Metaverse still matters – just ask Tier I retailers

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
Starbucks Odyssey metaverse
Starbucks is hosting a new digital rewards offering on a metaverse platform.

Public excitement around the metaverse has cooled, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still a major retail technology trend.

In the world of retail technology, 2022 could qualify as the year of the metaverse. But so far in 2023, rapid advancements in the field of artificial intelligence have stolen much of the metaverse’s thunder.

However, the metaverse is still a top leading-edge retail solution, as evidenced by its popularity among major Tier I players. Let’s review recent innovative metaverse programs launched by Amazon, The Home Depot, and Starbucks.

Amazon

Amazon is letting customers buy real goods from storefronts in virtual worlds. The e-tail giant recently introduced Amazon Anywhere, an offering which enables customers to shop and buy physical products from Amazon for the first time within virtual environments, such as video games, augmented reality (AR), and third-party mobile apps.

Amazon is launching the feature within Peridot, a new mobile game from Niantic that features artificial intelligence AI-powered virtual pets and overlays AR imagery on “real world” environments. After seamlessly linking their Amazon account to Peridot, customers can discover and purchase Peridot-branded products on Amazon directly from the game.

Customers will see product details, images, availability, Prime eligibility, price and estimated delivery date in the Peridot environment as they would in Amazon stores. After putting a Peridot product in their cart, customers can tap the buy button to check out via their linked Amazon account from within the experience. Products will ship to customers like any other purchase from Amazon, and they can track and manage orders via the Amazon app.

Amazon Anywhere follows the company’s September 2022 pilot of “Amazonmetaworld,” a metaverse of digital gamification experiences (without e-commerce functionality), in five Indian cities.

The Home Depot

The Home Depot is building an immersive metaverse experience for kids on the Roblox virtual gaming platform. The home improvement giant launched a new experience in the Roblox Redcliff City environment that challenges kids to collect virtual materials to build projects.

Known as Virtual Kids Workshops, this offering marks Home Depot's debut in the metaverse and is inspired by the retailer’s in-store Kids Workshops program that provides hands-on home improvement clinics for children.

To participate in this experience, players will enter Redcliff City and visit The Home Depot's new metaverse storefront, where they will be greeted by a virtual store associate. Players will be offered the choice of three projects to digitally “build” with varying difficulty levels, and then participate in a scavenger hunt, collecting materials from the digital storefront’s virtual aisles to assemble their project.

Users can leave the Home Depot Roblox store with their virtual project and use it throughout the Redcliff City experience. As a real-world tie-in, the retailer’s in-person Kids Workshops, held the first Saturday of every month, will offer unique codes that can be redeemed in Redcliff City.

Starbucks

Starbucks is moving a digital extension of its Starbucks Rewards loyalty program out of pilot into full rollout. Initially announced in September 2022 and launched in beta mode in December 2022, Starbucks Odyssey provides Starbucks Rewards members and employees in the U.S. the opportunity to earn and purchase digital collectible NFT assets.

Once logged in, Starbucks Odyssey members can engage in Starbucks Odyssey “journeys,” a series of omnichannel activities, such as playing interactive games or taking challenges. Members will be rewarded for completing journeys with a digital collectible “journey stamp.”

Journey stamps are NFTs (non-fungible tokens). Starbucks Rewards members can also purchase “limited-edition stamps” (NFTs) through a built-in marketplace within the Starbucks Odyssey web app.

Stamps will be available for purchase for $100 each through the Starbucks Odyssey marketplace. Members of the Starbucks Odyssey program will also be rewarded with bonus points that will go towards unlocking exclusive benefits available through the Odyssey program.

Each digital collectable stamp will include a point value based on its rarity, and the stamps can be bought or sold among members within the marketplace, with ownership secured on a blockchain. Using bonus points from stamps, Starbucks Odyssey members will gain access to experiences that have never been offered before, such as a virtual espresso martini-making class, unique merchandise and artist collaborations, and invitations to exclusive events at Starbucks stores and coffee farms.

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