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A Content Strategist Visits the Fashion Metaverse
A Publication of It's A Working Title LLC
On Thursday, September 22, It’s A Working Title had the chance to visit the Metaverse. We attended the Vogue Business Metaverse Atelier, which was created in partnership with Epic Games and hosted on Metaverse platform Journee.
Our first experience in a fashion Metaverse was very positive. It was a beautifully rendered experience. It showcased interesting content to see and hear. And it provided a forum to network with others from around the world alongside a tranquil sea featuring gently lapping digital waves.
But, as content strategists, we have a lot of opinions on how this type of immersive tech would benefit from the lens and best practices of content strategy to keep brand messaging consistent, engage audiences, and improve the overall user experience.
Lesson 1: The Metaverse is multi-dimensional, experiential content.
Whether you call it an environment, experience, or event, visiting a Metaverse is at its core multi-dimensional, experiential content. Without this understanding, your brand may lose out on important opportunities to engage with target audiences in meaningful ways.
The Metaverse requires a concomitantly extroverted and introverted methodology from a content and UX perspective. It is key to think about non-linear, multi-spatial user journeys to invite both community and shared experiences as well as to build paths for individual discovery. At what points throughout the journey do users need content to guide them or to add dimension or context to what they’re seeing?
In the Vogue Business Metaverse Atelier, there was a bevy of dynamic content throughout that explained and contextualized the experience. There were explanatory pop-up windows, navigational help text, and, more interestingly, large billboards with video and audio in all the main parts or arenas. These billboards provided insightful commentary, important background, and key context to what we were seeing and experiencing throughout the event. For instance, in the arrival area, an avatar of Vogue Business innovation editor Maghan McDowell gave a useful introduction to the entire event that helped set the stage on what was in different parts of the Atelier.
Navigating between parts of the experience was easy thanks to a map that allowed you to jump between lands. However, the map lacked information to explain what you could find on different parts of the event, nor unique features or activities you could do there. The center of the Atelier, for instance, was a space for you to “fly.” It was fun but it felt a little aimless. This area did not seem to allow you to glide over the main rooms and get any hints or behind-the-scenes information, though it was beautiful to fly over the ocean and see the dolphins.
Lesson 2: Articulate the “why” behind your Metaverse event before people even walk in the door.
Whether the experience in question is content on your website or immersive, multi-sensory environments like the Metaverse, establishing a value proposition for your target audiences with clearly defined calls-to-action at important touchpoints in the user journey is imperative.
To put it simply, if your users don’t know the purpose or impetus behind your content or event and cannot easily figure out what they need to do, then they will lose interest quickly.
Appropriately for fashion (which thrives on exclusivity, if nothing else), Vogue Business made its Metaverse Atelier a member-only event limited to four hours. This added a sense of intimacy and community to the experience, which is good. However, as users, we did not entirely know what to expect when walking into the Atelier. Would we meet designers or chat with the Vogue Business team? Would there be live events or networking opportunities?
In the end, we enlisted the art of the flâneur—wandering around to see what would happen. We got lost several times, in spite of the clearly defined arrows, and were neither sure what to do at points nor with whom we were sharing the experience.
People come to this type of immersive event for two reasons: to experience something new and to network. Design-wise, the Atelier experience was beautifully rendered and immersive. However, we expected the community aspect to be more broadly applied and intuitive. There was an audio feature and a chat function. People made use of the chat feature from the beginning but many people had technical difficulties with the audio. You basically had to put your avatar inside another in a weird body meld to get the audio to work. In the Beach land, the event invited you to communicate with the Vogue Business team yet we did not see that anyone was able to accomplish that successfully. When it was clear the audio was a no-go, people used the chat function to communicate and get to know each other. This networking via messaging was cacophonic but useful.
One minor complaint we heard about the Atelier was the lack of ability to customize the rather masculine-looking avatars. But this was a detail in a sea of overwhelming approval over the potential and future of this type of immersive platform experience.
Lesson 3: The Metaverse needs vision and strategy but has endless storytelling potential.
Critics like to say the “Metaverse doesn’t exist” because “it is not a singular environment like the internet.” Further, they argue that the Metaverse lacks clear use cases, especially for fashion and luxury brands looking to market and sell products. “Virtual experiences don’t sell handbags,” someone informed us during consumer research for a Metaverse retail strategy report we authored for PSFK.
Right now, the Metaverse, along with its cousin Web 3.0, are not a singular shared platform. They are a motley collection of platforms, ideas, and experiences. Right now, the Metaverse is another channel for your brand, another opportunity to engage with—and learn from and about—consumers.
Skepticism about the Metaverse entirely misses its potential to weave stories, to bring diverse groups of people from all walks of life together, and to create new modes of understanding and communication in an environment that, to us at least, feels more inviting that other web-based social media experiences. The Metaverse is about experience-as-a-service not a traditional buy-and-sell model.
The Vogue Business Metaverse Atelier only had one item for sale: a branded jacket. The entire event was all about experience. Attendees nevertheless were treated to a hologram interview with designer Gary James McQueen, narrated video from digital-native luxury fashion house Auroboros with selections from its Biomimicry collection, and audio from The Fabricant co-founder and creative director Amber Jae Slooten, who talked about the celebrated “Iridescence” dress, the first recorded sale of a fashion NFT.
As the Vogue Business event shows, for brands and retailers, the Metaverse and Web 3.0 require a different way of thinking and asking questions about consumer experience. It is no longer a linear model of “how do we market our product to consumers?” The Metaverse is holistic, even recursive. It is a succession of experiences, an immersive space in which brands and consumers can interact, exchange, and build stories together.
In the Metaverse, brands need an articulated position consistent with their vision, values, and messaging on other channels so consumers believe they are interacting with the same brand. To get retail to work in the Metaverse, brand experiences must be narrative, humanized, and, most importantly, seamless, an intuitive, even familiar, exchange of goods between brands and consumers.
What’s next for fashion in the Metaverse? Only time will tell. If the Vogue Business Metaverse Atelier is representative, it will be a more experiential and democratized future, full of beautiful ideas and experiences.
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