Dusseldorf, New York At first glance, this all sounds like a lot of fun: the supermarket chain Kaufland has named an island “Kaufisland” which it acquired for the world of the hit game “Animal Crossing”. The wide-eyed avatar “Phil Leita” (read as “Branch Manager”) briefly sheds some light on sustainability in the food business.
This first virtual branch is more than a gimmick, it’s a strategic decision. Because the appearance in “Animal Crossing: New Horizons”, one of Nintendo’s most successful video games with more than seven million sales in Europe alone, is the first step into the Metaverse for the subsidiary of the group of Schwarz distribution. It is a buzzword and a collective term for digital experience worlds created by games, artists, but also companies as virtual networking spaces for fans, customers and the players.
Retailers and brands have high expectations of it. The fashion brand H&M already has its own island in “Animal Crossing”. On the Roblox gaming platform, which is considered one of the earliest prototypes of the Metaverse, luxury retailers like Ralph Lauren and sporting goods companies like Nike with their own stores are frolicking. US retailer Walmart has now protected its brands for startup in the Metaverse. They all hope not only for good marketing, but also for concrete sales.
“The Metaverse also offers sales potential for brands and retailers,” says Helge Ruff, CEO of digital marketing agency OneTwoSocial, which hosted Kaufland’s appearance at “Animal Crossing.” He is convinced that there will be new business models there. “Before, people thought no one would buy shoes online, then Zalando came along.”
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The example of Adidas shows that the money is already at stake. The sporting goods company has reportedly paid millions for a virtual pitch in the online game The Sandbox, on which it is building its own Adiverse world. Adidas has also acquired its own avatar of the most popular NFT series currently, Bored Ape Yacht Club. Digital artworks are created using individual encryption using blockchain technology.
Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) often look like simple graphics. However, the underlying technology certifies all proprietary rights. This makes NFTs interesting, among other things, as a digital format for sales contracts, for example.
According to the OpenSea marketplace, where bored monkeys trade, Adidas’ copy cost 46 Ether – at the exchange rate at the time, the equivalent of around 130,000 euros. The avatar was dubbed Indigo Heart and is now used for marketing, dressed in Adidas Originals of course. Because the expensive avatars are traded on the stage, which is animated by American sports stars and musicians, among others, as a sign of identification and a status symbol – like designer shoes, clothes or an expensive watch.
Virtual Gucci handbag sold for $4,000
Morgan Stanley predicts that luxury brands alone will make around $50 billion in Metaverse sales by 2030. They’re still a long way off. Ralph Lauren, for example, sells virtual clothes in its store on Roblox for prices between three and five dollars. However, Gucci has reportedly already sold a virtual handbag for over $4,000. Whether as a virtual prop for the buyer’s digital images or simply as a collector’s item, the possibilities are diverse.
“Metaverse is the closest and most serious attempt to create an all-digital world after the failure of Second Life in the early 2000s,” said Martin Schulte, partner and consumer products expert at Oliver Wyman. The investments are huge and Metaverse has the potential to be as influential as the development of the Internet over the next 15 years.
Without any official announcement, Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, filed a total of 30 different applications with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in late December to protect its trademarks for the virtual world. Apparently, the supermarket giant also plans to offer services to third parties in the virtual world, according to documents filed with the USPTO. The group, which has long been known mainly for its inexpensive giant supermarkets on the side of the motorway, has already transformed itself in recent years into a serious competitor to Amazon. And still wants to expand this offensive position.
Walmart also wants to build showrooms for other retailers
In trademark application 97197301 dated Dec. 30, Walmart wants to secure its own name for financial services, cryptocurrencies, digital tokens, blockchains, and NFTs, among other things. There has been a real hype around NFTs over the past year.
On the same day, Walmart also registered its own trademark under number 97197305 for telecommunications services, in particular for the electronic transmission of “virtual reality” content and data. A complete list of virtual trading services can be found at number 97197298.
The group has also included the “Walmart Connect” brand in three applications: It is intended, among other things, to develop and design “virtual shops and virtual showrooms for others”. Walmart could thus position itself as a developer of store concepts for other retailers.
“Walmart is continually exploring how new technologies could shape future shopping experiences,” said a spokeswoman for the US company. Trademark registrations are a regular part of this innovation process. The approach is similar to that of Amazon. The American company is known for launching many trial balloons at the same time to see what works.
Experts see ‘completely new revenue streams’
“It makes perfect sense for Walmart to explore this space and adapt as a business,” said Chris Walton, editor of popular retail blog Omni Talk. The metaverse will give people a new way to interact socially. “And where there is human interaction, there is commerce, because as human beings we care how we appear to others.” He assumes there will be “completely new revenue streams.”
“Retailers who get in first and understand how it’s changing will have a head start, just like those who got into e-commerce 20 years ago and were more successful than the laggards,” Walton says.
Digital marketing expert Ruff also thinks it’s very important for businesses to experiment with these new channels. “The presences that we see today are definitely aimed at gaining experience very early,” he underlines. This means that traders are very close to the living environment of their young target.
However, consumer goods expert Schulte is convinced that apart from pioneers like Adidas or Ralph Lauren, many manufacturers initially focus less on virtual goods and focus instead on marketing their products for the real world. “Retailers who, for example, are thinning their store network and increasingly relying on delivery services and e-commerce, expect much higher market penetration for their offerings in the Metaverse,” expects the consultant.
Only in the next step would it then also be a truly virtual trade on a broad basis. “In five to ten years, it is quite possible that purely digital products will also be sold via e-commerce stores,” he predicts.
After: Up to 300,000 euros in salary – seven job profiles that could be created in the metaverse.