Sanet Yelland
Sanet Yelland

From the Metaverse to the shopperverse

by Sanet Yelland. The secret of the Metaverse is the greater overlap of digital and physical lives in new value streams of wealth, socialisation, productivity, shopping and entertainment.

by Sanet Yelland. There has been much hypothesised on the wide-reaching opportunities and impact that the Metaverse will have on brands and how consumers will engage in branded content experiences in the Metaverse. This presents an exciting and transformational space for brands, tech, consumers and shoppers to come together in new shifting retail experiences. But, perhaps what’s unclear, is the opportunity this can present in shaping new shopper behaviour in changing the way we choose to buy products and services.

The Metaverse is described as merging virtual, augmented, and physical reality. It blends interactions online and in reality. The purpose is ultimately an experience of a parallel universe in which you can seamlessly interact in the two worlds by forging hyper-realistic engagements. The secret of the Metaverse is to allow a greater overlap of digital and physical lives in new value streams of wealth, socialisation, productivity, shopping and entertainment. These two worlds are already interwoven, no headset required! Think about the Uber app telling you how far away the car is via location data. Think about how Netflix gauges what you’ve watched before to make suggestions. At its core, the Metaverse (also known to many as ‘web3’) is an evolution of our current Internet.

So, if the two worlds are already co-existing and shaping our expectations of a future hybrid reality, what kinds of new shopper behaviour can be shaped through this world experience?

1. New launches and creating personalised retail hype

Creating exclusive launch content and rich shopper experiences. A good example is the Gucci Garden in the Roblox Metaverse. Gamers can change their chosen avatars and transform them into neutral gender-less and age-less humanoid-shaped mannequins when they join the virtual Gucci Garden experience. As players move through the rooms and pick up unique designs along the way, each user emerges as a one-of-a-kind, Gucci-embossed creation. Additionally, The Garden will hold a store where users can purchase limited-edition avatar items inspired by Gucci’s archetype exhibition in Florence.

2. Metaverse shopper experiences

Driving differentiation and grabbing shoppers’ attention is a key element in a retailer’s strategy to break through the clutter and create value. The only difference in the Metaverse will be the experiential seek out beyond just purchase from shoppers. CEO of Epic Games, Tim Sweeney, described a future Metaverse user case: “Every company will be there at some point. If you are a car manufacturer, your brand presence in the Metaverse isn’t going to be a bunch of advertising for your cars. It’s going to be a place where you can drive the cars around and feel the experience of it. We have an opportunity for much, much more interesting interactions.”

3. Shopper tangibles and “bottling intangibles”

Products can capture the imagination far beyond a singular shelf and tester unit promise, without the user losing out on the experience. According to a Forbes article, it’s understood that machines can be taught to see through AI, like self-driving cars. Now we can programme machines to smell, too. A fragrance product can be ‘experienced’ through a ‘digital nose’. Our human noses work by processing odour molecules released by organic and inorganic objects. When the energy in objects increases (through pressure, agitation, or temperature changes), odours evaporate, making it possible to inhale and absorb them through our nasal cavities. Memories and visual cues help users recognise smells and guide them on what to do next.

4. Retail guardrails and shopper ethics

The ability to change who you are to create a view of who you want to be, is a drawcard for your audience. The notion of ‘boundary-less experiences’ may carry enormous appeal in a society that thrives on compartmentalisation. The Metaverse solves that by connecting detached elements together. While this is a novel way to portray true personalities, it presents significant ethical and security issues.

5. Metaverse creations

This is how Wunderman Thompson has defined the key areas of the Metaverse:

  • MetaLives: Constitute ideas such as digital ownership and content creation through formats like digital art and nonfungible tokens.
  • MetaSpaces: Virtual venues or activations that blend aspects of the virtual world with the real one.
  • MetaBusinesses: The rise of “gamevertising”,where brands appear within the realm of video games.
  • MetaSocieties: Characterised by people closely wedding their real-life identities with channels like social media, and cultivating “hyper-real identities online”.

The Metaverse will deliver as large as the imagination can go, far more powerful than an experience in real-time can offer. While the real world may have limitations to a “felt experience”, the Metaverse can take minds places that one barely fathom.

And while the Metaverse will undoubtedly deliver retail and shopper behaviour change-ups exponentially, the reality is that these are still a far way off; retail is still grappling with omnichannel accelerated efforts. The retail challenge will always be about seamlessly integrating value, convenience and solutions in the right place with the right offer. Now it’s just about how you sell it through a lens of a richer and more meaningful personalised experience.


Main image credit: Streamline Advertising.


Sanet Yelland is the CEO and founder of Streamline Advertising, a full service agency. She has worked across the industry for 30 years, on clients within financial services, wholesale, retail, FMCG and government sectors on notable brands, including Massmart, Dis-chem, SAA, City of Johannesburg, Nedbank, Absa Bank, and Pick ‘n Pay (Score Supermarkets and RiteValue brands). Yelland started the Young Community Shapers initiative in 2000. This project acknowledges and celebrates the achievements of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds by providing funding, bursaries, and mentorship.


– Receive the Retailing Africa newsletter every Wednesday • Subscribe here.