Increasing digitisation has seen many brands and retailers begin to venture into the fairly uncharted realm of the metaverse. With knowledge on this space often lacking, many are turning to platforms and digitally-advanced companies to help lead them into this cryptic market.
London-based Black PR is among those that is evolving its services for this rapidly developing space with the launch of a metaverse showroom in the retail-centric virtual world, MetaTown. A number of the brands the firm counts among its portfolio got involved in the launch, bringing them into the virtual space for the first time to allow users to discover their SS23 collections.
On entering the world, which was developed by BrandLab360, visitors are asked to personalise their own avatar that can then be controlled around the currently limited space, which bears resemblance to a real-life shopping and housing district. In the middle of rows of residential streets, digital retail stores stand within the location’s shopping area, where it is possible to browse and purchase non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and virtual fashion collections from various brands. In a bid to encourage further interaction, select areas on the map also come with an open microphone feature, allowing users to speak to others live.
Black PR’s new showroom is located in a street entitled the Queen’s Mile and, once in the space, visitors are able to walk around compact dedicated showrooms for each of the brands presenting. The spaces feature branded posters, virtual furniture placed in meeting room manners and stands on which products can be viewed. Once an item has been clicked on, information about it comes up and the option to learn more is provided.
Speaking to FashionUnited, director of the firm Rebecca Myers, noted that the launch builds on Black PR’s already established virtual showrooms, which had initially launched during 2020 during the pandemic in an attempt to continue communicating its portfolio of brands to press and buyers. “These types of showrooms really help elevate brands on a global scale and allow them to stay current with the ever changing and evolving fashion industry,” Myers added. “The metaverse is fast becoming part of the mainstream and an interesting element to a brands portfolio if they have the means to be involved.”
Combining conventional with unconventional methods
Much of this rise in digitalisation has stemmed from ever shifting consumer sentiments that have especially been impacted in the wake of the pandemic. In response, brands are making attempts to become more digitally-savvy as they look to establish common ground with consumers. This is something Basak Baykal, the owner of her eponymous fine jewellery brand, noted, in conversation with FashionUnited. “Life in the post-pandemic period is quite different from what it used to be. Fashion and, in my case, jewellery buying habits are also changing accordingly,” Baykal said. “Virtual spaces are now somehow more convenient to be able to reach out to a wider audience.”
MetaTown itself aims to attract users from across the board, from fashion-conscious youngsters, who are drawn to the idea of gamification, to busy career men and women who are short on time. The site’s creator BrandLab360 also hopes the space will appeal to those from older generations who are unable to get out easily, giving them a glimpse into a digital world where they can connect with others.
For many of the participating brands in Black PR’s showroom, however, it was building a connection with a digital-savvy younger audience that was a priority when considering this form of expansion. Fine jewellery designer Baykal emphasised this importance, stating: “New generations are now also into jewellery, it is not ‘only’ for our mothers. Younger generations are also investing in good pieces. And they are much more fluent in tech language, they do a lot more in the digital world, thus I am hoping to meet clients who would like to combine conventional with unconventional methods.”
Meanwhile, Bani Pasricha, the founder of Bani Couture noted that it was also a way to connect with a broader array of stockists. The famed Indian designer said: “We intend to connect our brand with global retailers and stores that will match with our brand identity and image, enabling us to reach new customer bases.”
MetaTown’s breadth of users translates in the missions set out by Black PR and its partnered brands, many of which are looking for an innovative way to introduce their label to the world. This was highlighted by the jeweller Bakyal, who said: “My brand is relatively new, so my first objective is to establish a certain level of awareness and appreciation for it. Given its nature, jewellery is not an impulse purchase item, people need to see consistency to develop a certain level of trust, and accordingly invest in those pieces. This is also the case for buyers. I wanted them to further explore the brand in their journey of adding the brand to their portfolios as well.”
Black PR’s Myers noted that a wide degree of clients and parties from other industries have already taken an interest in the virtual showroom, including stores and press contacts that the firm has worked with in the past. Larger retailers that are moving into offering direct-to-consumer models, as well as wholesalers, have also particularly been taking advantage of the metaverse space in order to stand out among competitors, Myers added.
“The response from both brands and clients has been great. We have found that combining our physical showroom here in London, and this metaverse showroom has allowed us to expand our international reach by connecting with buyers and press all over the world, opening up visibility and increasing sales revenue for our clients on a global scale with contacts we might not usually meet,” Myers said. She added that as it seems the metaverse was here to stay, Black PR was planning to be present at its forefront.