"Meta-What?" They don't say it, but I know my team is thinking it, when I tell them we need to have a showroom in the Metaverse, for my furniture design company, Sara Hayat Design. The Meta Universe is defined as, "a virtual world that connects to the real world."
Among its other uses, it’s a place where you can buy something - usually in the form of an NFT (Non-fungible token), and then have ownership of it in the real world. As we can see in the chart above, the interest in the Metaverse has skyrocketed. With big players like Microsoft and Facebook, entering this space, the possibility of online shopping moving from its current 2D environment, to an immersive virtual experience, is within reach.
Most luxury shopping, especially big items like furniture, is done from physical stores. Although online shopping is on the rise, online stores are usually used as a "call to action," where people check the item they like online but buy them at stores. They want to look at it in real life and see if it will look good in their space before purchasing it.
Our NFT collection is now live on metamundo. You can go and check it out
When building my company, I wanted to see how I could add value to my client at every point in the customer journey. As a startup, it is also difficult to put in the investment required to have a physical presence - think Restoration Hardware. If technology can make the user experience as immersive and involved as in physical stores, it would not only help the client know exactly what they're buying but also reduce the number of returns. It will also help me keep my costs down.
So how would a shopping excursion in the Metaverse look? Imagine you've bought a new house and you need to buy a sectional for your living room. Wouldn't it be great if you could sit at the computer and - just like a first person game, you enter the virtual store, ask the virtual employee to direct you to the sectionals, and are able to interact with the objects like in the real world? Once you find what you are looking for, you can change colors, materials (something you're left to visualize if you don't like the upholstery on the store model), and view the product in 360 degrees.
But what if you're not sure about what you've picked?
Now this is my favorite part; since the Metaverse is a shared space, you can ask your interior designer sitting across the country, or your Mom who lives in Pakistan, to join you and help you pick the colors and finishes. You can even interact with other customers in the store and share your ideas with them.
My goal for having a virtual store is that I want to bridge the gap between the physical and virtual. I want my clients to pick and interact with my designs like they would in the real world. I want them to experience it before making the purchase and see if it's right for them and their space.
For now, despite the pushback, I am making my Metaverse using Unity and Unreal Engine. Since it is still new for non-tech folk like me, we've had several roadblocks on our journey to deliver this virtual environment. But with more companies like Rooom and Boson Protocol making this realm more user-friendly, and available to a wider audience, the shopping experience described above is right around the corner.
See you in the Metaverse.