The COVID-19 pandemic has had immeasurable effects on consumers and how they engage with brands, with the elimination of in-person consumer interactions for nearly a year. As a result, some brands are taking consumers’ entrance into the metaverse one step further by developing virtual worlds that allow the consumer to engage with the brand in a whole new way. These worlds and experiences have helped brands stay connected to consumers throughout the pandemic. One such brand taking advantage of consumers’ search for new online experiences is the global skincare brand SK-II, which launched a virtual city based around iconic Japanese sights. Consumers can watch movies and get a tour of SK-II studios. Other brands have joined the virtual branded experience train. Luxury fashion house Burberry launched an interactive virtual replica of its flagship Tokyo store that allows customers to navigate around the store and buy items from its collection.
Virtual worlds and experiences have benefits beyond connecting with consumers during the pandemic. They are easily changeable and can adapt more quickly to consumer preferences and trends than a brick and mortar store can. The reach of a virtual world and experience is well beyond that of a physical one. While after more than a year of lockdowns and quarantines, consumers may be ready to interact with brands, it is also clear that the virtual brand worlds and interactions are here to stay.
Takeaway: Virtual worlds provide brands opportunities for consumer engagement and are capable of reaching a far wider audience than brick and mortar. But, in post-pandemic life, consumers’ desire to get back into the real world might cause them to shun online experiences. Time will tell.