The metaverse and the future of e-commerce

By Brian Straight

Online shopping continues to evolve and now includes NFTs, cryptocurrency and more

At the end of 2021, Nike (NYSE: NKE) became one of the first brands to launch a metaverse store. In its first five months after going live, Nikeland was visited by over 7 million people worldwide. Visitors to Nikeland, which is built on Roblox, can create an avatar and try on and purchase virtual products and interact with other visitors.
Meta (NASDAQ: META), the parent company of Facebook, and Jio Platforms have launched e-commerce capabilities inside WhatsApp, allowing residents of India to purchase items while in the app from JioMart, an online grocer.
Shopping in the metaverse may be in its infancy, and likely not understood by many at this point, but it represents the future of online shopping. Whether that is buying virtual goods, NFTs or physical goods and services, brands are flocking to the metaverse.
“Google Trends data suggests that worldwide searches for the topic of the Metaverse have spiked since October 2021. But do consumers understand the Metaverse? More importantly, are they ready to shop on the Metaverse?” asked BigCommerce in its Global Consumer Report: Current and Future Shopping Trends survey.
The survey tackled a broad range of topics, but one section was devoted to the future of online shopping. In the results, 26% of respondents said they had a strong understanding of the metaverse and another 25% reported a mild understanding.
“While knowledge of the Metaverse remained relatively consistent regardless of country, we found that Gen Z and Millennials reported a stronger understanding than Gen X and Baby Boomers. Moreover, consumers with an income of $100,000 or more per year tend to have a stronger understanding of the Metaverse, while those who make less than $25,000 per year have little to no understanding,” BigCommerce wrote.
The survey, written by Shelley Kilpatrick, asked 4,222 people in five countries (the U.S., U.K., Italy, France and Australia) a series of questions on their current shopping habits as well as their understanding and willingness on future shopping trends. The survey was conducted by ProfitWell in March and co-branded with Google.
Unsurprisingly, Gen Z and millennials were most willing to shop in the metaverse, and 58% of those making more than $100,000 annually were willing to shop or had already done so.
The metaverse is a virtual world, but 51% of shoppers in the space would like to purchase a combination of both physical and virtual goods. Again, age makes a difference, with Gen Z more likely to prefer virtual goods (19%) compared to just 6% of baby boomers.
BigCommerce (NASDAQ: BIGC) pointed to Balenciaga as an example of a company that is successfully combining virtual and physical worlds. Last year, the apparel brand launched a collection of virtual outfits and accessories inside the popular game Fortnite and paired those virtual offerings with limited-edition versions in its store and online.

What of NFTs?

NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are all the rage online. These virtual items have become popular with sports stars and artists, allowing them to sell authenticated digital versions of their works or likenesses. They are usually purchased using cryptocurrency.
With so little understanding of the NFT market broadly, and those with interest most focused on music, gaming or fashion, BigCommerce cautioned brands about jumping too fast into the world of NFTs.
“It’s worth noting though that the NFT market is still extremely new — and prone to volatility. In fact, as of right now, many news outlets — both mainstream like The Wall Street Journal and niche like Decrypt — are reporting a significant downturn in the NFT market,” Kilpatrick wrote. “Brands might be wise to enter with caution, or at the very least with a solid understanding of their target consumers and a close eye on the state of the market.”

Payment trends with cryptocurrency

The COVID-19 pandemic really accelerated the use of cryptocurrency such as bitcoin as shoppers and retailers sought contactless methods of payment. While only 5% of shoppers use cryptocurrency to pay online, according to the survey, BigCommerce found that of those that used crypto, 66% said it was their preferred online payment method.
Cryptocurrency was more likely to be used by consumers that had a better understanding of the currency method. Unfortunately for global brands, that understanding varies by country, as does the preferred cryptocurrency. U.S. consumers were least likely to understand crypto payments while in France and Italy, brands that offer only bitcoin were at a disadvantage as consumers prefer a choice of which cryptocurrencies to use.
“One thing for brands to consider though is that similar to NFTs, the cryptocurrency market is also in flux, and time will tell if cryptocurrency will hit the mainstream in a similar fashion as digital wallets,” Kilpatrick wrote.
BigCommerce’s takeaway from the report is that brands need to stay agile and focus on trends that will have the greatest impact on their e-commerce business.
“When looking to the future, it’s still too early to predict whether or not the Metaverse, NFTs and cryptocurrency will move from futuristic to mainstream. For now, consumers show a growing interest in these emerging technologies, and overall, a willingness to explore shopping on the Metaverse and paying with cryptocurrency,” Kilpatrick concluded.




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