As I walk into the Alo Yoga store, the sounds of a bubbling waterfall, the chirping of birds, and my soft footsteps awaken my senses. I walk past faceless white mannequins and shelves full of pink, yellow, and sea foam green yoga mats. T-shirts, leggings and socks are arranged on the walls.

For a moment I forget where I really am. Then I realize I can’t touch anything. I’m not in a physical store. I sit in front of a computer using the Roblox gaming platform, immersed in an experience called Alo Sanctuary.

In real life, Alo’s black and white GOAT jacket costs $ 268. At Alo Sanctuary, Roblox users can win the virtual jacket after five days of meditation. Shopping has never been easier. Or cheap.

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Roblox’s Alo Sanctuary includes a virtual store where people can earn virtual clothes by practicing meditation.

Roblox

Alo Sanctuary is just one example of how big brands dive deeper into the metaverse, virtual spaces where people can work, play and communicate. The metaverse is very active – Facebook has bet its future on it, rebranding itself as Meta – but it is still largely unformed. It can disappear like so many concepts before it. However, if these virtual worlds are captured, the metaverse can change the way businesses attract new customers and how people shop. Unlike conventional online shopping or buying items in a physical store, these immersive virtual spaces push the boundaries of what is possible in real life.

“The concept of a virtual store, which is just a copy of a real-world store, is not particularly exciting because you don’t need to be tied to four walls or a specific place in the digital world,” said Sky Canaves, a senior analyst at Insider. Intelligence. Shopping, she said, could be “much more scattered” and “surviving” in the metaverse.

Gucci, Nike, Vans and Ralph Lauren have already created their own experiences at Roblox, some of which charge for the purchase of digital clothing and accessories. Roblox users pay for digital goods with a virtual currency called Robux, which they can buy with dollars or earn by developing games for the platform.

Roblox is not alone in virtual trading. The metauniverse can encompass a variety of virtual experiences accessible through games, virtual reality, and augmented reality, which overlap the user’s view of the physical world with computer images.

Apple He is rumored to be working on AR / VR headphones, a product that Canaves said could be a “game change” for trading in the metaverse. AR is already transforming the way we shop by allowing people virtually try items such as lipstick, glasses and furniture before buying them in real life.

Rec Room, a gaming platform available on phones, video game consoles and VR headsets, offers a virtual outdoor mall called Ink Inc., where consumers can try and buy costumes, furniture, plush and other digital goods to dress up. their avatars or decorate their dormitories.

Shopping is not limited to virtual goods. Last year, Dyson launched an app that showcases the technology behind products like hair dryers, curling irons and presses, all items that people can buy in real life. Luxury fashion house Balenciaga have teamed up with Fortnite to sell not only virtual skins (the skirts that players wear in the video game), but also a limited edition (and not cheap) Fortnite outfit.

At SXSW last week, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he imagined that people in the virtual world would want to express themselves with clothes, as they do in the physical world. They will also want to be able to carry their digital purchases, such as a virtual jacket or sweater, into a variety of experiences. “It’s just a lot less useful if everything you buy is limited to one app or one game,” he said.

Creating immersive experiences

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Alo Yoga and Sawhorse Productions have created a virtual island of Roblox.

Roblox

When Sawhorse Productions teamed up with Alo Yoga in December to design a virtual shelter in Roblox, the Los Angeles-based content studio wanted to create an experience that did more than showcase yoga clothes. The studio was inspired on behalf of the client. Alo means air, land and ocean, elements that are part of the Alo Sanctuary.

“One of the goals was to bring attention to the metaverse and reach an audience younger than their main audience,” said Nick Hill, co-founder of Sawhorse and head of post-production and interactives. About 48% of Roblox users are under 13 years old. In the last three months of 2021, about 50 million people visited the platform daily.

The launch of the virtual experience in February coincided with New York Fashion Week, when Alo offered daily meditation at her real Wellness Sanctuary at Spring Studios in New York. In addition to attracting more brand awareness, Alo Sanctuary also serves as a charity event. Alo said he would donate money to mental health initiatives every time a Roblox user completes an “attention quest”.

Roblox users receive rewards with Alo virtual products by practicing meditation. Yoga mats are free, enticing people to spend more time in space to earn more virtual items. Consumers can also wear Alo Yoga clothing in other Roblox spaces, allowing the brand to be marketed on the platform. At least 353,663 Roblox users wore the GOAT virtual jacket, Hello said. Alo Sanctuary has garnered more than 20 million visits.

