What opportunities for fashion retailers?

If the meta-verse, the NFTs or Web3 are part of this new vocabulary that 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, caused a great deal of noise. But despite the participation of internationally recognized brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, Paco Rabanne or Dolce & Gabbana, the post-event report shows that participation leaves something to be desired and a user experience that needs to be deepened.

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

Photo: 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 of which is to understand exactly what Web3 is for (a term used to denote a decentralized web using blockchain technology), and what uses the brand can make it for., “explains Paul Mouginot. For this, BEM Builders offers training in partnership with organizations such as the Institut Français de la Mode. “It’s often our starting point with many players,” especially with luxury brands like Dior and Gucci, for whom the agency delivered the first major operations in the meta-verse.

Second, the agency works on idea seminars with the brands based on their ambitions and their DNA. “We evoke the notions of ownership, the transmission of a digital asset, and we seek the best applications in terms of brand identity.” The final step is to draw the concept, especially thanks to its set of subjects (architects, 3D modeling, etc.).

If we gradually realize the economic potential of metaverse, brands are still struggling to free themselves from the limitations of the physical world in the context of their virtual experiences. The meta-verse today resembles a parallel real estate market, where each player builds new buildings (or recreates existing sites) to accommodate new experiences. In this booming market, BEM Builders supports brands even in land acquisitions within platforms like Sandbox.

image: BEM Builders for Nelly Rodi

Strengthen the relationship with the customer

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

One of BEM Builder’s most recent achievements: Nelly Rodi’s Virtual Building. “We reproduced the large dining room in their private mansion. On the first floor, we have created a ‘white cube’, which will host exhibitions,” explains Paul Mouginot. Nelly Rodi’s strategy: Rent this space out 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 will make it possible to strengthen the connections between brands and their customers. Best example today: NFTs, these “non-fungible tokens” that give their holders access to bespoke experiences. “These are new tools that make it possible to use the customer base as a medium in itself and to interact better with them,” he explains. “It’s 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, and have thus fostered customer loyalty through exclusive experiences made possible by having this digital certificate.

NFTs can 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 can also be used to fund the preparation of a future fundraiser. “We can imagine that companies in the future will create completely decentralized clothing collections based on society’s demand. And if society, by voting, finances the production of the collection in advance (especially thanks to cryptocurrency), this is a new brand model ”.

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

Integrating the meta-verse represents 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 financial 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 in 2024.

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