Image Source: Roblox

Nike and Roblox recently announced that the two companies have teamed up to create a virtual world called Nikeland. In Nikeland, people will be able to play games via avatars dressed in Nike-branded sneakers and apparel.

Many other businesses are quickly capitalizing on the rise of the metaverse to create virtual worlds, which speaks to how quickly the metaverse is being mined for money. It’s a rich vein to mine.

Quick Review: What Is the Metaverse?

What might have, just a few years ago, seemed the province of science fiction is now very much a part of our world. The metaverse, in essence, is a world where real people can share adventures — virtually. Visitors to the metaverse can buy virtual goods. They can play games. And, as evidenced by the 2020 Ariana Grande concert hosted by popular gaming platform Fortnite, they can attend virtual events. In a world turned upside down by the pandemic and resulting constraints and challenges, the metaverse gives people a new way to play, buy, and experience.

Nike’s World

Nike clearly understands the importance of the metaverse and the inherent opportunities. Nikeland, a virtual world hosted on Roblox’s online gaming platform, includes Nike buildings, as well as fields and arenas in which players can compete in various mini-games. This is no Squid Game (thank goodness!), but the games do hearken back to childhood in some cases. There’s tag. Dodgeball. And even “The Floor is Lava.” And while people of all ages may find the gaming hard to resist, there’s more. Nike eventually plans to draw inspiration from global sporting events—think a Nikeland soccer event timed to take place during the real-world World Cup, for instance. That synchrony between real and virtual worlds extends to the players themselves: users with accelerometers in their mobile devices will be able to, say, jump in the real world, then see their movements translate to their avatar’s jump in the virtual world. That avatar will be well appointed, by the way: players can enter a digital showroom, check out Nike’s latest offerings, and dress their avatar in all things Nike.

Nikeland is free for now, which is not to say that Nike can’t already benefit monetarily. The company is clearly cognizant of the ways virtual loyalty can be channeled in the real world: if users fall in love with a product in the Nike metaverse, for example, that passion can eventually translate into increased brand recognition and real-world sales. And Nikeland is a great place for the company to painlessly try out new products to see what takes off. As Nike CFO Matt Friend noted during the company’s latest earnings call, “Digital is increasingly becoming a part of everyone’s shopping journey, and we are well positioned to reach our vision of a 40%-owned digital business by fiscal 2025.”

Other Brands Winning in the Metaverse

Nike is not the only brand to embrace the metaverse. Consider Chipotle, which is betting that pandemic restrictions have fundamentally changed the ways people interact. “Being at home, using avatars, having the ability to get everything delivered to your home—that changes the way people think about digital,” notes Chris Brandt, Chipotle’s chief marketing officer. “I think the world is more ready for it.” To that end, Chipotle is taking some real-world campaigns straight into the metaverse. This year, it turned a longstanding tradition—for the past couple decades, Chipotle has given out free or discounted burritos to customers in costume at Halloween — and transformed it into a digital experience: with the help of Roblox, the quick-service Mexican food chain created a virtual store for its “boorito” campaign. Avatars could dress up in themed costumes (think: Chip Bag Ghost!) and travel through a virtual maze. The reward? A code for a free, real-life burrito. And there’s room to grow in the metaverse. As Chipotle’s Brandt says, “We haven’t tried to sell anything yet on Roblox, but certainly we would like to do some experimentation.”

Meanwhile Vans, the purveyor of skateboarding apparel and gear, has launched a virtual skate park in Roblox. The park, which has attracted more than 48 million visitors so far, gives users the opportunity to earn points by skating in the metaverse and hitting floating, waffle-shaped coins. The points can then be redeemed for virtual shoes and skateboard customization, with an option to further customize virtual accessories using Robux, Roblox’s currency.

The Why      

These brands are tapping into the metaverse not only for what it offers now, but for the opportunities yet to come. Those opportunities may be lucrative. Take Vans. According to Nick Street, Vans’s vice president of global integrated marketing, the company is already generating revenue from sales of virtual goods. But Street looks forward to the day when Vans can use the metaverse to also sell physical products. “That’s where the opportunity lies,” when the metaverse grows in scale, Street says. In short, the metaverse creates a new way for brands to make money.

The metaverse also gives insight into a particular demographic: people who spend time on metaverse platforms such as Roblox. This is mostly an audience of gamers and digital enthusiasts, and by joining the metaverse, brands can rub shoulders with these consumers.

What You Should Do

An all-encompassing metaverse with a virtual economy is in early stages of development, but it’s clear that many businesses are figuring out how to build engaging products and offer services in virtual worlds. We suggest that businesses use test-and-learn tools such as design sprints to imagine how they might operate more extensively in virtual environments. The beauty of the design sprint is that it is engineered to help product development teams tackle questions for which there are no obvious answers, which is ideal for the metaverse. For instance, a business might ask:

  • How might we develop products virtually beyond what we’re doing today?
  • How might we create experiences that make it possible for people to more easily and securely make purchases virtually?
  • How might we help employees break through limitations of time and space to operate more effectively in virtual environments? 

These types of specific questions lend themselves to more focused experimentation than, say, a broader, far-reaching question such as, “How might we build a metaverse?” (unless you’re Facebook, and you know your future will be in the metaverse).

At Moonshot, we help businesses figure out how to innovate with product development cost-effectively through our own FUEL methodology, which combines tools such as design sprints with product development approaches such as lean innovation.  

Contact Moonshot to get started.