Are consumers shopping in the metaverse?

A recent consumer metaverse survey indicated a strong desire for shopping in metaverse-style experiences, despite limited purchasing opportunities. As virtual-world purchases are still most common in video gaming, there is a clear need for more sales options, as well as vendor and retailer support in the metaverse world, according to Neil Barbour, research analyst, and Michael Paxton, senior analyst, at S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Interconnected spaces

S&P Global defines the metaverse as a single, shared, immersive 3D virtual space where humans and machines interact, enhancing the physical world. A consumer-based metaverse is envisioned as interconnected virtual spaces for socializing, gaming and shopping, potentially merging with augmented reality. Existing software like Roblox, Fortnite Creative and Horizon Worlds already offer similar aspects.

Of the survey respondents who indicated they had used metaverse apps or services previously and were still using them with some frequency, 58.6% reported spending money in the metaverse, whereas 56.7% received or bought a nonfungible token (NFT) in metaverse environments. Nearly one-third (31%) of all survey respondents had bought virtual goods for real-world uses, such as food or clothing. However, efforts to sell tangible products in the metaverse were mostly experimental.

Buying NFTs

It is evident that most of the purchases made in the metaverse are related to NFTs. These tokens serve to verify ownership of virtual items, allowing users to transfer them to difference experiences. For example, a user can buy an in-game sword and transfer it to their cryptocurrency wallet before selling it on platforms like OpenSea.

Lack of interoperability

However, most virtual developers create items exclusively for their ecosystems to maximize profits, limiting interoperability. Popular virtual experiences such as Roblox, Fortnite and Meta Horizon Worlds do not support NFTs. Sandbox, Decentraland and Somnium Space, and games such as Alien Worlds, Axie Infinity and CryptoKitties, are NFT-driven metaverse hubs.

Survey data shows most NFT buyers spend relatively modest amounts, with 40% spending less than $99, and 36% spending between $100 and $999.

Plummeting value

It should be noted that some of the NFT buyers were driven by investment expectations during the cryptocurrency boom in 2020 and 2021. Many NFTs have since decreased in value, partly due to a lack of interoperability between games.

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