What opportunities for fashion retailers?

If the metaverse, the NFTs or the Web3 are part of this new vocabulary that is straining the fashion industry, the economic opportunities generated by the digital universe and the sustainability of this new model remain unanswered.

The first Metaverse Fashion Week, which took place on the Decentraland platform from March 24 to 27, made a lot of noise. However, despite the participation of internationally renowned brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, Paco Rabanne or Dolce & Gabbana, the post-event report shows a lack of attendance and a user experience that needs to be deepened.

Faced with this new model, the agency BEM Builders (for “Brand Experiences in Metaverse”) has been supporting brands since 2020 in their integration of the metaverse. FashionUnited spoke with Paul Mouginot, data specialist and co-founder of the agency, to understand the new challenges of the metaverse(s) for ready-to-wear brands and retailers.

Image: Tommy Hilfiger, Decentraland Fashion Week 2022

Supporting brands

“When a brand wants to establish itself in the metaverse, it generally goes through several stages, the first is to understand exactly what Web3 is for (a term used to denote a decentralized web using blockchain technology). technology) and what uses the brand can make,” explains Paul Mouginot. For this, BEM Builders provides training in collaboration with organizations such as the Institut Français de la Mode. “It is often our gateway with many players”, especially with luxury brands like Dior and Gucci, for whom the agency handled the first major operations in the metaverse.

Second, the agency works on ideation seminars with the brands according to their ambition and their DNA. “We evoke the notions of ownership, transfer of a digital asset and we look for the best applications while respecting the brand’s identity”. The last step consists in drawing the concept, thanks in particular to the range of professions (architects, 3D modellers, etc.).

As we gradually realize the economic potential of the metaverse, brands are still struggling to free themselves from the constraints of the physical world in the context of their virtual experiences. Today’s metaverse resembles a parallel real estate market where each actor builds new buildings (or recreates existing places) to accommodate new experiences. In this booming market, BEM Builders even supports brands in the acquisition of land within platforms such as Sandbox.

image: BEM Builders for Nelly Rodi

Strengthen the relationship with the customer

“Today, the use cases for the metaverse are still somewhat limited,” explains Paul Mouginot, and we can see retail players still being held back by the fear of the unknown. “These virtual universes are mainly used for display or display, or to send messages through the prism of the game. We try to encourage our customers to free themselves from the laws of gravity, create unconventional paths or unexpected colors to use”.

One of the most recent realizations of BEM Builders: the virtual building of agency Nelly Rodi. “We reproduced the grand dining room of their mansion. On the first floor, we have created a ‘white cube’ intended to host exhibitions,” explains Paul Mouginot. Nelly Rodi’s strategy: rent this space to brands to host temporary exhibitions in the metaverse.

The co-founder of BEM Builders believes in the development of hybrid models where new technologies would make it possible to strengthen the bonds between brands and their customers. Best example today: NFTs, these “non-fungible tokens” that allow their holders to access customized experiences. “These are new tools that make it possible to use and better interact with the customer base as a standalone medium,” he explains. “It is no longer a matter of investing in advertising, but in improving the customer experience”.

image: BEM Builders for Nelly Rodi

Rethink creation

Many brands have already invested in NFTs, such as Gucci, Lacoste, Diesel, AZ Factory and Boohoo, promoting customer loyalty through exclusive experiences made possible by owning this digital certificate.

NFTs can enable brands to move further in their business model. According to Paul Mouginot, showing fashion in virtual universes or in the form of NFTs can free up creativity and encourage experimentation.

The margin generated from the sale of NFT can also be used to fund the creation of a future collection. “We can envision that in the future, companies will create fully decentralized clothing collections based on community demand. And if the community pre-funds the production of the collection by voting (thanks in particular to cryptocurrencies), this is a new brand model.”

Looking at the turnout rates of the various metaverse platforms, everything leads us to believe that this new paradigm has a future. Despite the varying success of Metaverse Fashion Week, Decentraland’s visitor numbers still run into the hundreds of thousands a day. The Roblox gaming platform registered 49.4 million daily active users in 2021, a 35 percent increase from the previous year.

Integrating the metaverse presents an unprecedented opportunity for fashion brands to reach a wider audience and retain new customers. It also means achieving it “differently, through gamification and the user experience,” adds Paul Mouginot, on platforms whose economic model is based on in-app purchases. A new market in full development that, according to a study by Bloomberg, should weigh almost 750 billion euros by 2024.

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