Brands are using virtual worlds in order to stand out within the digital space and create an experience for their customers. It has become a popular way to engage with brand advocates online, not only during the pandemic but as a permanent tool. In May 2021, Burberry and Harrods released their virtual world in sync with their brand new pop-up store presenting the new Olympia bag. The virtual store includes attributes such as 3D statues, 360-degree viewings of the bag, and a dream-like cloudy sky surrounding the mystical space. The goal for Burberry was to allow their worldwide customers to become part of the shopping experience, without having to leave their homes in regards to the pandemic.
“The exhibition window is an exciting space where brands can experiment and create a true spectacle, and that’s exactly what Burberry has done with ‘The World of Olympia’. An iconic product paired with an equally iconic digital experience is a powerful combination I know our customers will love.”Lydia King, Harrods Fashion Director
Experts say that virtual worlds are increasing brand value, giving the brands an opportunity to interact, be easily accessible and identifiable. Not only this, but they are also easily changeable and can be altered depending on the customer’s needs and interests. This makes using virtual reality within the marketing landscape an intense tool for fashion brands.
Gaming x Fashion x Technology
Brands are integrating with gaming platforms as a way to move forward within the virtual world. There’s potential for virtual worlds within gaming and fashion, which can serve as a full-funnel medium. Cutting-edge technologies like virtual reality and 3D scanning have a range of applications in the age-old fashion world, allowing production and distribution methods to evolve just as quickly as ever-changing tastes and fashion trends.
Fashion brands using the gaming industry as a way to create a branded virtual space also has allowed them to advocate sustainability as a brighter future for fashion. Fitting the important qualities in which customers search for is crucial in a marketing plan, and virtual/gaming has become an answer to just that. Brands use virtual clothing, 3D printing, and even recyclable virtual clothing to show awareness of the issue and share their support in the matter.
P&G-owned skincare brand SK-II has replied to the gaming trend by launching its own virtual hyper-realistic branded world, SK-II City. Inspired by the city-building video game SimCity, SK-II City is based around iconic sites in Japan like Mount Fuji and the Tokyo Tower. Users can visit destinations, like a movie theatre to watch films created by SK-II Studios, or a backstage tour area to see behind-the-scenes footage from campaigns.
“We were less concerned about cash outlay and more about our customers who are seeking more differentiated experiences online,” CEO of SK-II Studios, Chang says. SK-II City will be a permanent site fixture (rather than a temporary activation) and the brand plans to build it out, eventually adding a virtual store to browse and buy products.
What is the outcome so far, and the predictions for the future of virtual reality worlds within fashion?
Brands have picked up on the new virtual reality ideas, and the statistics show for it. They have noticed the importance of expanding markets globally, increasing online access, innovating technologies to push experiences for customers online. The e-Commerce fashion industry is predicted to reach $673 billion by 2023, worldwide.
The AR and VR industry hit $18.8 billion worldwide in 2020, tripling over the past 4 years with 2016 marking a worldwide value of $6.1 billion market size. There is no denying that the virtual world is becoming a success for brands, and a new, interesting experience for clients online.