The future of retail: How FMCG brands can tap into the metaverse instore

“At some point, we’re going to look back and think ‘How did we not have a digital layer on the physical world?’” said Google’s director of AR and VR, Greg Jones, back in the distant days of 2017.

Five years on, in a re-shaped, sped-up, post-pandemic culture, it looks like that “some point” is approaching fast. And for FMCG brands and grocery retailers, that’s a big deal.

“Our reliance on – and acceptance of – using digital technology to live our everyday lives over the course of the last few years has sped up the mainstream adoption of technologies such as AR and the metaverse to the point where digital evolution appears to have skipped a decade.

N2O’s digital strategy director Tina Thompson explains why that creates a massive opportunity for grocery brands – and why they should be scrambling to catch up.

READ MORE: Asda becomes first UK grocer to trial digital ID at self-checkouts

How FMCG brands can embrace new opportunities

A more immersive shopping experience provides many elements that retailers, in a post-pandemic market, increasingly need. It makes it simple for consumers to ‘try before they buy’, helps encourage the belief that the product will work for them, focuses shopper attention, creates demand through personalisation and adds value to the purchase.

An immersive shopping experience also inspires shopping ‘occasions’, keeping customers in store longer by creating a ‘living brand’.

Acceptance of virtual experiences has also grown year-on-year, such as AR shopping online. As face-to-face interaction becomes increasingly rare in these retail transactions, metaverse-based technologies offer a way to maintain a direct connection with customers – to engage, entice and encourage by finding a balance between digital and physical.

Metaverse technology – and its adoption – provides not just the opportunity, but also the necessity, to create unique brand-building experiences in a retail environment. The way people buy things is changing and brands that will thrive in this digital era are those that find a way to integrate their own offering with this new culture.

Innovate, connect and make it relevant

Metaverse technologies aren’t about disconnecting with the customer; they allow brands to add an additional element to a real-life experience. By exploring digital innovation to find new touchpoints with audiences, brand can find new ways to create a multi-dimensional bond and deepen rather than diminish the customer connection.

Brands must explore the psychographics they are asking their customers to become a part of. They have to drill down into their lifestyle to understand the technology adoption of that culture.
It’s not simply about introducing a consumer to a product, it’s about using the best tools to immerse them in the brand.

The key factor is how brands use metaverse technology to create a seamless customer journey in store. Whether they are adding an AR element to a shopping experience or adding a multi-sensorial mixed reality activation that encourages brand interaction and ongoing purchase retention, they can make an experience relevant for both the brand narrative and customers.

READ MORE: How Gopuff is fighting back against the rapid grocery delivery crash

Bringing brands to life

Vegan brand Garden Gourmet recently turned a simple leaflet giveaway into an immersive AR experience. The brand wanted to activate its new range of products in Tesco stores with a unique experience, allowing consumers to discover the benefits of the products at home.

The aim was to seamlessly introduce the vegan range to a new audience, while also changing perceptions about cooking and preparing vegan food.

Garden Gourmet knew its target audience wanted to reduce their meat consumption by making small positive changes. They were inspired by vegan influencer advocates and connected to them via mobile phone. To utilise this insight, Garden Gourmet developed a Web-to-AR, one-click access AR Cookalong experience led by an expert vegan influencer chef.

Consumers could scan a QR code in store to sample the AR experience for themselves, buy the ingredients for a vegan meal with a discount coupon and scan a QR code to have Ella Vegan appear virtually in their kitchen to cook along with them.

The result? An impressive 32% of shoppers who engaged in store watched the entire 12-minute experience.

Long-lasting connections

The pandemic accelerated the acceptance of mobile phones as an essential part of our lives (and our ‘selves’), more than ever before and smart retailers are recognising that fact. Experiences accessed through our personal phones deepen the immersion of brands into our personal lives.

Through tech we’re able to step into a customer’s personal space, making it easy for them to try before they buy as well as demonstrating how those products fit into their existing lives. Both are areas where metaverse technologies excel.

The metaverse is no longer a futuristic concept in sci-fi. It’s available, effortlessly, in the palm of our hand and the brands and retailers who learn how to harness that are those who will thrive.

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