Lately the metaverse has been dominating industry news, combined with what seems like an explosive interest in the value of NFTs. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the virtual reality of stepping into these digital 3D universes as if they were walk-in closets is approaching an everyday reality. According to new market research by fashtech platform Browzwear the metaverse will provide brands with the ability to test designs and styles before bringing them to the manufacturing stage. If something is popular in the metaverse, the thinking is, it is a great indicator of how the design will perform in real life.
And yet, a study from marketing automation platform Klaviyo has revealed that the majority of UK customers have no idea what the metaverse is, and over 90 percent of those surveyed had little desire to shop in the metaverse.
Avihay Feld, CEO and Co-founder of Browzwear is nonplussed by the survey’s findings. It is understood that most consumers coming into the metaverse won’t be able to build complex garments from scratch. “The metaverse remains, for the most part, an abstract concept,” Feld tells FashionUnited. “Until people have the opportunity to experience the types of immersive experiences we’re envisioning, they can’t know how they would feel or act when in that experience.” Browzwear’s goal is to help brands provide consumers with tools to express themselves and experiment at home. Browzwear uses the phrase “gamifying fashion” to describe this opportunity for consumers to have fun with the technology, while brands get to identify the designs that are penetrating the metaverse market and getting picked up most by consumers.
In 2005, Browzwear created a game allowing teens and tweens to redesign items from brands which led to the inception of its current Stylezone service. The findings from that experiment anticipate what Feld sees happening in the metaverse. The styles that proved popular in the video game were the same ones that were popular online and in-store.
“If you were able to attend a concert by your favorite band in the metaverse, would you be interested in buying a t-shirt that could be worn by your avatar?” asks Feld, who believes that reframing the question in such surveys would yield different results. “Now that the concept of metaverse is grounded in something that is easily understood, the responses would be more reflective of the eventual reality.”
Debate heats up on the importance of the metaverse
But the findings from Boston-based Klaviyo, a customer platform founded in 2012 that enables companies to use data to create personalized experiences and grow their business, suggest that businesses should be listening to their customers before investing in marketing technology that 58 percent of consumers don’t understand. This is the message Klaviyo has been communicating to its partners which include big names such as Fila.
Klaviyo’s study conducted in January 2022 of over 1000 people reveals the scarcest desire to shop in the metaverse on the part of that most coveted consumer demographic: 96% of 25-54 year olds say they’d give it a miss and these figures aren’t dissimilar amongst younger adults with research finding that 93 percent of 18-24 year olds wouldn’t shop in the metaverse while 46 percent aren’t aware of the metaverse at all.
Ed Hallen, Co-founder and Chief Product Officer of Klaviyo says, “It’s clear the metaverse is going to be this year’s buzzword and we’ll all enjoy seeing the flashy marketing campaigns take shape, but our data shows that it’s still a way off from being part of the mainstream.”
Avihay dismisses such results as an appropriate basis for business decisions. “What businesses should be thinking about with the metaverse now is how they can participate in a meaningful way that brings their audience value and makes them come back.”
Indeed with the introduction of the metaverse in 2021 amid an ongoing global pandemic brands have understandably been eager to explore new ways to incorporate the tech to enhance customer relationships and improve their business model. It remains to be seen how this disconnect between consumer and brands will shake out in 2022.
“While some brands might quickly try to lay out their metaverse stall, smart business leaders will be biding their time, listening to their customers and not jumping in head first,” says Hallen. “As we say, ‘Always put the customer first.’ If they’re asking you for improvements, focus your attention there. The avatar can wait for now.”
Fashion editor Jackie Mallon is also an educator and author of Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry