The Meta Store has just opened on Meta’s (the company formerly known as Facebook) Burlingame campus. It is a living lab where people can experience the metaverse for themselves and Meta’s Reality Labs HQ programmers and developers can learn from customers.
“Once people experience the technology, they can gain a better appreciation for it,” said Martin Gilliard, who heads up the Meta Store. “Having the store here in Burlingame gives us more opportunity to experiment and keep the customer experience core to our development. What we learn here will help define our future retail strategy.”
The store will be hardware-forward, selling essential tools that make interaction in the virtual world possible, like the $299 Quest VR headset. Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses will also be featured, allowing wearers to take photos and videos and listen to music while going through their everyday lives. The glasses must be ordered directly from Ray-Ban though Meta retail associates will help customers place orders.
Despite its small 1,550 sq. ft. footprint, it also features a demo area where customers can don headsets to experience virtual golf, fishing, exercise and dance with lightsabers.
All in all, it promises to be an eye-opening, mind-blowing introduction to the metaverse for consumers, but even more so for businesses.
The Meta Store is more of a B2B metaverse showroom than a store for consumers. And for that, it is doing a great service for businesses that need to understand how it will transform their industries.
With it, Meta will stake its claim to leadership in the metaverse and control its development, like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs did back in the early days of personal computing.
“One of the reasons why we’re investing so much in augmented and virtual reality is mobile phones came around at the same time as Facebook, so we didn’t really get to play a big role in shaping the development of those platforms,” Mark Zuckerberg shared with The Verge’s Casey Newton.
“The metaverse is a vision that spans many companies — the whole industry. You can think about it as the successor to the mobile internet. And it’s certainly not something that any one company is going to build, but I think a big part of our next chapter is going to hopefully be contributing to building that, in partnership with a lot of other companies and creators and developers,” he continued.
In essence, The Meta Store is more of a B2B metaverse showroom than a store for consumers. And for that, it is doing a great service for other businesses.
Shaping the internet’s future
The metaverse is going to have application in virtually all spheres of life and business, from the future of work, travel, health and fitness, entertainment and gaming, communication, education, worship, finance, marketing and shopping.
The metaverse exists in the intersection of the real and virtual worlds and is the natural evolution of the internet, online shopping and social media. Like Alice through the looking glass, instead of just viewing something on the screen, the metaverse will bring people inside where they can interact with others and businesses.
Yet the metaverse remains in its infancy, with only 13% of over 4,500 C-level executives surveyed by Accenture saying it will have a “transformational impact” on their respective industries. The other 87% better catch up.
The metaverse is more than just an incremental change or even a breakthrough technology. It will touch businesses and people’s lives in ways that are as yet unimaginable but coming at the virtual speed of light.
Like business executives, consumers have an equally low awareness of what the metaverse is and how it will impact their lives several recent studies suggest.
A CommerceNext study, conducted in partnership with Bizrate Insights and The Commerce Experience Collective (CommX) among 500+ consumers, found nearly half (48%) have never heard the term metaverse, with an equal percentage (47%) having some familiarity but that is about all.
An Ipsos survey among 1,000 consumers found slightly higher levels of familiarity (14% were very familiar and 24% were somewhat familiar) but still, some 31% had only heard the term and 31% claimed no knowledge of it.
After Ipsos filled in the blanks for all respondents – “The metaverse is a term that describes digital spaces where you will be able to interact with other users and activities [e.g. socializing, playing games, watching concerts, shopping for digital and non-digital items] using virtual or augmented reality” – some 26% believed it was the future of technology, yet 30% said it wasn’t as good as real life.
Many remained skeptical, with 23% saying it’s just a new way tech companies are trying to make more money and 20% said it was a big risk to personal privacy. While 33% were curious about the metaverse, some 27% were uninterested and 23% were suspicious.
And a 1,000 respondent strong Harris Poll found two in three (62%) U.S. adults were not familiar with the concept of the metaverse before taking the survey. Upon reading a description of it, over half (52%) said they felt overwhelmed by the concept and 60% said they still didn’t understand the purpose of the metaverse.
In a battle of competing surveys, Accenture found an amazingly high level of consumer interest in participating in the virtual world among the 11,000+ consumers in 16 countries surveyed.
Some 83% said they were interested in making purchases via the metaverse in the next year and 64% have purchased a virtual good or taken part in a virtual experience or service in the past year.
Not having access to the survey questionnaire, I suspect the Accenture survey presented a broader definition of “virtual living” to its audience than the other surveys.
Nonetheless, interest in shopping for virtual fashion to wear in virtual environments was high (51%), as was shopping for virtual looks to apply make-up or hairstyles on their avatar or virtual selves (48%) and participating in a virtual consultation including health, makeup and hairstyling (53%) in the next year.
Further, 52% said they had visited a retailer in the virtual world to get advice, make a payment or browse a product range when shopping for a physical item.
Call to action
Regardless of how low or how high awareness is of the metaverse among consumers or business executives, the metaverse ball is rolling and picking up steam fast. Too soon it will be impossible to ignore so every business had better figure out how they want to play in the metaverse.
“The metaverse era has begun, and so for consumer-facing companies, it’s not about deciding if they’re going to go into the metaverse, it’s deciding how,’’ said Jill Standish, senior managing director and global head of Accenture’s Retail industry group “Retailers and brands will need to reimagine and experiment with what new immersive and consultative experiences could mean to consumers.”
A visit to the new Meta Store should be first on executives’ list to explore the metaverse opportunity.