Retail Compass Autumn 2022

Ten tips for retailers entering the metaverse

25 October 2022. Published by Paul Joukador, Partner and Hettie Homewood , Senior Associate

What is happening? / why does it matter?

Once the province of online gaming and social media, the metaverse is the new hot topic in retail. Over the past couple of years, many retailers and brands have dipped their toes into the metaverse. With the growing interest and investment in the metaverse, this is creating new opportunities for connecting with customers. It might not happen overnight, but it's only a 'meta' of time before we are likely to see mainstream entry to the metaverse by retail businesses wanting to ride the omnichannel wave from virtual engagement to real-world success. For businesses looking to step into the metaverse, we've compiled a list of ten key things you should have in mind. 

What action should you consider?

  1. Develop your strategy: The number of metaverses and possibilities within them are potentially infinite. Ensuring you have the right focus for your omnichannel offering is crucial, such as understanding which metaverse you want to be involved in, what the active demographic within that metaverse is, and what you are trying to achieve within that landscape (e.g. create a community for brand engagement, offer complimentary services to the real world experience, or develop a new revenue channel).

  2. Budget accordingly: The costs of being in the metaverse should not be underestimated.  Prices can fluctuate dramatically and investing in virtual property might set you back a fair amount, especially if you want Snoop Dogg as your virtual neighbour. On top of that you will need to think about the costs of transacting and meeting legal requirements in multiple jurisdictions, depending on your plans.

  3. Set up your data to work for you: The metaverse may allow for the collection of vast amounts of customer data. Whilst this has massive potential from a customer reach and insights perspective, it also presents a significant compliance challenge on a global scale. 

  4. Get your IP in order: Where possible, ensure your existing IP is properly registered (including in the correct virtual/digital classes and/or adding classes to existing trade mark registrations), and register any new designs for existing/new digital goods. You should also ensure your contracts are clear as to who owns any new IP created in the metaverse, and that you have the necessary licences for any third-party content. 

  5. Ensure your contract matrix works: You will have a host of contractual partners supporting your presence and activities within the metaverse (platforms/providers, consumers, content creators, tech partners etc.).  Whilst negotiations often focus on individual contracts, just like any tech stack, you need to consider how your contracts interact, and in particular, that you have the rights to share outputs as needed to create and maintain your presence in the metaverse. 

  6. Listen to your regulators: Regulators have indicated that existing rules that are applicable to the digital and online world apply equally in the metaverse.  Don't assume that your approach to compliance in the real world will operate in the same way in the metaverse, as in the metaverse the rules are being applied in a novel context. You may find there are additional regulators to engage with, e.g. the FCA for cryptocurrencies, the ASA for advertising regulations, the CMA in relation to consumer protection, and tax authorities for issues such as VAT treatment. 

  7. Follow the customer: Keep track of your customers and predict their needs and desires.  Depending on your sector and products or services, your customers might be early adopters in the metaverse space, or they might be brand new to the omnichannel experience and the ways it can meet their changing demands and expectations.

  8. Consider your workforce: Your activities in the metaverse may require additional talent investment, with digital product and marketing teams needing to be expanded, restructured or outsourced in order to build out your metaverse skill set.

  9. Keep experimenting: Explore, and where possible try out the tech currently available to see what will work for your business. Could AI bolster and target your customer service offering? Or could you experiment with NFTs to enhance consumer experience? Or could gamification be, erm, the name of the game?!

  10. Watch and learn: Keep an eye on your competitors' metaverse activities. What are they trying and on which platforms? What appears to be working well for them and what doesn't?  

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