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The Fashion Metaverse Has a Content Problem
A publication of It's A Working Title LLC
This weekly publication focuses on how business and economics trends, technology, and the drive for sustainability impact the global luxury, fashion, and experience economy industries. Prepared by the staff of content strategy agency and think tank It’s a Working Title LLC, each week’s issue provides a summary of recent trends across the globe and a leader that conducts a deeper dive into content strategy.
Leader - The Fashion Metaverse Has a Content Problem
The Metaverse and web3 are fashion’s latest play things.
Designers and brands are flocking to stage shows, to design NFTs, and to make outlandish creations, often in unexpected collaborations with each other, to explore the limitless possibilities of the human imagination and, well, of commerce in a virtual realm.
The odd person out, unfortunately, in many of these Metaverse and web3 projects is the consumer.
While most consumers are “excited” about future-forward tech like the Metaverse and web3, most cannot explain either how it works or what its overall purpose is, even when immersed in a specific experience. According to one study, 85 percent of consumers think the Metaverse will have a big impact on the fashion industry, but only 15 percent feel confident in explaining it to other people. This is concomitantly a problem of user experience and consumer education, a gap that some brands are already working to address as Maghan McDowell recently explored.
Basically, the fashion Metaverse has a content problem.
Or, more specifically, retail fashion and luxury brands experimenting with Metaverses and other immersive digital technologies have a problem when it comes to consumer education, user experience, product marketing, and brand strategy that can be solved—or at least improved—through content strategy and brand storytelling. After all, the ultimate goal of content strategy in any setting is to improve customer experience and align disparate content with corporate strategies.
To follow our first piece on content strategy and the Metaverse, we thought it would be useful to quickly capture some ideas on the overall landscape of fashion and luxury Metaverse and web3 initiatives from a content strategy perspective.
Education and UX Challenges
“What am I supposed to do?” is a fairly accurate summary of most inexperienced consumers when entering a Metaverse environment. This was our second reaction to entering the Vogue Business Metaverse Atelier (the first was sheer wonder) during their fall event.
In our case with the Vogue Business Metaverse Atelier, we did not understand the goal of the experience from the get-go and had trouble figuring out what we could do and how to connect with others. The community and experience aspects of the Metaverse are critical, particularly for brands looking to interact with consumers or address specific consumer needs. But, the tech has to work and people need to know how to use it and what it can do.
“What am I supposed to do?” is a fairly accurate summary of most inexperienced consumers when entering a Metaverse environment.
Conveniently, the consumer education gap and the user experience gap have the same solutions: better consumer education about the Metaverse and web3 combined with a more holistic content strategy focused on building guided experiences or at least clearer paths to discovery.
(We recognize that lumping Metaverse and web3 projects together is problematic. We are oversimplifying for the sake of this post.)
Conduct content-focused user journey mapping and think about guided content journeys, content entry points, and paths to discovery when planning content.
Focus early-stage content on education and instructional design, not marketing.
Drive home the “why” of your Metaverse or web3 project at every stage of your marketing strategy.
Product Marketing and Brand Strategy
From a business perspective, the real question with the Metaverse and web3 projects is:
How do brands create purposeful and value-driven immersive experiences and digital products that convert into actual sales?
From a storytelling perspective, the future of the Metaverse is infinite. In a virtual world, brands are confined only by what can be imagined and conveyed through immersive visual design, text, and audio. The same goes for NFTs, avatars, and other web3 digital designs.
…[I]ntegrating content strategy and brand storytelling into your Metaverse projects will make the experience better, whether you’re a brand or a consumer.
Yet, like all content, the stories a brand tells in the Metaverse matter when it comes to creating real connections with consumers and engaging with them or, indeed, turning them off completely. After all, product marketing in any environment falls apart if you cannot inspire consumers to purchase your product or even connect with them in a meaningful way.
Brand strategy in the Metaverse and web3 thus becomes the same paradigm as any other platform, only one with a deeper potential for community building and consumer engagement at a truly personalized level.
Create a content strategy for your initiative with:
A vision statement and goals linked to business outcomes
Audience/persona analysis with journey maps to set out imagined (or guided) paths to discovery
An editorial strategy with key sets of narratives mapped to different content entry points
Content model with a clearly defined content architecture and content types
Design an editorial strategy and storyboard your concept, thinking about:
What is the “why” behind your initiative? What problem does it solve for your consumers or what value does it bring to them?
Is there an overarching narrative to your experience? Or is it a series of micro-stories? What stories are you telling at different points in the user journey?
What values do these stories convey about your brand? How do they connect with stories you’re telling elsewhere? What are the shared values between these brand stories and the values of your consumers?
By what metrics are you measuring the success of your content? How do you know if consumers are engaging with or care about the stories you’re telling?
Regardless of your Metaverse and web3 project, integrating content strategy and brand storytelling into your Metaverse projects will make the experience better, whether you’re a brand or a consumer.
