Social media and the internet more widely have created a web of interaction that means everyone is connected almost all the time. But there’s always a way to make the connection between people stronger and closer, and brands will always see this as an opportunity to expand.
The next predicted expansion on this relationship is through the metaverse, in which a second ‘physical’ world defies geography to see us interact with one another as avatars using VR technology.
What Is the Metaverse?
The metaverse is a broad concept that currently umbrellas any kind of interaction via augmented reality. However, it’s expected that in the near future, this will begin to specifically be defined as a seemingly physical space, accessed through technology, similarly to how some video games are already accessed with VR headsets. In fact, in certain ways, this expansion has already started.
There is now, however, talk of one metaverse that will be THE metaverse; one platform on which consumers and brands collide to create an alternative, virtual reality that surpasses geography and tangibility. If this is to become the case, many are curious as to how this will affect individuals and industries in both the real world and the metaverse, as well as how they are already being impacted.
One such industry is beauty. At first, it may seem that beauty brands may not suit the metaverse because beauty consumers crave touch and physical connection. However, the creative freedom and flexibility of the metaverse has actually made it an ideal platform for some brands to thrive.
How is the Beauty Industry Being Affected?
The Action So Far
The increased migration into the metaverse for the beauty industry has so far had a huge impact on inclusivity, particularly in terms of previous geographical limitations.
Many brands, for example, are releasing virtual product try-ons, such as for matching foundation shades to skin tones, minimising the physical involvement and hygiene risks of shared in-store products, and instead allowing customers to privately see what an array of products look like on their faces from the comfort of their own home. This technique has proven incredibly popular with shoppers. In fact, a recent study from Global Web Index found that 66% of beauty shoppers would like to try this technology in the future.
Brands like Gucci and Nars have taken this even further through the fashion app Drest, which lets people digitally try on and save products through their avatars. This is a step closer to what the metaverse could entail than pre-established AR, instead using digital avatars as an extension of the real self. The metaverse could, in this sense, become a whole new form of self-expression, with beauty lovers investing in virtual products that will help their avatars look like their dream versions of themselves.
A Shift in Georgaphy
The increase in gaming for women plus the rise of influencers and social media means that more people who enjoy makeup think of themselves as creators and artists, and generally want a more active involvement in their makeup experience. Experimentation and creativity are such huge parts of the beauty world, and the increasing opportunities for virtual interaction only make this easier.
But the opportunities of a metaverse don’t stop at direct product interaction; rather, companies like Obsess are already developing virtual storefronts for brands like Dermalogica and Charlotte Tilbury that encourage exploration with hidden details and easter eggs for special offers and exclusive products. The interaction with these metaverse beauty brands helps customers build up a sense of digital loyalty with them by trying products as a fun game, until eventually they visit a physical store or place an order following a positive experience.
The expansion of both places and people into the virtual space is already increasing opportunities for beauty brands and consumers alike, and this will only grow with the development of the metaverse as more features come to light.
What Does This Mean for the Future?
As the metaverse becomes a more tangible reality, the beauty world’s involvement in it and the desire for virtual products will likely only grow, as the opportunity for self-expression through branded avatars has already begun.
Avatars and Icons
Virtual reality platforms – one of the most prominent of which is Decentraland – are becoming increasingly common. Metaverses like Decentraland use blockchain technology to let users actually own their digital belongings. The creation of this format comes with new incentives for companies and brands to get involved, providing a new platform in which brands can expand their sales and customer bases.
Brands as big as Nike, Ralph Lauren and Adidas already offer lines of clothing for Bitmojis, an avatar that can be used in the form of stickers on social media like Snapchat, directly from your keyboard, or even now as a software development kit to be used in video games. By offering up their fashion to our virtual versions of ourselves, we become loyal to the image of these brands and are more likely to invest in their products for our real selves.
As the ‘physical’ space of the metaverse develops, we may see people developing virtual extensions of themselves both in the form of their avatar and their virtual homes. With this comes the possibility for people to live as their ideal versions of themselves, owning an expensive wardrobe that may not be achievable in real life, or wearing dramatic makeup looks by designers that they may not have the personal skills to achieve. Alternatively, they may want to show off products in the metaverse that they’ve worked hard to own and collect in real life, increasing user interaction with these products.
Increased User Interaction
While this could be huge for self-expression, we should also be wary of what this could mean in terms of body dysmorphia or personal identity in the real world. Of course, there are also brands that have already thought of this. As well as the growing connection between virtual brands and the virtual self, many are also using meta technology to create an increasingly immediate relationship between the physical versions of brand and consumer.
Events like the Le Défilé L’Oréal Paris, a live beauty and fashion show, are trying to make events more accessible by incorporating the metaverse and utilising virtual spaces. This event, for example, is filmed entirely by drones and live streamed on social media while also being open to the public to attend in real life. Not only this, but those watching the stream are able to buy products modelled on the catwalk in real time from the event’s app.
Buying these products while watching the fashion show creates a more interactive experience for remote viewers, allowing them to feel more involved in the event despite their distance from it. This geographical inclusivity is a win-win situation for both brands and consumers, providing better access to events for those who want to be involved, and creating a larger platform on which brands can promote and sell their products and skills.
How Can New Brands Keep Up?
The main way in which smaller, newer brands can keep up with virtual relationships and the rapidly approaching metaverse is through customer engagement. With so many brands fighting for their attention, customers seek brand loyalty, and you’re more likely to get their allegiance by creating an engaging experience for them. From trialling products to the final purchase and gamification along the way, creating a shopping experience where every step is part of the experience is going to keep your customer engaged.
Live streaming platforms such as Twitch, or more elaborate versions like the aforementioned Le Défilé, allow influencers or small brands who rely on self-promotion to create an experience for their viewers that feels more one-to-one. As the metaverse develops, this will likely evolve into ‘physical’ virtual spaces in which people can experience a live stream, meaning more user engagement and a stronger creator-client relationship.
Will Beauty in the Metaverse Succeed?
It’s clear that there’s plenty of potential for fashion and beauty brands in an impending metaverse, but there is valid concern around what this means for the up-and-coming brands. It’s difficult enough to make a name for yourself in the real world, so to expand into a metaverse simultaneously could be a lot to take on.
It may well be a case of big brands venturing into the metaverse first, and other brands following suit once they’ve created a big enough name. Think of it as establishing a name in one country first, and then developing it overseas.
Will the metaverse succeed? As with anything, only time will tell the true success of the beauty industry, or any industry for that matter, in the metaverse as it becomes more prevalent.
For further thoughts on the future of AR and VR in the beauty industry and beauty market insights, have a look at our latest whitepaper: The Future Face of Beauty: The Technology Transforming Us.