The metaverse promises more immersive and interactive ways to use the web. Could brands use this to create better shopping experiences? We asked 1,000 people in Canada to find out.
What we will cover
The metaverse was one of the hottest tech topics of 2022. Major digital companies —most famously Facebook— announced how they were incorporating the idea into their strategy. But uptake among web users is still low, and small to midsize enterprises may still be wondering what the metaverse actually is and what it might mean for their business.
In late 2022, we surveyed nearly 1,000 people in Canada to understand whether this trend had real cut-through among consumers. In part one of our series exploring the survey results, we looked at metaverse adoption rates and usage patterns. In this article, we dive deeper into what consumers think of the metaverse as an eCommerce platform. You can scroll down to the bottom of this article to see our full methodology.
How might shopping work in the metaverse?
As we explored in part 1, the metaverse is an emerging concept and is still being developed, so we don’t have a fixed idea of how it will function in the future. As more users come to it, new applications may come to light. For now, we can think of the metaverse as a 3D virtual shared space that provides enhanced immersive experiences, often accessed using virtual reality (VR) technology like headsets.
For now, gaming is a popular use case, attracting 60% of the people in Canada who have used the metaverse, according to our survey. Players can explore virtual worlds as a digital version of themselves, play games, and interact with others.
It is not too difficult to imagine how these environments could accommodate online shopping, which is already becoming popular with metaverse users. Of those who had used the metaverse in our survey, 39% said they had made a purchase within it. There may be an opportunity here for brands to create virtual stores or experiences where people browse and test products in a more ‘real’ way than they currently can on eCommerce sites.
But perhaps the more immediate use case is for virtual products, which are more popular among current metaverse users than physical ones. These items include games that can be played within the metaverse, cryptocurrency, digital artwork, or virtual items for your digital ‘twin’ like clothing or even a house.
Being able to customize characters (‘avatars’) is important for 75% of current metaverse users, and 29% in this group say they regularly spend money on new items for their avatar.
What do people think of eCommerce in Canada right now?
To understand how consumers might approach shopping in the metaverse, it makes sense to look at what they like and don’t like about eCommerce as it stands today. 33% of respondents to our survey said they prefer shopping online, whereas 46% prefer to do it in person, and 22% have no preference.
Of the one-third who favour online shopping, speed and convenience are the main benefits cited. 61% like that it’s quicker than going to a physical store, and 49% like how finding products is easier.
Generally speaking, those who prefer online shopping find most aspects easy, but two areas could be improved. Some respondents in this group noted that getting support can be difficult, and some said that it can be hard to get a sense of how a product will look and feel when viewing it on a website.
When designing their metaverse shopping experiences, SMEs could look to differentiate in these areas. Shoppers are already satisfied with the browsing and checkout processes at traditional eCommerce stores. Perhaps their metaverse equivalents could make the experience more immersive (to showcase products more completely) and interactive (to improve customer support).
Are Canada’s consumers ready for shopping in the metaverse?
Right now, consumers in Canada do not see a strong link between the metaverse and shopping. When asked to choose three sectors that they associate with the concept of the metaverse, technology (80%) and games (78%) were the clear leaders. Retail came a distant third (32%) ahead of education (26%) and sports (20%).
Furthermore, less than half of respondents overall (44%) said they would be interested in immersive 3D shopping experiences in the metaverse. 27% said they wouldn’t be interested, while 29% said they were not sure, which may reflect consumers’ overall uncertainty about the metaverse.
The 44% of respondents who said they would be interested in 3D shopping in the metaverse would consider a broad range of (physical) product categories. Clothing was the most popular, with 78% expressing an interest in shopping for this type of product in the metaverse, followed by electronic goods (52%) and video games (43%).
Overall, consumers were ambivalent about the idea of their favourite brands experimenting with the metaverse. 64% said that their perception wouldn’t change if one of the preferred brands started offering products or services in the metaverse, while 25% said they would view the brand more favourably. However, 11% would think less of a brand for making such a move.
Could the metaverse improve the online shopping experience?
We asked respondents who are interested in metaverse shopping whether they thought that it could bridge the gap between current eCommerce stores (where shoppers don’t usually get a 3D experience of the product) and physical ones. 54% thought that it could bridge the gap in some ways, and another 40% said it could do so completely.
Among this same group, over one-third (34%) thought the metaverse would become the new standard way to shop online in the future, and 38% said it would become just as popular as current eCommerce models.
The same group of respondents see a wide range of advantages to shopping in the metaverse. Convenience and the ability to test products ranked highly, as did having a more fun experience.
These advantages overlap in many ways with the things that online shoppers currently like, suggesting that metaverse shopping won’t necessarily transform online shopping, but has the potential to offer a more immersive experience.
What’s stopping people from shopping in the metaverse?
Brands may be interested to know why their potential customers might not be interested in using the metaverse —especially when it comes to eCommerce. We already explored in part 1 how widespread uncertainty could be contributing to low adoption rates, but accessibility is also a major challenge.
Many of those who are interested in shopping in the metaverse see problems with affordability. The expensive equipment needed to access these online environments was the most frequently given disadvantage among this group, cited by half. There was also significant suspicion about how safe the metaverse is, with scams, data breaches, and malicious users also ranking highly on the list of turn-offs.
Those interested in the metaverse identified the following possible disadvantages of eCommerce in the metaverse:
- 49% worry about a lack of trust when it comes to personal data handling
- 45% think there’s a lack of protection from malicious users and trolls
- 41% feel there’s a lack of protection from bad product offerings like scam artists and fake brands
If brands would like to attract people to their metaverse offerings, they must be able to demonstrate that they are safe, secure, and pleasant to use. And they may have to wait until the enabling technology is more widespread and affordable.
Our research suggests that many people in Canada are open to shopping in the metaverse and aware of the advantages it could bring. On the whole, they see it as being a part of online shopping in the future, and would broadly be happy to see their favourite brands dip a toe in the water.
Perhaps brands’ biggest challenge is converting consumers’ curiosity into visits and, down the line, spend. Data from both parts of our study suggests that there are several aspects to this:
- Creating compelling shopping experiences that improve upon current eCommerce offerings.
- Giving users specific reasons to visit (like an exclusive product that’s only available in the metaverse).
- Making their metaverse stores as accessible as possible with easy-to-use technology.
- Ensuring that the experience is safe and secure.
GetApp’s data was gathered through an online survey conducted in October 2022 in which we surveyed 997 people residing in Canada, aged 18 to 75, from all regions of the country.
To participate in the study, respondents had to read a definition of what metaverse is and validate their understanding of the concept in a subsequent question.
The results are representative of the survey, but not necessarily of the population as a whole.