NEW GEN Z 101: Unlock & Outlast Microtrends

Young Europeans Are Already Buying Virtual Goods—Here’s Why

Apr 05 2022

Young consumers are already in the metaverse—but what exactly are they buying in there, and why?


TL;DR

  • The vast majority of young Europeans are already spending time in virtual worlds—and they’re already buying digital products, too
  • The top digital products Gen Z and Millennials are buying underscore their IRL priorities
  • Both gens want a digital product to be cool to spend money on it, but Gen Z and Millennials have different ideas about what else makes it worth the money

As you probably know well by now, the metaverse is the marketing buzzword du jour, and brands far and wide have been rushing to make their mark in these new digital landscapes, from French luxury fashion house LVMH to United Colors of Benetton to Selfridges and beyond. The “true” metaverse—aka a fully immersive digital world—is still very much in the making. But YPulse’s recently released WE Metaverse trend report found that young Europeans are already spending huge amounts of time in virtual spaces where they’re playing games, hanging out with friends, and—yes—buying branded digital products. In fact, 85% of Gen Z and 73% of Millennials in Western Europe tell YPulse they play video games that bring them a virtual world (with Fornite and Minecraft being their top two), and 39% have already shopped for digital products in these spaces. Another 38% say that while they haven’t yet opened their virtual wallets, they’re interested in doing so. That means the majority of European Gen Z and Millennials are interested in buying virtual products.

Clearly, this presents a massive opportunity for brands to tap digital spaces to reach young Europeans. But exactly what virtual goods are they buying, and what makes them what to spend? These two charts from our WE Metaverse trend report tell the full story:

Digital clothing is the virtual good Gen Z and Millennials are buying most

The top product both young gens have purchased is (unsurprisingly) clothing/accessories for their digital avatars. Fashion brands have been infiltrating video games and virtual worlds for a while now, and as young consumers continue to spend more time in these spaces, it only makes sense for more brands to join in the digital fashion show. In fact, for Gen Z especially, avatars are becoming an extension of their identities, and what they wear in the metaverse is becoming nearly as important as what they wear in real life: half of 13-39-year-olds have created a digital avatar, and two in five say their avatar helps then express their creativity and represents their personality. More than a quarter also say their avatars allow them to be a version of themselves that they can’t be in real life, and 17% say their avatar is already wearing branded clothing. What’s more, digital clothing is a way for young Europeans to access luxury products they might not be able to have in real life: Our recent WE Luxury report found that, despite what you may have heard, young European are interested in luxury goods.But they want them to be more accessible and affordable. Digital luxury products are one way they’re being democratized. Last year, for example, Gucci debuted a Campaign Sneaker Garage and Gucci Garden inside Roblox, while Nike created Nikeland and Ralph Lauren debuted a digital shopping experience. And, of course, Balenciaga teamed up with Fortnite to promote some of their most popular pieces and allow players to enter a digital Balenciaga store and choose branded outfits.

Virtual currencies are taking off with these gens

Over a third of young Europeans have also purchased currency within a video game, and, Further down on the list of things they’ve purchased are cryptocurrency and NFTs, which may be the only buzzwords that rival “the metaverse” for most headlines won. And while Gen Z is (slightly) more likely than Millennials to be buying gaming currencies and virtual ‘fits, Millennials are more likely than Gen Z to say they’ve purchased cryptocurrency and NFTs in the metaverse.

The hype around NFTs was off the charts all last year with massive sales to match—Sotheby’s sold an NFT collection by artist Pak for $17 million and made nearly $600K for the famous Nyan Cat GIF. Meanwhile, celebrities, influencers, and creators have been jumping on the NFT movement along with brands. And while some headlines have linked cryptocurrency and NFTs to Gen Z, YPulse’s WE personal finances and services report found that Millennials are much more likely than Gen Z to be investing in both. That’s at least in part because of their more stable financial situations.But Millennials are also more likely to think of virtual products as an investment:

Millennials are more likely to buy virtual goods that feel like investments

While both Gen Z and Millennials say a virtual product needs to be “cool” to make it worth spending their very real money on, “an investment” is a very close second for Millennials—and they’re far more likely than their younger peers to say so. In fact, for Gen Z, having a digital product be an investment is about as important as it being luxurious or high-fashion—i.e. not very important at all. What they really care about is whether a digital product is cool or trendy.For this gen, a product’s exclusivity and status symbol potential don’t matter as much as whether they personally find it cool. While that doesn’t mean they’re not drawn to brand name items (22% say a digital product needs be attached to a brand name to be worth the cash), it does mean that brands should focus on creating digital products that make Gen Z feel cool and unique rather than elite.

YPulse Western Europe Business users can access the full Metaverse Trend report and data here.

Don’t have a YPulse Western Europe Business account? Find out more here.

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