The studio wanted to make the virtual sanctuary feel like a place you can’t find in the physical world, but it also took its signs from the real shops of Alo Yoga. In this virtual world, I look like a yellow Lego character with pink lipstick, headphones and a denim jacket. Although the island and my avatar look like cartoons, the sound gives the space an immersive feel. As my avatar steps from sand to grass, I notice a subtle change in the sound of my footsteps.

I won my first virtual subject after completing an introductory meditation session. As my avatar unfolds a yoga mat and sits cross-legged in a lotus position, I take a deep breath and count to six. “You have unlocked Alo Crew Neck,” reads a message in Roblox after a minute of meditation. “This item will be available in your Roblox inventory within a few hours.”

This is not Alo’s first foray into the virtual world. In 2020, the company teamed up with skincare brand Tatcha to launch virtual lavender clothes in Nintendo’s Animal Crossing video game.

Purchase and sale of virtual clothes and accessories

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Developer Rook Vanguard has created virtual accessories for Gucci in Roblox.

Screenshot by Roblox

The emergence of new virtual worlds also enables people to sell their own products.

Rook Vanguard, a pseudonym for game developers, has created virtual accessories at Roblox for Gucci and other major brands, as well as his own designs. (Avant-garde declined to give its official name, citing fears of harassment.) One of his specialties is digital accessories such as wings, cylinders and halos that change color. His best-selling item is a black-and-white mask that changes from happy to sad. The price is 85 Robux or approximately $ 1 (Roblox sells 400 Robux for $ 4.99, but there are also different packages).

“Most people are looking for the lowest possible price, which I personally do for my collection, depending on the item,” said Vanguard. “We just want so many people to be able to wear it.”

Celebrities are already making big money selling virtual clothes. Swedish pop star Zara Larson, who hosted a virtual dance party at Roblox in May, told the BBC last year that she had earned $ 1 million by selling virtual items such as hats and sunglasses.

Creating and selling virtual avatar items is one of the ways Roblox users can make money. About 30% of the sale goes to the creator of the item, 40% goes to the seller of the item and 30% goes to Roblox, according to a blog post on the subject. Roblox will convert Robux to US dollars if the accounts have a minimum of 50,000 Robux. (Roblox uses an exchange rate of approximately $ 35,000,000 to earn Robux, so 50,000 Robux would be about $ 175.) Developers must file a tax form, and Roblox reports more than $ 600 in revenue to the Home Office. income.

As with physical items, Roblox has a market for second-hand virtual goods. And just like in the real world, Roblox users are grabbing items that they expect to increase in value, with the intention of profiting from them. The only caveat is that Robux acquired by trading or selling virtual items that you did not create cannot be converted into dollars.

George Tolsma III, also known as GeorgeTheDev, owns thousands of Roblox items, including more than 700 racing helmets, Gucci bags and a 15-year-old hat with an American flag, which he once tried to sell for 7 million Robux . Tolsma said he used his Robux to pay other developers to help improve the games he developed on the platform.

Digital items, he says, can be as sentimental as physical objects, but owning them is different because you can’t physically touch them.

“It’s almost like having a verified Twitter badge,” Tolsma said.

More than advertising?

The idea of ​​selling virtual goods for dressing avatars is not new. Virtual and augmented reality have been around for years. It is the same with the concept of buying physical goods through VR.

Second Life, a game released in 2003, allows people to buy virtual goods for their avatars, just as Roblox does. In 2016, the Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba launched an app called Buy Plus, which allows people to buy physical goods displayed in a digital mall using the payment app and deliver the items to their home.

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Luxury brand Hermes sued artist Mason Rothschild for trademark infringement in January. Rothschild sells Birkin fur-covered bags as digital assets known as NFT.

Screenshot by MetaBirkins

When Zuckerberg revealed the change in the name of Facebook, he called the metaverse heir to the mobile Internet. Some of the physical objects we have today, he said, will be “holograms designed by creators around the world.”

Many of the challenges that exist in the real world with trade, such as counterfeit goods, are already affecting the creation of digital goods and assets. At Roblox, I came across a fake Gucci virtual garden. I knew it was fake because the event ended on May 31, 2021. Luxury brand Hermes sued American artist Mason Rothschild in January for allegedly tearing off his trademark after Rothschild created leather-covered Birkin bags and sold them as digital assets known as irreplaceable tokens, or NFT. Hermes did not respond to a request for comment.

Brands will have to convince consumers that it is worth shopping in the metaverse. About 41% of adults in the United States are uninterested and have not used AR or VR for shopping, according to a December eMarketer poll that was renamed Insider Intelligence.

“Consumer interest is still a bit more limited at the moment,” Canaves said.