What opportunities for fashion retailers?

Whether the metaverse, NFTs or the Web3 are part of this new vocabulary that puts the fashion industry in 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 24 to 27 March on the Decentraland platform, caused 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 participation that leaves something to be desired and a user experience to be explored.

Faced with this new model, the BEM Builders agency (for “Brand Experiences in Metaverse”) supports brands in their metaverse integration from 2020. FashionUnited spoke with Paul Mouginot, data specialist and co-founder of the agency, to understand the new challenges of the metaverse for brands and ready-to-wear 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 is to understand exactly what Web3 is for (a term used to designate a decentralized web that uses blockchain technology) and what the brand uses can make it”, explains Paul Mouginot . For this, BEM Builders offers training in collaboration with organizations such as the Institut Français de la Mode. “It is often our entry point with many actors,” especially with luxury brands like Dior and Gucci, for which the agency provided the first major operations in the metaverse.

Second, the agency works on ideation seminars with brands based on their ambitions and their DNA. “We evoke the notions of ownership, transmission of a digital asset and we look for the best applications while respecting the identity of the brand”. The last step is to design the concept, in particular thanks to its set of professions (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 in which each actor builds new buildings (or recreates existing places) to accommodate new experiences. In this booming market, BEM Builders also 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 that retail gamers are still held back by fear of the unknown. “These virtual universes are primarily used to see or show, or to send messages through the prism of the game. We try to encourage our customers to break free from the laws of gravity, create unconventional paths or use unexpected colors.”

One of the most recent creations of BEM Builders: the virtual building of the Nelly Rodi agency. “We have reproduced the large dining room of their private home. 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 organize temporary exhibitions in the metaverse.

The co-founder of BEM Builders believes in the development of hybrid models in which new technologies would allow to strengthen the bonds between brands and their customers. The best example today: NFTs, these “non-fungible tokens” that allow their holders to access tailored experiences. “These are new tools that allow you to use your customer base as a means of its own and to interact better with them,” he explains. “It is no longer a question of investing in advertising, but of 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 having 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 unleash creativity and encourage experimentation.

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

If we consider the participation rates of the various metaverse platforms, everything suggests that this new paradigm has a future. Despite the mixed success of its Metaverse Fashion Week, Decentraland’s visitor numbers are still hundreds of thousands per day. The Roblox gaming platform recorded 49.4 million daily active users in 2021, a 35% increase over the previous year.

The integration of the metaverse represents an unprecedented opportunity for fashion brands to reach a wider audience and retain new customers. It also means reaching it “in a different way, through gamification and 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 almost 750 billion euros by 2024.

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