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Most Shoppers Are Clueless About the Metaverse, But Retailers & Brands Are Fighting for Their Virtual Dollars

If you build it, they will come. That may be the case for the metaverse, but consumers are still slow to adapt to the new virtual way of doing business.

While many companies have made the push in recent months to activate in the metaverse, consumer awareness has yet to catch up. According to a new study by CommerceNext, in partnership with Bizrate Insights, Coresight Research and CommX, many consumers still have no idea what the metaverse is at the moment.

The February 2022 survey, which polled respondents between the ages of 18 and 59, found that almost half of those surveyed, 48%, hadn’t yet heard the term “metaverse” and that only 5% considered themselves enthusiastic users of it, while 47% were only vaguely familiar with the term and still in the dark on how to use it.

“Our survey data indicates that awareness of the metaverse is low overall, but the potential is high.” said Veronika Sonsev, co-founder of CommerceNext. “While most shoppers were not familiar with the metaverse, the ones that engage in virtual worlds seemed inclined to shop in the metaverse in the future.”

What’s more, only 18% of all consumers surveyed said that they engaged with virtual worlds at all. Of the 100 consumers surveyed who do engage with virtual worlds, 76% play games and 39% socialize in them. While only 30% of the group shops in metaverse environments, these respondents reported interest in activities such as shopping in virtual malls and trying on clothing and accessories virtually.

In a more promising twist for retailers, when asked about shopping-related activities within future metaverse visits, 41 % of consumers reported the most interest in buying real-world products. This direction bodes well for retailers and companies alike who aspire to sell real-world products for purchase in the metaverse, like StockX with its sneaker NFTs.

Except for Millennials, everyone else agrees they would most like to buy real-world products in a virtual world, the study showed. All age segments express high interest in attending events and in the more casual shopping activities, like shopping in a virtual mall and trying on clothes. After that, interests diverge. Consumers between 50-59 want to shop with friends and buy digital clothing or accessories for their avatars; Gen Z consumers want to try on everything, from makeup to glasses, while dabbling in NFT purchases.

“Despite the hype, this timely research helps ground where the metaverse is really at for consumers, while pointing to where it can have a meaningful impact in the long term.,” added Brian Walker, chief strategy officer at Bloomreach, a founding CommX member. “Overall, retailers aren’t missing out on sales if they are not focused on the metaverse now, as consumer adoption is still early, but they’ll want to keep an eye on emerging technologies and platforms as potential revenue drivers as shopper awareness and usage grows.”

This news comes as retailers and brands continue to announce new metaverse activations. In the last few months, multiple brands have announced forays into the metaverse, either via virtual games, products or NFTs. So far this month, Biion Footwear and SoleSavy have both announced new metaverse activations. And in March, virtual social metaverse platform Decentraland hosted the first Metaverse Fashion Week, which saw brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Dolce & Gabbana, Etro, Dundas, Cavalli, Faith Connexion, and Nicholas Kirkwood host virtual shopping experiences or runway shows.

This study also follows a February report by research from insight firm Gartner, which showed that by 2026, 25% of people will spend at least one hour a day in the metaverse for work, shopping, education, social and/or entertainment.

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