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Western European Brands Are Reaching Young Consumers in the Metaverse—Here’s How

Jun 21 2022

The metaverse is (still) the buzziest marketing trend of the year—and young consumers are spending a lot of time there. Here are 4 ways brands are reaching them in their virtual worlds…


TL;DR:

  • The metaverse isn’t fully developed yet, but Europeans brands are already reaching Gen Z and Millennials in their virtual gaming worlds—and many are doing it by creating games themselves
  • Virtual fashion has boomed in the last year, and with digital ‘fits nearly as important as IRL ones, a huge number of brands are creating virtual clothing lines for young consumers’ avatars
  • IRL and digital events and experiences that center the metaverse are also trending, giving young consumers the experiencification of retail they crave

You don’t need us to tell you that the metaverse is the biggest marketing buzzword we’ve seen this year, or that it will likely reverberate across headlines and social media for some time to come. Along with NFTs and viral products, the metaverse was one of the biggest marketing trends in 2021, and it has only grown in 2022 as young consumers continue to flock to digital spaces—and brands find ways to reach them there. And while the “true” metaverse—a.k.a. a fully immersive digital world—is still very much in the making, our 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 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. Meanwhile, when looking to the future of the metaverse, young consumers see themselves doing a variety of activities, including shopping and attending events.

All of this makes one thing clear: brands that make their mark in the metaverse now will find an enthusiastic market. After all, 59% agree: “When brands interact with the virtual world(s) I am part of it makes me more likely to purchase from them.” Here are 4 ways brands are reaching these young consumers in the metaverse now:

Games and gaming platforms

As it stands now, the metaverse is first and foremost a gaming space. From Minecraft to Fortnite to Roblox, young Europeans are turning to these virtual worlds to build, mine, battle, and explore to their heart’s content. And in keeping with this landscape, brands are reaching young gamers here by creating their own branded games and gaming platforms. Metaverse early adopter Gucci, for instance, has released a series of mini-games on Roblox as part of its “virtual piazza,” Gucci Town—which is itself a small part of the Gucci Vault, the brand’s “multi-directional exploration spanning digital realms,” which includes events, experiences, digital merch and more (more on all that below). By playing the games, users can score virtual currency to spend on (you guessed it) virtual Gucci products.

U.K.-based shoe brand Clarks also recently made its metaverse debut with the Roblox game experience Clarks Stadium. The stadium was co-designed with Gen Z fans to replicate an Olympic stadium, which houses various games that users can play for prizes. In addition to the traditional games, Clarks also created in-game coupon code giveaways, the winners of which received an exclusive gold chain IRL, as well as virtual goods. Meanwhile, Italian company United Colors of Benetton opened a digital storefront that included a series of games, which let young consumers collect QR codes to be used in-store.

Digital fashion

More than any other metaverse marketing strategy, virtual fashion has probably gotten the most attention—and with good reason. In just a short period of time, virtual fashion has become so big among Gen Z that it has become nearly as important to them as what they wear in real life. Meanwhile, the British Fashion Council recently added an award to recognize virtual fashion (which naturally will be presented by a digital avatar of Gucci’s creative director). We already told you last year how high fashion has infiltrated video games (a.k.a. the metaverse), which saw a number of European luxury brands from Gucci to Balenciaga to Louis Vuitton to Burberry create their own virtual collections.

Non-fashion brands are also creating clothing lines in the metaverse. Papa John’s (which is making major moves into Western Europe) recently released a series of NFTs, which took the form of nine virtual bags inspired by the heat-retaining bag its pizzas are delivered in IRL. The virtual goods were redeemable via a QR code on the brand’s pizza box leaflet and were designed by Spain-based artist Tom Hoff and British illustrator and designer Ash Sketch, and minted on ​​energy-efficient blockchain Tezos.

Beyond existing brands entering the metaverse, new digital-only fashion brands have also emerged, creating a never-before-seen direct-to-avatar fashion economy. Meanwhile, U.K.-based fintech platform Twig now lets young Europeans exchange physical clothing for digital ‘fits. The next-gen clothing swap is in partnership with The Dematerialised, a platform for trading and selling fashion NFTs, and aims to tap the growing market for digital fashion while also giving young consumers the opportunity to engage in sustainable fashion choices.

Retail experiences and events

Young consumers have long wanted shopping to be an experience, and our WE Shopping and Retail report found that 69% of young Europeans think online shopping should be an experience, too. Enter the metaverse, where brands are creating virtual events and retail experiences. Gucci has created perhaps the most prominent examples of this. Launched in 2020, Gucci’s Garden Experience, for example, was a two-week virtual experience on Roblox that a store, exhibition spaces, a pool, and limited-edition goods and avatars. And recently, the brand announced that it bought virtual land in The Sandbox and will begin building its own world on the platform, an extension of its already multifaceted Vault.

Other brands are creating retail experiences and events that bridge the digital and physical divide. British designer Charli Cohen, for instance, recently partnered with luxury retailer Selfridges to create a digital and IRL clothing line celebrating the 25th anniversary of Pokémon. The line could be shopped through an immersive, cyberpunk shopping platform called Electric/City, which featured virtual performances and augmented reality merchandise vans. Every item in the physical clothing line also came with an exclusive Snapchat filter, and the digital line let users access a body-tracking augmented reality lens to wear the clothes—and apply the virtual garments to a number of different platforms. Meanwhile, Italian jeweler Repossi partnered with Crosby Studios to create a hybrid physical-digital retail pop-up in Paris. The space features an IRL café, installation, and retail shop featuring furniture and art pieces that are available to purchase IRL and in-game.

Avatars & influencers

While many brands are creating products for young consumers’ avatars to wear and interact with, others are creating the avatars themselves. Adidas recently entered the metaverse with a bespoke avatar creation platform, which allows users to create an avatar based on “a range of questions that aim to identify their personality,” which are used to “establish the appearance of their digital self.” Created in partnership with Ready Player Me, the AI-powered avatar can be used throughout various virtual worlds and will be decked out in digital apparel inspired by the brand’s IRL collection. Meanwhile, French luxury fashion house LVMH created its own virtual ambassador, jumping on the trend of virtual influencers—which 64% of virtual world gamers say brands should have.

Clearly, the opportunity for brands in the metaverse is vast—and young Europeans are more than open to it. The majority say they like when brands interact with their virtual worlds, giving brands little reason to stay out of this new virtual landscape.

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

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

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