For the last 20+ years we watched so many movies about dystopian sci-fi kind-of future, in which you can escape to a parallel digital medium, just wear your VR/AR lenses and be who you aspire to be, go where you wish to go… 

Sally El Akkad, Director of Marketing and eCommerce at Electrolux Egypt

While it is a stimulating and boundless idea, it used to fascinate me when I was younger (and honestly still does until this moment). But I used to think how interesting it is to have the courage in a virtual world while the same person within the movie lacks this passionate drive-in reality. I struggled to sympathize with the mental split of the master character to be stronger in his virtual escape vs. reality, although I enjoyed most of these movies and found their potential absolutely tempting that, one day, people can have such an option between their hands. 

The argument here can be; rather than thinking about escaping reality to find a more fulfilling life that endorse our innate strengths and help us connect with potential people around the globe who share similar interests, passion, and potential, hopefully to find a relaxing and safe virtual utopia in which a person can be stress free. 

Seeing where we stand now, we are strongly connected to technology; we multiscreen and we cannot disconnect ourselves from social media. Thus somehow, we are prepared for the coming move which is migrating to the metaverse, the irony is that; No official definition yet exists for the metaverse. Some say that Meta refers to the metaverse as: the next evolution of social connection. 

Thus, we have been taken by technology masterminds in a journey in a digital universe. Think of it as a 3D space that changes the way we interact with technology by being an extension for your way of living, as this universe is accessible via immersive technologies. Let us talk numbers, The metaverse will be worth more than $1 trillion in annual revenues, according to JP Morgan.

Let us take an example; if I am going through this quest, and attend a virtual gathering to meet those amazing tech-loving people, I will pick my amazing avatar that reflects the traits I want to reflect, and go for an immersive e-commerce journey because as we are keen about how we look in physical, we are also keen about digital, so here we are talking about purchases that are

  • Virtual to Virtual – I will buy a virtual attire to wear in the gathering from the e-store 
  • Virtual to Physical – I might buy some avatar attire or who knows groceries and maybe a pizza as well while I am immersed in my digital experience and send it to my physical home 
  • Physical to Virtual– I assume that there are some suits or tools that makes my digital experience more profound, thus I will buy it Physically and use it virtually 

The evolution of e-commerce is mind blowing, with infinite options, we will be seeing an expanding movement from “direct-to-consumer” to “direct-to-avatar”. Just to give you a glimpse about the size of the prize, the estimates by BNP Paribas found that in-game spending on items like digital clothes and character upgrades crossed $129 billion by the end of 2021, from $109 billion in 2019 and expectations for further growth is impeccable for the years to come; this will certainly be accompanied with the evolution of the method of payment to cater the progressive purchase requirements that will evolve further with the understanding of the consumer purchase journey in the metaverse.

As per Vogue Business notes, Gucci was quick off the mark on May 2021 – when 20 million users visited its virtual Gucci Garden on the Roblox platform. In just two weeks, hundreds of thousands of users bought multiple limited-edition avatar items from the garden’s virtual store. Gucci’s Dionysus bags even sold for more than the usual price of the physical equivalent. Vogue Business found that users who bought these virtual Gucci items “wore” them five hours longer than other accessories. 

Here comes the privacy and intellectual property protection hot topic, for which the available suggested  solution is NFTs (non-fungible tokens); as per Investopedia, NFTs are unique cryptographic tokens that exist on a blockchain and cannot be replicated. NFTs can represent real-world items like artwork and real estate. 

“Tokenizing” these real-world tangible assets makes buying, selling, and trading them more efficient while reducing the probability of fraud. In other words, it’s generally built using the same kind of programming as cryptocurrency, like Bitcoin or Ethereum, but that’s where the similarity ends. Physical money and cryptocurrencies are “fungible,” meaning they can be traded or exchanged for one another

Unexpectedly RTFKT (pronounced “artifact”), for example, has staked out its claim as a leader in the NFT field. The company sold 600 pairs of digital sneakers for a total of $3.1 million in 7 minutes in February 2021. At price points of $3,000, $5,000 and $10,000…. Super cool, isn’t it? Potential unleashed! 

Let us face it; Yes, we are physical beings in the physical world. However, life is in continuous progress.  Work conditions post epidemic moved from strictly offices to virtual meetings/space, young mothers keep on fighting about screen time, our teenagers started years and years back with their virtual games that truly absorb their focus, energy and fills them with willingness for more. 

We rely more and more on social media to get to know about our smaller and wider entourage thus by all means the train has already left the station. A report by analyst firm Gartner revealed that by 2026, 25% of people will spend at least 1 hour per day in the metaverse. What I am trying to say here is that what is coming is an evolution for what already started more than 15 years back. 

I will leave you with this insight; the shift to the metaverse is likely to have a positive business impact, according to 71% of respondents to an Accenture survey, and 42% say it will be “breakthrough” or “transformational.”  Like it or not, Ready or not. Wy friend… the bogeyman is out of the closet.