Virtual Living Gaining Steam Among Consumers

While the metaverse may feel like a new concept, consumers are already taking an interest –– and spending real dollars on virtual goods.

That’s according to a recent global survey from Accenture, which found 64% of consumers have already purchased a virtual good or taken part in a virtual experience or service in the past year. For retailers, that means there is a new revenue stream in the metaverse, and many brands have already created a virtual presence to connect with consumers. What’s more, the figure is expected to rise in the coming years, with 83% of consumers interested in making purchases via the metaverse. 

“The metaverse era has begun, and so for consumer-facing companies, it’s not about deciding if they’re going to go into the metaverse, it’s deciding how,’’ Jill Standish, senior managing director and global head of Accenture’s Retail industry group, said in a statement. “Retailers and brands will need to reimagine and experiment with what new immersive and consultative experiences could mean to consumers.” 

The survey, which queried 11,000 consumers from 16 countries, also underscored that consumers already frequent retailers in the virtual world. For example, 42% of respondents said they had visited a retailer in the virtual world to get advice, make a payment or browse a product range when shopping for a physical item. Another 56% plan to do so in the next year. This figure was even higher among millennials –– 51% and 61%, respectively.

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With so much interest from consumers, retailers have many opportunities to connect with their customers in the metaverse. And it’s not all about selling virtual products, according to Accenture.

“In addition to new opportunities to sell, the metaverse can also help build loyalty through experiences that go beyond just buying a product,” Standish said. “For instance, retailers can create a personalized experience by offering a live-stream shopping event where customers can sit next to a brand ambassador, and then immediately be able to step into a virtual dressing room where they can try something on, add it to their cart, and check out.”

More than half (55%) of consumers agree more of their lives and livelihood are shifting to digital spaces, and 90% of retail executives say “they anticipate that leading organizations will push the boundaries of the virtual world to make it more real, increasing the need for persistence and seamless navigation between the digital and physical worlds,” according to the Accenture Technology Vision 2022, “Meet Me in the Metaverse: The Continuum of Technology and Experience Reshaping Business.” In addition, 72% of global executives are betting the metaverse will have a positive impact on their organization, while 45% believe it will be breakthrough or transformational.

Beyond retail, the metaverse is also likely to play a major role in travel. Half of consumers said that they are buying, or would be interested in buying, a travel experience such as a sightseeing tour or hotel stay. Once again, millennials have even more interest in doing so (55%). More than half (54%) also said they are buying, or interested in buying, tickets to a concert, a show or sporting event taking place in a virtual world.

“It’s important to recognize that the metaverse is not intended to replace physical travel, rather provide a complementary enhancement to an overarching experience that, over time, may become an essential part of the travel ecosystem,” Emily Weiss, senior managing director and global head of Accenture’s Travel industry group, said in a statement. “Giving the option to sit in a virtual first-class seat, experience the lounge or walk around a hotel resort or room, opens up opportunities to truly engage and inspire people before they travel. And, through ‘trying-before-you-travel,’ recreating landmarks in all their past glory or allowing travelers to investigate parts of nature, which they cannot explore within real-life interaction, the metaverse can also help create a more meaningful travel experience that delivers on or even exceeds customer expectations.”