20 September 2022

Pixelated: Packaging In The Metaverse

Custom packaging

We’ve mentioned the history of packaging in our previous article Essential: The Importance Of Packaging. This week we’re going straight into the future of packaging as it evolves into the world of the Metaverse, Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality.


The Metaverse is the future of work, socializing and commerce – or so we’re led to believe. In this article we’re going to be exploring how much of an impact the Metaverse will have on brands. There are lots of questions surrounding the Metaverse and the role businesses will play in it, but one thing is for sure – it’s still going to rely on consumers to keep it alive.


Although the Metaverse is a computerized reality and therefore not ‘real’ – this does not stop real items from being sold. In 2021 600 pairs of Nike shoes were sold as physical sneakers alongside NFT versions – grossing at approximately $3.1 million within 6 minutes. That is a huge move forward in consumer purchase behavior – it also shows that online products are just as valuable to consumers as physical products. Virtual to physical and physical to virtual purchases are set to become the new norm…and that includes the packaging.


Considering 30% of all online purchases are returned – here’s how augmented reality through the Metaverse could help brands sell more:

  • 42% of consumers believe that using AR would make it easier for them to make a decision and shorten the time between browsing and final purchase
  • 76% of consumers would purchase more items if offered a try-before-you-buy experience
  • 69% of consumers expect brands to launch an AR app immediately

AR and VR could help brands save money and help customers feel more comfortable buying large amounts of products that they know will suit their lifestyle, their home and their Metaverse selves. From reducing returns to optimizing customer experience, AR is the way forward for companies – even if they’re B2B. Brands are always looking for ways to increase their sales, understand their clients and improve their companies; the Metaverse via AR and VR technologies would allow B2B clients to prototype ideas; be these packaging concepts, or any other area of business that a company would want to improve on. NFT sales hit $2 billion in the first quarter of 2021 – a very real number which could create a new way of doing financial transactions from real estate to everyday products including clothing, cars, beauty and healthcare items.


Psychologically the Metaverse is created to target the SuperEgo and Id leaving out the Ego (our mediator) which means that consumers will have less of a ‘should I have this, do I really need this?’ kind of reaction to products, instead increasing the amount of ‘spontaneous’ and ‘impulse’ purchases made. This will of course be increased if users are able to easily try on products and trial services in a hyper-realistic setting.


The current Internet (Web 2.0) is still larger and more influential than the Metaverse (Web 3.0) which currently only stands at a value of 27.5 billion dollars. But thanks to the Internet; the Metaverse, VR, AR etc have an easy in-road into the collective user conscience. Already even in 2021 78% of Americans are said to be familiar with VR technology, and there were 171 million users worldwide. 90% of Gen Z want to use AR when shopping.


Here’s how VR could help companies with their packaging:

  • A cheaper way to see prototypes
  • Test how packaging will look in stores and at home
  • Get a physical copy of virtual trial design
  • Understand flaws in design before ordering large quantities


But how would sales work for your brand?


Considering that the Metaverse deals in cryptocurrency (able to be transferred from currency to currency via blockchain technology) sales would be made via Bitcoin etc and then transferred into physical money for businesses or contained within the blockchain for use within the Metaverse. Cryptocurrency doesn’t require conversion rates if users buy from a company in a different country, so it’s cheaper to purchase international products through this form. However just like real time currency each cryptocurrency has fluctuations in value and these depend on how popular the Metaverse where the cryptocurrency originated is. Thanks to the pandemic many E-Commerce companies have already introduced cryptocurrency options on their websites leading the way for wider use of them in VR, AR and the Metaverse.


On the topic of metrics let’s talk about how advantageous the Metaverse would be for your sales funnel and marketing plans – taking into consideration the example of how businesses made sales opportunities out of the popular AR game Pokemon Go. The Metaverse is a connected interface that keeps track of a user’s movements, payments and interactions much like cookies track your searches, bounce rate and metrics on Google, or how the tracking on your phone can monitor your movements in real life via satellite capture data. The Metaverse would in essence just be a more evolved version of Facebook which makes its millions by harvesting large amounts of data about users and then charging companies to access the information so as to do targeted ads to the users. The users are – essentially – the product. And in the Metaverse this would merely be increased, though with a more interactive interface. BlockChain would store all transactions, keeping a record of users purchases; where, when and why which companies could link up to marketing campaigns that would be personalized and based entirely on accurate data. Much the same as if you had trackers on every single potential customer who entered a shop and you could monitor where they spent the most time, what they looked at, which displays got the most attention, what they picked up then put back down (with tracking monitoring what made them put it down) and then which items they bought, how long it took them to go from the entrance of the shop to the till etc etc. 


