without disturbing the production line.
Simulate & Refine Processes. Run scenarios of new and improved processes and workflows without impacting physical assets
Data visualisation. Bring to life insights via data from and sensors from IoT, AI, and mixed reality to analyse, monitor and predict scenario outcomes.
These use cases are not meant to be the complete, comprehensive set. In fact, such a list doesn’t exist as retailers and consumer goods companies experiment with technologies that enable metaverse experiences on a daily basis. Treat this list as a starting point for retailers to analyse, assess, and consider for their business. It’s important for retailers to explore metaverse opportunities by focusing on the why first (not the how). Creating a metaverse experience is the relatively easy part. Figuring out if it improves the lives of your customers and employees – and why they should care about it – is much harder.
Your invite | Live Digital Event | Metaverse: Strategies for Retail Success – November 30, 2022.
Join us for this exciting event, where our expert panel will share their metaverse learnings and the insights obtained from working with some of the largest retailers in ANZ and across the world.
From customer conversations and real-world strategies to practical recommendations that you can apply, our speakers will help you deepen your metaverse knowledge.