The newest kind of mall is one you don’t have to leave home to visit.
By now, most retailers are familiar with the metaverse, a virtual environment where consumers use augmented and virtual reality technology to digitally engage with each other and their surroundings, with crossovers into the physical world. Every day, it seems another retailer is launching some sort of metaverse store or gamified “world” customers can explore (and shop).
However, the metaverse is also starting to see virtual malls pop up. Like real-world shopping centers, these digital destinations feature a number of different retail shops under one “roof.” And they are not appearing in a vacuum.
Virtual malls – a backgrounder
In a recent exclusive interview, Adryenn Ashley, global blockchain influencer and co-founder of the Billionaire Zombies Club decentralized NFT art community, discussed ways retailers can monetize the metaverse – including via malls.
“You will have shopping malls in the metaverse,” advised Ashley. “Be the first to get to the metaverse and build a mall. Lease out stores and make up for the last two lost years of revenue.”
Long before Ashley made her recommendation AR/VR shopping platform Obsess launched an online shopping destination that functions as a virtual mall in 2019. The home page offers links to individual stores with assortments built around product categories such as beauty, home, fitness, and wellness.
Each virtual store features photorealistic images of products created using CGI (computer-generated imagery). Shoppers can click through an image to link to a popup that displays the item name, a close-up image, price, and link to a checkout page on the brand’s website to make a purchase. Some social influencers also have their own curated stores.
More recently, TerraZero Technologies Inc., a vertically integrated metaverse technology company, acquired a 185-parcel virtual estate in Decentraland. The company intends to build a digital destination that will include immersive experiences like virtual concerts, film screenings, shopping, and cultural and educational experiences. Tenants will pay rent and sell items for real money, most likely in cryptocurrency.
And Pacsun is putting an interesting twist on the virtual mall concept by opening a fantasy interactive mall experience on the Roblox gaming platform, called Pacworld, where customers can virtually become the owner and operators of a new mall. Customers will be able to create and remove shops, upgrade the shops that do well, decorate the mall to try and attract more customers, and invite their friends to visit their mall.
Virtual malls – the benefits
Beyond serving as a new way to promote your brand, virtual malls provide retailers (and/or mall developers) some real benefits. Most obviously, while developing an immersive 3-D metaverse environment is not free, it’s a much less time-, money- and regulation-intensive process than developing a physical mall.
In her Chain Store Age interview, Adryenn Ashley said retailers should hire individual 3D artists to create robust, proprietary multiverse environments they can control. “Tap the global talent market to obtain development services at a reasonable price.”
Virtual malls also provide a streamlined metaverse entry point for retailers that have interest, but may lack the resources or knowhow to build their own metaverse environment from scratch. For example, the Obsess virtual mall features photorealistic images of products created using CGI (computer-generated imagery), and is built with proprietary technology that uses web-based virtual reality (VR) to make 3D 360 shopping experiences available on mobile devices.
And just like a physical mall, a virtual mall enables retailers to cross-pollinate traffic with complementary brands, or attract shoppers who may be visiting to experience other digital attractions, such as the numerous entertainment features planned for the TerraZero center.