July 13, 2022
By Phil Lempert, SupermarketGuru, Consumer Trend Tracker, Food Trends Editor, NBC’s Today and Author

The Metaverse is a lot more than just the latest fad or a way for tech companies to earn huge dollars from retailers and brands to experiment with the latest cool idea (that may or may not become a reality). The Metaverse has been around for a couple decades. The term was first coined in Neal Stephenson’s book Snow Crash back in 1992, was born in the gaming world, evolved in 2003 into Second Life; and then took a setback when Google introduced Google Glass in 2013. Perhaps shoppers were not ready for the technology, or it was too clunky, unstable, or expensive. Now, that’s all changed.

Today you’ll still need an Oculus, HTC, Pansonite or other virtual reality headset to enter a Metaverse (and there are many to choose from) and not all headsets will allow you to access all Metaverses. Apple’s long-awaited entry into the VR world, which is expected later this year, will most likely make it easier and certainly more stylish to become addicted to this new world.

While there are a few VR platforms out there, the ones that are being used by CPG and retailers are Decentraland, The Sandbox, Meta’s Horizon Worlds, Fortnite and Roblox. Some category and brand managers still need a bit of a nudge to embrace the Metaverse – how’s this? In 2021 sales of real estate in the Metaverse topped $500 million and those real estate prices grew by over 700% according to BanklessTimes. Let’s take a look at some of the numbers and timeline:

  • Decentraland sold one land parcel for $913,000 to Everyrealm who created a shopping district. (June 2021)
  • An unidentified purchaser paid $450,000 to be Snoop Dogg’s digital neighbor within Snoop Verse which is located in The Sandbox. (December 2021)
  • Decentraland’s average cost per parcel, according to Parcel.so, is now $11,899 for 256 square meters and they anticipate their 2022 sales volume to reach almost $53 million.
  • The Sandbox offers the largest parcel sizes at 9,216 square meters and while the average cost per parcel is less than that in Decentraland, their sales volume in 2022 is expected to reach over $140 million.

McKinsey & Company predicts that by 2030 the Metaverse is expected to be worth $5 trillion; with a little over half of that amount supporting the growth in e-commerce. Many retailers and restaurants have launched or been working on their virtual worlds. Chipotle’s Roblox Metaverse experience lets users roll virtual burritos into real food. Samsung, after CES experienced major exhibitors and attendees cancelling their plans due to concerns over Covid omicrom, created their Metaverse in Decentraland to keep their CES buzz going. Other brands including Unilever, Timberland, Miller Lite, Gucci and Heineken have all made their Metaverse moves – but the one that I am most impressed with so far, is Absolut.

Absolut built a 3-story pop-up Metaverse to enrich their sponsorship at the Coachella Music Festival called Absolut.Land. This next Gen iteration of Woodstock attracted over 600,000 people this year – even amid Covid concerns and some music events being cancelled. Absolut.Land is a convergence of art, fashion, music and, of course, cocktails made to bring people together both in-person and online. It’s a space where festival goers on the ground and fans from all across the world can meet and bond over their shared love of festival culture through virtual drinks, experiences and more. Absolut also had a physical tent designed to perfectly match Absolut.Land, so it really is a merging of the physical and digital worlds. It included an Absolut Bar, Anti-Gravity Dance Floor (so your avatar can transport from floor to floor while still dancing), The Selfie Room and even a museum showcasing Absolut’s iconic artwork collection.

A just released study from InContext finds that 85% of respondents said that shopping virtually was “easy to shop”; for those households with kids and Millenials that percentage increased to 92%. The survey’s top rating for the experience itself was that “I had fun shopping in this virtual shopping experience,” a trait that every grocery retailer is attempting to deliver on, especially since the pandemic altered shoppers’ in-store experiences.

A virtual market can include many benefits that go well beyond 3D packaging for shoppers to read and compare product features including nutritionals, ingredients, and prices. With a flick of a finger, it can also reveal ingredient sourcing information, allergens, and the brand’s sustainability ratings.  Imagine grocery retailers creating interactive “dining clubs” based on health attributes, cooking classes and demos, educational classes, store tours and even creating loyalty programs focused around buying healthier foods.

This retail technological revolution will not replace brick and mortar stores, but it will enhance the at-home shopping experience; especially for those Millenials and Generation Z shoppers that were born attached to their iPhones and Xboxes. The key to success for retail in the Metaverse will be high quality content. Retailers and brands will have to make wise choices and really understand what their customers want from a virtual experience. And that’s where the Category Manager comes in as the gatekeeper of all things Metaverse!