Digital Transformation Ecommerce Social Media

21m people have now visited Nike’s Roblox store. Here’s how to do metaverse commerce right

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By Chris Sutcliffe | Senior reporter

September 22, 2022 | 7 min read

Sportswear giant was among first to create own virtual world in which to sell its own virtual goods. For The Drum’s Evolution of E-commerce Deep Dive, we look at the lessons to be learned from its success.

Nikeland

How do you keep consumers coming back to metaverse experiences?

Nikeland was one of the first proof of concepts for mainstream metaverse commerce. The virtual world, created on Roblox, saw 7 million visitors over the course of its first two months. It built upon the expertise of Nike’s newly acquired metaverse agency, RTKFT, in order to facilitate a gaming experience that was Nike-branded and, crucially, allowed users to buy virtual goods from Nike itself.

Nike’s digital results – in no small part due to those metaverse experiences – now represent 26% of its total Nike brand revenue. And as part of that effort, Nikeland has to date received over 21 million visitors, according to Roblox, and has been favorited by almost 118,000 gamers.

However, given that the metaverse as a marketing tool is extremely nascent, there were questions about how long a metaverse execution like Nikeland would remain viable. Gamers seek out new experiences constantly and the nature of Roblox means those attractions are easy to find.

Winnie Burke is head of fashion and beauty partnerships at Roblox. She explains that the viability of a metaverse experience (as with with real-world retail) relies on the introduction of new products: “Evergreen experiences on Roblox – such as Gucci Town, Vans World and Nikeland – keep players coming back because they have created engaging social spaces with ongoing content updates where fans can discover new products in authentic and interactive ways.

“Tommy Hilfiger is the latest fashion name to jump into the metaverse with its Tommy Play persistent experience – which is is frequently updated, meaning even regular guests can always find something new to explore or try. It’s one of the very exciting examples we’ve seen of the fashion industry taking on the metaverse.”

The Tommy Play experience promo in Roblox

That need to introduce new products and experiences is a melding of the core tenets of both retail and gaming. Retail – particularly in fashion and luxury – runs on the concept of seasonal refreshes of the clothing lines, while persistent gaming universes such as Final Fantasy XIV and Rocket League introduce new environments and game modes on a regular schedule.

Daren Tsui, chief exec of Together Labs, has argued that a successful metaverse execution requires three key attributes: “It needs to have presence (social presence), it needs to be persistent (when users come back there’s some sort of continuity and not a reboot) and lastly and most importantly it needs to be shared (multiple people will need to be able to interact in the metaverse).“

In addition to introducing new clothing items, Nikeland has been emulating gaming’s release-and-refresh approach. During NBA All-Star Week, for example, Nike commissioned LeBron James to visit Nikeland, during which time participants were rewarded for physical gameplay with the ability to unlock virtual products.

Metaverse commerce, then, is the centre of the Venn diagram between those two disciplines, while the best metaverse experiences will be those that cater for audiences’ expectations for both.

Gucci, for example, recently redid the visuals and experiences of its Gucci Town experience in service of its latest Gucci Flora perfume campaign, introducing new challenges and allowing fans to interact with an avatar of brand ambassador Miley Cyrus.

Burke says: “These branded worlds are an extension of existing social channels, allowing fans to connect with brands, creators and community members in an exciting, dynamic and ever-changing way that keeps people coming back for more and to enjoy these experiences together with their friends.”

Persistent worlds

The e-commerce aspect of experiences such as Gucci Town and Nikeland have, understandably, been the focus of much coverage of the metaverse. That audiences will choose to clothe their avatars with paid-for products is a new concept – at least to those outside of gaming audiences. However, as Burke explains, many brands are instead using their branded experiences on metaverse platforms to develop relationships with audiences to whom they would not otherwise have been exposed.

She says: “For many brands, the main goal is building affinity with generation Z, which can in turn impact their purchasing decisions in the real world. From our research, we see early indications of how lifestyle experiences from brands on the platform can extend into future interactions with the brand in the physical world.

“For example, we conducted a virtual focus group speaking to people who visited the Alo Sanctuary experience and nearly half said they’d be ’likely’ to purchase from Alo next time they want athletic clothing.”

The metaverse has drawn on the histories of both retail and gaming in order to create a viable new avenue for e-commerce. Its future success, however, requires that brands invest in their metaverse experiences for the long-haul, in order to keep the users coming back as regularly as they would to a real-world store.

For more on the Evolution of E-commerce, check out The Drum’s latest Deep Dive.

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