A study by U.S. commercial real estate company JLL reports that luxury retailers are rapidly opening new stores, including in smaller but growing markets. As luxury brand revenues have soared since the end of major lockdown measures around the world, retail leasing has bounced back to near pre-pandemic levels. In the U.S., more than 250 million square feet of retail space has been leased in the past year, just below the 264 million leased in 2019. This expansion in IRL experiences is in the traditional luxury locations in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles but also in smaller but growing markets such as Austin and Nashville. For example, among Chanel’s planned 15 new locations, two are in the smaller markets of Nashville and Las Vegas. These smaller markets represent a strong growth opportunity, particularly as many workers and firms relocated to these areas, often in sunbelt states, during the pandemic. Also, tech firms rapidly expanded into these markets so luxury real estate is following the purchasing power created by these new job opportunities.
A study by Équité Research forecasts that up to 50 percent of existing luxury brands will be out of business by 2030 by not investing in the customer journey at each touch point of engagement. The study finds that a combination of disruptive technologies and more demanding client expectations, particularly those of the industry’s key Gen-Z demographic, are creating challenges that most existing brands are struggling to meet. Business practices that may have been acceptable in the past, such as poor customer service or inefficient inventory management which leads to shortages, will be punished by Gen-Z shoppers who exhibit less brand loyalty and are more willing to drop brands in favor of better performers. The Équité Research study concludes that the key to ensuring survival is shifting strategic focus from products to creating a holistic customer journey in which each area of customer engagement is mapped, strategized, and constantly evaluated.
Fashion’s rapid and broad-based expansion into digital commerce must now be matched by clear efforts to manage data to protect consumers’ privacy and ensure fairness. In the past decade, fashion companies have invested around 2 percent of their revenue in technology and are expected to double that in the next 10 years. This technology has powered online commerce, personalized shopping services, AI-driven product recommendation applications, and immersive shopping environments. At each step, brands collect user data to improve UX and marketing. However, this raises questions about how these data are being used and protected. Governments everywhere are listening to consumer concerns and we are seeing action. For example, on August 24, Sephora agreed to a $1.2 million settlement with California’s Attorney General over accusations that they had failed to properly disclose that it was selling consumer data. And now the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has requested comments on how companies collect and use online retail data, including location data and biometric data from body scans as they try on items through AR/VR applications. Like all other areas of retail, fashion is also subject to concerns that the machine learning models that it employs may discriminate against some ethnic groups or body types. Data are as much the heart of the future of fashion as every other industry. The industry must engage more seriously with privacy and fairness concerns. As the Sephora case shows, regulators will ensure that these changes occur.
Alibaba Group joins the industry rush in Metaverse-style immersive environments. Alibaba, by some measures the world’s largest e-commerce company, is introducing Metaverse-type features to its interactive luxury shopping platform. One of the Group’s three main B2C sites, Tmall, will host a luxury pavilion to host an AR fashion show and distribute passes that give users access to special events and deals. This builds on the platform’s existing 3D shopping and AR/VR try-on features which it has previously made available for its 500 million monthly active users. Alibaba reports that more than 20 brands have released products for aviators or hosted fashion shows in the Tmall Luxury Pavilion metaverse.
The Belgian textile advisory organization Centexbel has coordinated the launch of a 27 partner consortium to explore the feasibility of the apparel industry’s transition to more sustainable practices. The consortium, Cisutac Horizon Europe, will explore ways to remove supply chain bottlenecks to aid the transition to circular and more sustainable industry practices with a focus on polyester and cotton/cellulose, which constitutes about 90 percent of all textile fabrics, in three sub-sectors - fashion garments, sports, and outdoor goods and workwear. It will start with the launching of pilots to explore the feasibility of repair and disassembling practices, sorting for reuse and recycling, and designing for circularity.
A new study finds that fashion is the sixth most polluting industry, generating more annual GHG emissions than France, Germany, and the UK combined. A study released by The Eco Experts found that the fashion industry’s annual GHG emissions trail only those of energy, transport, manufacturing, agriculture, and food retail. The key drivers of the industry’s large carbon footprint include:
Broad-based use of materials, such as toxic dyes and polyester, which are made with fossil fuels and also polluting when washed.
The industry’s manufacturing is heavily weighted towards Asian countries, which have a heavy concentration of coal and oil in electricity production.
The industry’s intricate supply chains require lots of international shipping and attendant pollution.
The overproduction issues that dominate the industry, from fast fashion all the way up to premium and luxury goods, translates into higher emissions intensity year after year and also increases waste. The study found that 85 percent of global textiles are trashed each year.
Walmart seeks to appeal to younger consumers by opening up shop in Roblox. The big box retailer will create two experiences on the gaming platform, “Walmart Land” and “Universe of Play,” which will let Roblox gamers collect new virtual merchandise, play games, win toys, attend live concerts, and participate in fashion competitions.
TikTok to launch its live shopping platform in North America. Partnering with Los Angeles-based TalkSportLive, the TikTokShop service that is currently available in much of Asia and the U.K. to the U.S. The service permits users to purchase products through links in the TikTok app during live broadcasts.