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Metaverse, social commerce — What’s next in digital retail?

Social commerce has evolved immensely in the last decade. Meanwhile, the metaverse is taking digital commerce to a new level.

3 min read

Digital TechnologyMarketing

A shopper uses her mobile device -- The metaverse, social commerce and the future of digital retail

Oleg Magni/Unsplash

In 2014, there was a revolution in digital retail: Twitter launched its “Buy now” button. It was the beginning of true social commerce. Shoppers could buy products through a social media platform, rather than leaving social media to make purchases from retailers’ e-commerce sites. At the time, it appeared the true future of digital retail had come.

Since then, social commerce and digital retail have evolved by leaps and bounds. Shoppers can buy products without leaving Instagram and Facebook. And they can shop from pretty much any device they choose. Meanwhile, the proliferation of the metaverse is taking digital commerce to a whole new level.

Retail settles into the metaverse

A year ago, most consumers weren’t familiar with the term metaverse. And it certainly wasn’t common practice to purchase clothes that only exist in a digital world. Today, however, a growing list of retailers are opening digital storefronts, more consumers are participating in virtual shopping and the metaverse even had its own fashion week.

The first-of-its kind event made its mark in the retail world. More than 60 brands including Tommy Hilfiger, Fred Segal, Estee Lauder and General Motors participated in Decentraland’s Metaverse Fashion Week. Attendees participated in virtual shopping in digital storefronts, discussions, music events, branded after-parties and other activities.

“When I founded my namesake brand in 1985, I never imagined I’d see a time when fashion weeks would be held in a 3D, fully virtual world,” Tommy Hilfiger told Women’s Wear Daily.

American Eagle Outfitters is also embracing digital retail in the metaverse, which is where the teen-focused fashion retailer took its spring “Members Always” campaign. The campaign includes a virtual country club and the ability for brand fans to create avatars on Roblox to try virtual fashions. The move makes sense as more young consumers flock to virtual worlds.

At Victoria’s Secret, the lingerie retailer filed trademark applications for a range of virtual goods and services. Future plans could include reviving its defunct fashion show in the metaverse, which would no doubt look very different from its real-world counterpart.

Meanwhile, CVS Health sees the potential of the metaverse moving beyond fashion. The pharmacy retailer is looking to trademark its logo in the metaverse. Its plans include setting up a digital storefront that will offer prescription drugs, nutrition coaching, telehealth and beauty, personal care and other goods.

Social media, retail continue to merge

Social commerce has come a long way since the launch of Twitter’s “Buy now” button. In today’s consumer environment, social media strategy and social e-commerce can mean almost the same thing.

For Twitter specifically, its social commerce evolution includes a move earlier this year to begin testing Twitter Shops. The mobile-focused social commerce feature allows brands to showcase 50 shoppable products on their profiles.

In fact, 98% of Americans intend to buy something via social media this year and 68% had already made purchases through social as of February, according to a study from Sprout Social. The study also found that baby boomers and Generation X consumers tend to buy from Facebook and Pinterest, while Generation Zers lean toward TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram.

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