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E-commerce is not a game – but games can become e-commerce

Pacsun on Roblox

Video games are emerging as a mainstream channel for online consumer engagement, and even sales.

Retailers are using the virtual environment of video games to connect with customers at a level they never have before. In recent weeks, Kenneth Cole Productions debuted its new Kenneth Cole Pride 2021 collection in the casual mobile game “High Heels!”, and Pacsun began making branded digital clothing and fashion accessories available for purchase within the Roblox global online gaming platform.

Here are three reasons why “v-commerce” is becoming a viable channel for digital retailing.

Where the customers are

In a recent column, I exhorted retailers to adapt a piece of advice from notorious bank robber Willie Sutton and go where the customers (and their money) are. Well, many customers, especially valuable millennial and Gen Z consumers, can be found in front of a video game screen.

According to a recent report from DFC Intelligence, more than 3 billion of the 8 billion inhabitants of Earth (roughly 40% of the global population) play video games. Nearly half of gamers mostly or exclusive play games on mobile devices, and data from Statista shows roughly three in 10 U.S. gamers are in the desirable 18-to-35-year old bracket, with 72% age 18 or older (i.e., old enough to make purchases without needing parental permission or assistance). And Statista data also reveals 45% of U.S. gamers are women, defying the “male nerd” stereotype.

Say goodbye to overhead

In Kenneth Cole’s video game promotion, gamers can outfit their character and play “High Heels!” in product from its LGBTQ-friendly Kenneth Cole Pride 2021 collection. While the retailer is not directly selling anything, it is gaining valuable promotional attention from “High Heels!” players. And Pacsun is making select digital clothing items available for purchase by Roblox players using their “Robux” online currency (purchased with regular currency) to customize their in-game avatars (on-screen digital characters) with its branded clothing and fashion accessories.

While Kenneth Cole and Pacsun are leveraging the video game e-commerce platform in different ways, what their direct-to-consumer campaigns have in common is the total elimination of physical overhead. Once the cost of designing and developing digital products (which is not cheap) has been expended, the companies avoid costs such as warehousing and distribution, as well as any potential reverse logistics expenditures.

A whole new world

In addition to providing retailers with the opportunity to provide digital merchandise, video games also enable them to create entire branded virtual shopping environments. Similar to the Obsess “virtual mall” concept, video games provide a realistic, immersive digital shopping experience with far greater graphical quality and interactivity than can be provided by a typical e-commerce or mobile site or app.

For example, Pacsun is planning to expand its partnership with Roblox as soon as fall 2021 to create a virtual experience on the platform which will focus on brand integration, special designs, living world themes, social experiences, and mini-games. As with digital merchandise, digital real estate does not incur physical overhead costs, such as construction, maintenance, and facilities management.


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