Creating a new branded virtual world isn’t easy and some brands may want to explore partnering with a popular gaming platform like Roblox, says Hackl. “You don’t have to create a full world but you can start by dipping your toes and doing little activations here and there.”
Roblox’s IPO in March was one of the most hotly anticipated listings of 2021. With 32.6 million daily active users interacting in millions of 3D virtual experiences, brands have shown interest including Gucci and Nike, says Christina Wootton, Roblox’s vice president of brand partnerships. “We recently have started hearing about brands considering the creation of special metaverse teams, just like how they put together teams to focus on specific social media channels not too long ago. This is the future of how people will learn, play, consume entertainment, try on and shop fashion, and interact with brands.” The platform is having “multiple conversations” with fashion and beauty brands that are planning to launch sometime this year, but Wootton declined to name who.
Not everyone is convinced. “[Branded VR experiences] are a fun and interesting idea but it’s probably five or 10 years ahead of its time. I don’t imagine there’s going to be positive ROI,” says Julie Ask, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester. “Is this the way we’re going to shop and spend considerable amounts of money in the next five or 10 years? Probably not. But every once in a while, something comes out of Japan like Pokémon Go, and it just takes off.”
Some critics warn that people might spend less time online post-pandemic and brands shouldn’t “put all their eggs into virtual worlds”, says Hackl. “While more people are heading into the metaverse right now, I also think that we will want to return to physical events and see artists perform live and be as close to them as possible.”
Key to the success of virtual brand worlds will be a combination of convenience, personalisation and fun. “New consumer habits were created over the past year. I think that people found so much convenience doing things virtually, if our experience is done right, it will be meaningful to our customers and make their time well spent,” adds SK-II’s Chang.
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