E-commerce in the metaverse

In this post, I explore what e-commerce could look like on the Metaverse.

Ever since the pandemic forced us to work remotely, we’ve been trying to recreate connecting in-person experiences. We’ve tried apps that let us move avatars through spatial audio experiences or play little games. It’s not the same as being together in person, but it’s a step closer.

Two digital worlds that were successful in recreating a previously offline experience are Roblox with a Lil Nas X concert and Fortnite with a Travis Scott concert. That is the idea of the Metaverse: a digital experience spanning interaction, commerce, experiences, interoperability, and the Internet of Things.

Note that this is my personal definition. It’s actually very difficult to define the Metaverse in a single sentence. If you seek a deeper exploration, I recommend Matt Ball’s Metaverse Primer.

Mark Zuckerberg made it a bit more tangible in a recent interview with The Verge (source):

The metaverse is a vision that spans many companies — the whole industry. You can think about it as the successor to the mobile internet. And it’s certainly not something that any one company is going to build, but I think a big part of our next chapter is going to hopefully be contributing to building that, in partnership with a lot of other companies and creators and developers. But you can think about the metaverse as an embodied internet, where instead of just viewing content — you are in it. And you feel present with other people as if you were in other places, having different experiences that you couldn’t necessarily do on a 2D app or webpage, like dancing, for example, or different types of fitness.
Mark Zuckerberg

The Metaverse, not to be confused with the next Dr. Strange movie, is often used synonymously with VR. Even Facebook is also investing in VR, it’s just a small part of the Metaverse. However you experience the Metaverse, commerce will play an important role. In this article, I explore what commerce could look like on the Metaverse and what potential role SEO might play.

Why now?

According to the Google Books n-gram viewer, the term “metaverse” started gaining traction in 2008, 13 years before Mark Zuckerberg announced it a goal for Facebook.

But, of course, he pushed the topic into the spotlight. The reason he did that, though, is an important element of commerce on the Metaverse.

Several bricks laid the foundation for Facebook’s part in the Metaverse. The creator economy allows everyone to be a creator and Facebook wants to be part of it. Social networks started to provide native storefronts and drive the decentralization of e-commerce, together with platforms like Shopify and Stripe.

The Blockchain laid the foundation for decentralized networks and currencies. Facebook tried to launch its own Cryptocurrency (Libra), which it then scaled back into the Diem Association.

The Metaverse might also allow Facebook to play a stronger role in e-commerce again. As I laid out in a previous post, organic product discovery doesn’t happen on social networks anymore.

E-commerce on the Metaverse = Meta-Commerce

Digital commerce is not the same as commerce of digital goods. On the Metaverse, the line between physical and digital goods is blurry. NFTs are a good example.

The Blockchain already enables new forms of commerce like NFTs today, which can already be traded and sold like a physical good on Shopify (source). Digital goods get value from uniqueness, just like the first vinyl edition of Michael Jackson’s album Bad or the first Iron Man comic. Before NFTs, jpegs were worthless because you could replicate them infinitely. Giving digital goods like images, videos, or music a unique and provable timestamp creates new, digital markets on the Metaverse.

A key principle for commerce on the Metaverse is interoperability, the ability to take products or information from one platform to another. An example that already exists today is Crypto Punks, which are “unique collectible characters with proof of ownership stored on the Ethereum blockchain”. Having a legit Crypto Punk as Twitter avatar already creates status among those who know about them.

Just like Facebook, The Metaverse creates a new playground for people to gain and display status. Klout, which measured status on social networks, was an early attempt but more immersive digital worlds will provide more opportunities.

As we can see with the influencer economy, status begets commerce. Already today, people with a lot of attention build billion-dollar brands (Rihanna: Fenty Beauty, Kylie Jenner: Kylie Cosmetics). That will continue and intensify on the Metaverse, possibly with new products that we can’t foresee today.

SEO in the Metaverse

It’s tough to say what role SEO will play in the Metaverse, but we do know that content will be user-generated. Whenever many agents in a system create a lot of output, discovery becomes a bottleneck. Search on the Metaverse might look different than it does today, but I find it hard to see a digital experience with commerce and creators that doesn’t have a search component to it.

Already today, Roblox is one of the most searched brands on the internet. On their site, Roblox hosts millions of games invented by creators (www.roblox.com/games/) that drive millions of monthly organic sessions.

Some games have thousands of monthly searches on Google. For example:

  • Grand piece online - 59,000
  • Project jojo - 17,000
  • Counter blox - 12,000
  • Greenville roblox - 11,000

Roblox is a good example of an ecosystem that builds a part of the Metaverse and discovery via search is a big part of it.