Gen Z bullish on virtual stores in the metaverse, per new consumer habits study

How do consumers across age groups perceive the metaverse, and how should retailers be tailoring the virtual shopping experience? A new study provided by the e-commerce platform Obsess offers insights for brands looking to stake their claim in the rapidly evolving virtual universe.

Gen Zers appear to be particularly bullish on opportunities to shop in virtual stores, according to a new study from Obsess, an e-commerce platform that helps brands build and launch virtual stores.

The Obsess study – called ‘The Metaverse Mindset: Consumer Shopping Insights,’ conducted in late December 2021 – surveyed 1,001 consumers in the United States. Participants were categorized into four age groups: gen Zers (ages 16-24), millennials (ages 25-40), gen Xers (ages 41-56) and baby boomers/silvers (age 57 and older).

It found that “nearly 75% of gen Z shoppers have purchased a digital item within a videogame and that 60% of these young shoppers think that brands should sell their products on metaverse platforms.” Many gen Zers also appear to believe that shopping opportunities should be more or less ubiquitous throughout the metaverse: “Among gen Zers who think brands should sell in the metaverse, 54% reasoned that people should be able to shop anywhere they go online, while 45% indicated that metaverse environments should be like online shopping malls.”

The majority of consumers perceive virtual shopping to be a “highly engaging” experience: approximately 70% of the respondents who said they had visited a future store also said that they had made a purchase, while 60% said they’re planning on making another visit in the future. Video game platforms also appear to be prime real estate for brands looking to open virtual stores: “62% of respondents overall have purchased a digital item – such as an accessory, skin or garment for their avatar – within an online videogame,” per a statement from Obsess.

The primary goal of the study was to determine how consumers across age groups perceive virtual shopping experiences offered through the metaverse, and also to measure demand for such experiences. Virtual stores and products have become increasingly common in recent years as enthusiastic rhetoric about the metaverse – which Bloomberg recently estimated will represent a market opportunity of almost $800bn by 2024 – has spread through the press, the tech world and popular culture.

“The technology is here, people are used to it, it’s fairly intuitive, there’s not a big learning curve for it,” says Obsess founder and chief executive officer Neha Singh. “And just by the very nature of the visual interface it’s much more engaging for customers.”

The Obsess team also analyzed the degree to which consumers actually understood the term ‘metaverse.’ On the one hand, there appears to be a fair degree of familiarity with the term itself: more than half of participants (53%) said that they’re at least vaguely familiar with the concept of the metaverse – though, as Neha notes, “it probably means different things to different people.” But despite that widespread familiarity, many participants were confused in their understanding of the metaverse, with more than a quarter (27%) erroneously claiming it to be “a technology owned by Meta” (previously Facebook). In light of such findings, the authors of the study note that it will become increasingly important for brands to be able to effectively communicate with their audiences “when it comes to describing their metaverse offerings.”

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