The growing use of immersive technologies such as augmented and virtual reality will spur consumer-facing companies, such as those in retail, consumer goods and travel, to increase investment in new capabilities and experiences to blend physical and virtual worlds, or risk being left behind, according to the findings of a recent global survey from Accenture.
The survey of more than 11,000 consumers in 16 countries found that while 64% of consumers had already purchased a virtual good or taken part in a virtual experience or service in the past year, that figure is expected to rise, as 83% show interest in making purchases via the metaverse.
Furthermore, 42% of survey respondents 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, while 56% of respondents plan to in the next year – these figures increase to 51% and 61% respectively among Millennials.
According to the Accenture Technology Vision 2022 “Meet Me in the Metaverse: The Continuum of Technology and Experience Reshaping Business”, 55% of consumers agree that more of their lives and livelihoods are moving into digital spaces. In response, 90% of retail executives say that they anticipate that leading organisations will push the boundaries of the virtual world to make it more real, increasing the need for persistence and seamless navigation between the digital and physical worlds.
72% of global executives state that the metaverse will have a positive impact on their organisations, with 45% believing it will be transformational.
Jill Standish, senior managing director and global head of Accenture’s Retail industry group, said: “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.
“Retailers and brands will need to reimagine and experiment with what new immersive and consultative experiences could mean to consumers. In addition to new opportunities to sell, the metaverse can also help build loyalty through experiences that go beyond just buying a product. For instance, retailers can create a personalised experience by offering a live-stream shopping event where customers can sit next to a brand ambassador, and then immediately be able to step into a virtual dressing room where they can try something on, add it to their cart, and check out.”
The survey also found that 50% of consumers are interested in buying a travel experience such as a sightseeing tour or hotel stay. This figure rises to 55% of Millennials, compared to 29% of baby boomers. For leisure, 54% of consumers said that they interested to buy tickets to a concert, a show or sporting event taking place in a virtual world.
Emily Weiss, senior managing director and global head of Accenture’s Travel industry group said: “It’s important to recognise that the metaverse is not intended to replace physical travel, rather provide a complementary enhancement to an overarching experience that, over time, may become an essential part of the travel ecosystem.
“Giving the option to sit in a virtual first-class seat, experience the lounge or walk around a hotel resort or room, opens up opportunities to truly engage and inspire people before they travel. And, through ‘trying-before-you-travel’, recreating landmarks in all their past glory or allowing travellers to investigate parts of nature, which they cannot explore within real-life interaction, the metaverse can also help create a more meaningful travel experience that delivers on or even exceeds customer expectations.”
In addition to giving rise to new ways to shop, travel and socialise, virtual products and locations highlight a potential opportunity to grow revenue across industries.
Oliver Wright, senior managing director and global head of Accenture’s Consumer Goods and Services industry group said: “In a world where digital has become as important as the physical, consumer-facing companies are challenged to create, shape and market products, services and experiences that can move between the physical and virtual worlds. And they need to do this while coordinating a network of experts, skills, and technologies to help make it happen.
“While commercial applications of metaverse are still in their infancy, they will develop quickly because consumers already expect it. Successful consumer brands will be those that collaborate with consumers and the metaverse eco-system to create digital products and services that meet these rapidly emerging needs.”
Accenture recently announced the launch of the Accenture Metaverse Continuum business group, which combines metaverse-skilled professionals and market-leading capabilities in customer experience, digital commerce, extended reality, blockchain, digital twins, artificial intelligence and computer vision to help clients design, execute and accelerate their metaverse journeys.