While this is one of the privacy issues that companies will have to be aware of and users will need to have control over, it also means that as a business once you’ve bought ‘real estate’ in one of the Metaverses and set up a ‘physical store’ you will be able to track where your customers are spending most of their time, you’ll be able to access their buying history within your shop, match this with the frequency of purchase etc and personalize their experience so much that they would walk into your store in the Metaverse and love everything they see because it has been specifically curated to fit their personality, buying habits and the trends they’ve been connecting with in other areas of the Metaverse. For a company this is kryptonite and could skyrocket your sales in a way that would be impossible in a bricks and mortar store – and it’s all linked to the data which businesses would be able to access on users (at the moment the Big Data industry is forecasted to grow to a value of $103 billion by 2027) however businesses haven’t always had the best track record on user data. A slight issue when it comes to the Metaverse since companies could end up knowing more about the user than the user knows about themselves, forecasting their purchases, moves and investments just from observing what users do day in and day out, where they put their money, what they look at, what they do and who they mix with – just from collecting data and understanding the algorithm.


For packaging companies, the importance of graphic design in selling a product via the packaging has been growing since the pandemic skyrocketed E-Commerce – for example by 2040 it’s estimated that 95% of all purchases will be through E-Commerce. Since E-Commerce became the favored mode of shopping coupled with next day delivery options and extensive product choice – Social Commerce has also become a popular selling platform for companies who can connect directly with their communities at the same time, (for more information on how to optimize your packaging for Social Commerce take a look at our article ‘Buy What You Like: Social Commerce‘ for more information). The tables below show the growth in E-Commerce over the last few years – the spike (43% growth which is $244.2 billion) occurs over the COVID pandemic period when the only way to purchase products was over the internet.


Key country economies for Metaverse metrics

ESTIMATES OF GLOBAL E-COMMERCE 2019 AND PRELIMINARY ASSESSMENT OF COVID-19 IMPACT ON ONLINE RETAIL 2020: UNCTAD REPORT. The dramatic rise in e-commerce amid movement restrictions induced by COVID-19 increased online retail sales’ share of total retail sales from 16% to 19% in 2020, according to estimates in an UNCTAD report published on 3 May.
UNCTAD released the report as it hosted a two-day meeting on measuring e-commerce and the digital economy.


So how do E-Commerce and Social Commerce lead the way to shopping in the Metaverse? Imagine for a moment that there are no closing times because assistants are AI avatars and building logistics such as electric usage etc don’t work in the same way, there are no restrictions on how much you can try or what you can try. Theoretically due to a safety bubble surrounding each avatar (which can be disabled, the issues of safety within the Metaverse have been flagged after an assault incident relating to a researcher’s experience occurred) you don’t have to worry about getting home because you’re already at home, you don’t have to worry about taxi fares, bus times, car parking, breaking your back from too many packages, stores closing at awkward hours – all of the issues that come with shopping in the real world and the limits that come with shopping online aren’t there. You have essentially got all the issues that hold back one form (physical shopping) and the other (internet shopping) removed to create a user-optimized experience. As a company you can package the items however you wish – making the most of all the designs you wanted to use but couldn’t because of logistics (if you want examples of how the logistics of reality aren’t needed in the Metaverse just check out the clothes that are available to buy as NFT’s).


Here’s an example: imagine a user’s avatar going into a car showroom and being taken for a virtual test drive that gives the consumer a realistic impression of what the car would feel like in real life. They can buy the product via cryptocurrency and then the next day the real car shows up in their driveway, entirely personalized with interconnected Internet of Things technology that can match up to the rest of their products to optimize their life.

Or an avatar goes into a department store, talks to an AI personal assistant who can take a look at their buying history, understand their dermatological fingerprint, their style through their time on the platform and curate an entire collection of makeup and clothes that fit the style of that individual perfectly from collections across the world either to be used just in the Metaverse or transferred into physical products. Pay in cryptocurrency – get the actual products the next day.


For packaging this means that there could be two types of packaging a company has: digital and physical. Digital packaging could act as fashion in the Metaverse would: breaking the bounds of what can realistically be achieved in the real world. Selling limited edition packaging as NFT’s companies could expand their capabilities and fully embrace the Metaverse.


The Metaverse market is nothing to underrate or sweep under the rug. While still very new it has an incredible amount of potential when it comes to sales, community building and brand growth. Will the Metaverse succeed? Yes it will – thanks to international interest from all sectors and co-operation from various governments as well as extreme support from the gaming industry (which generates a huge amount of money per year set to reach $256.97 billion by 2025). The Metaverse will take design to the next level and the capabilities of businesses to an unknown height that defies reality, because it doesn’t need to abide by the same rules – whether business transfers to the Metaverse smoothly or not is still to be seen, but it rests on the importance of consumer experience – and as we all know, the consumer experience begins and ends with packaging.


Whether you want more information on AR capabilities for your packaging or innovative product packaging services coupled with bespoke solutions – BPAK are here to support your brand with your next packaging project. Get in contact with us to find out more.