Like the advent of the mobile internet, the metaverse could fundamentally change the way we connect with the internet, communicate with one another, and participate in the global economy.
Retailers who may be wary of its potential may remember the introduction of e-commerce was met with skepticism too — the global e-commerce market reached $16.6 trillion in 2022.
We hear a new, but similar set of questions today as we think about what commerce looks like in the metaverse — why would consumers want to virtually try on clothes? How will they know how they fit and feel? But like e-commerce in the mobile internet age, as technology advances, commerce in the metaverse will feel familiar, may provide a better experience than the 2D e-commerce experience, and become ubiquitous.
There is one group for whom this is more broadly true for than others: Gen Alpha. Typically defined as people born in 2010 or later, Gen Alpha was born in a world where the internet was part of everyday lives, smart phones were accessible from birth (and as the years went on, accessible to a large part of the world), and social media platforms were well established. Socialization and the internet are deeply intertwined for Gen Alpha — virtual concerts, meet ups, and gaming are common activities. Because of this, virtual 3D environments feel more natural to Gen Alpha than any other generation.
Like Gen Z, they are digital natives, but there is one distinct difference — Gen Alpha’s parents are very often millennials, who experienced the pre-internet age, have come of age with the rise of smart phones and social media, and expect efficient commerce experiences. The combination of early, consistent exposure to technology and the influence of impatient consumer parents means that as Gen Alpha come of age, their expectations for experience will be higher than others.
How can businesses meet the expectations of this highly tech savvy and demanding generation? Here are three tips:
Prioritize Gen Alpha now. Despite Gen Alpha’s seemingly limited buying power now — the oldest are just 13 years old today — retailers must take note now of these young consumers. With their formative years immersed in digital technologies from smart devices to social media to gaming environments and virtual gatherings, they will be early adopters in this metaverse, even more so than Gen Z and millennials. Start thinking of Gen Alpha now beyond just what they might buy today.
Their experience should be seamless. Gen Alpha has a very low tolerance for non-intuitive digital experiences or latency. Retailers need seamless experiences for these consumers no matter the channel, and Gen Alpha will certainly expect it in the the metaverse. And they may reward brands in the metaverse that have seamless digital savvy experiences in other channels.
Consider digital assets, not just physical assets. Retailers should consider new potential products and business models. Given the importance virtual environments play in their social lives, Gen Alpha will naturally buy digital clothes, accessories, and objects for their avatars – they may be even more inclined to do so than buy equivalent physical assets.
In 10-plus years from now, Gen Alpha will be one of the metaverse’s most valuable users. They may test drive a car in the metaverse. Or try on a pair of shoes. Or meet with a financial advisor. Or visit a far-off vacation spot to help them decide if they want to visit in person.
Savvy retailers who act now to build seamless metaverse commerce experiences for Gen Alpha today will be at a significant advantage for years to come.
Hailey Eichner is metaverse business leader and Brajesh Jha, is global leader, media, publishing, and entertainment at Genpact.
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