While the media scrambles to define what the metaverse is – it’s not new by the way – it is business as usual for many industries and professionals. In the retail industry virtual environments have been used for over 15 years to support the growth of in-store innovation. More recently, these environments have been paired with real-time data analytics to visually demonstrate the impact of changes made on sales, profits and more. This is particularly useful when the number of possible innovations and changes are endless, and the nature and frequency of in-person meeting occasions between manufacturers and retail teams remains in flux.
The metaverse has been here for a while. It’s just not talked about as much because consumers don’t see it. News broke on Walmart’s latest steps toward a shoppable metaverse experience to sell electronic goods, toys and more, joining several other retailers in the journey. But brands have been engaging with Walmart’s buying teams via productive virtual environments for years. More akin to Boeing’s virtual training grounds, virtual collaboration between retailer and manufacturer can be cost-effective, visually impactful and a way to support long-term growth plans. As with any successful application of technology, the key is ease of use.
Consider British soft-drink producer Britvic PLC (LSE:BVIC), and their use of virtual environments to both tactically and strategically develop their business with retailers. Indeed, growth for the beverage producer has been strong throughout COVID-19 and despite recent inflationary pressures. They reported strong growth and a rise in revenue for the first quarter of fiscal year 2022.
Selina Waters, Head of Shopper Strategy and Insight, based in the UK recently shared how her team has been leveraging virtual environments for years. She states, “Demonstrating category and shopper thought leadership is at the heart of Britvic’s business and we have been using Kantar’s Virtual Reality software for the past 5 years to bring our customer visions to life. The tool is easy to use and enables us to quickly integrate planograms and point of sale into tailored retail environments so retailers can visualise how our category and shopper initiatives can engage their customers along the entire path to purchase. With the rise of virtual meetings and reliance on technology to bring initiatives to life, the tool has been particularly valuable and has no doubt helped us secure new in outlet activities, driving mutual growth for both our business and theirs.”
One important difference between the consumer-focused metaverse and virtual environments used by manufacturers like Britvic, is the hardware. When we talk about virtual collaboration we almost never expect to see or involve headsets, eyeglasses or expensive controllers. While this may not seem as engaging, the removal of hardware restrictions is what facilitates ease of use and ultimately makes the technology cost-effective and sustainable.
The challenge for retail giants invested in metaverse capabilities will be finding easy and cost-effective ways for consumers to engage. Our experience tells us that headsets are not only expensive, but also not necessary. In the retail world, the business value of virtual environments will remain between manufacturer and retailers, especially if the latest announcement from Meta is any indication of what’s to come for the consumer-facing metaverse
If you are a manufacturer or retailer interested in learning how virtual environments can help you drive sales and in-store innovation, download our brochure below or learn more here.