What opportunities for fashion retailers?

If the metaverse, the NFTs or the Web3 are part of this new vocabulary which puts the fashion industry under tension, the economic opportunities generated by the digital universe and the sustainability of this new model remain unanswered questions.

The first Metaverse Fashion Week, which took place from March 24 to 27 on the Decentraland platform, 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 attendance leaving something to be desired and a user experience to be deepened.

Faced with this new model, the agency BEM Builders (for “Brand Experiences in Metaverse”) has been supporting brands in their integration of the metaverse since 2020. 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

Support brands

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

Secondly, the agency works on ideation seminars with the brands according to their ambition and their DNA. “We evoke the notions of ownership, transmission of a digital asset and we seek the best applications in respect with the identity of the brand”. The last step consists of drawing the concept, in particular thanks to its set of trades (architects, 3D modelers, etc.).

While we are gradually realizing 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. The metaverse today resembles a parallel real estate market where each actor builds new buildings (or recreates existing places) in order to accommodate new experiences. In this booming market, BEM Builders supports brands even 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 see that retail players are still hampered by fear of the unknown. “These virtual universes are mainly used to see or to show, or to send messages through the prism of the game. We try to encourage our customers to free themselves from the laws of gravity, to create unconventional paths or to use colors unexpected”.

One of the most recent achievements of BEM Builders: the virtual building of the Nelly Rodi agency. “We reproduced the large dining room of their private mansion. On the first floor, we have created a ‘white cube’ which is intended to host exhibitions”, explains Paul Mouginot. Nelly Rodi’s strategy: rent this space to brands to organize 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 links between brands and their customers. Best example today: NFTs, these “non-fungible tokens” that allow their holders to access tailor-made experiences. “These are new tools that make it possible to use the customer base as a medium in its own right and to better interact with them,” he explains. “It is no longer a question of investing in advertising, but in improving the experience offered to the customer”.

image: BEM Builders for Nelly Rodi

Rethink creation

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

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

The margin generated by the sale of NFT could also be used to finance the making of a future collection. “We can imagine that in the future, companies will create completely decentralized clothing collections based on community demand. And if by voting, the community finances the production of the collection in advance (notably thanks to crypto-currency), this is a new brand model”.

If we consider the attendance rates of the various metaverse platforms, everything leads us to believe that this new paradigm has a future. Despite the mixed success of its Metaverse Fashion Week, Decentraland’s visitor numbers still number in the hundreds of thousands daily. The Roblox gaming platform recorded 49.4 million daily active users in 2021, a 35 percent increase from the previous year.

Integrating the metaverse represents an unprecedented opportunity for fashion brands to reach a wider audience and retain new customers. It also means reaching 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 which, according to a Bloomberg study, should weigh nearly 750 billion euros by 2024.

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