Home shopping: in the future, you'll go to the store in extended reality

Greg Larson
March 8, 2023
“We shape the metaverse so that it is actionable for brands” — Fiona Disegni, Director of Partnerships, Emperia

Emperia is using virtual reality to enhance the luxury e-commerce experience. Focused on bridging the gap between the virtual and the real, Emperia draws out the best of both worlds. Greg Larson explains how the platform is shaping the metaverse to make it actionable for brands.

The era of brands jumping onto a metaverse bandwagon is behind us. With little understanding of how it could tie into their business, marketing leaders often signed up to join digital spaces that they had no understanding of themselves.

Emperia is crafting a new era. One that is easy to access, rather than requiring users to download extra software; one where experiences are designed for each client, rather than carelessly flung into the same box. HSBC Metaverse Golf will no longer have Rabbids Lunar New Year on its doorstep (both genuine experiences available on The Sandbox this month). “Brands jumping into the metaverse quickly realised that the platforms they built on had no connection with their brand DNA or the quality and heritage they wanted to convey,” explains Fiona Disegni, Director of Partnerships at Emperia. “And there was no ability to buy directly.”

By connecting e-commerce tools with Epic Games' Unreal Engine to create visual experiences that are actually appealing, Emperia lets brands build activations in extended reality that can have a meaningful impact on the bottom line. In doing so, Fiona explains, “we can translate the value of web3 without creating any friction.”

“We augment virtual and physical experiences, rather than replace them.”

Fiona Disegni, Director of Partnerships, Emperia

Its clients, which include Ralph Lauren and Lacoste, report a significant increase in engagement time when shoppers use their platform compared to other extended reality experiences. On average, customers spend 14 minutes interacting with Emperia experiences, accessed via a browser  — a massive increase compared to the industry average of just 3 minutes that HSBC Metaverse Golf will expect on The Sandbox. Additionally, the platform has shown a 30% return visitor rate and a remarkable 70% increase in conversion rates.

More important yet, it scales: the first step for brands entering the metaverse is to do the status quo, but better, rather than reinventing the wheel. Emperia’s digital spaces, like a Swiss chalet for Ralph Lauren, can be accessed by anyone with an internet connection, with invitations to make a purchase distributed throughout the room.

Leveraging video game graphics engines, Emperia can craft digital experiences that look exactly how their clients want them.

Fiona says that what has made Emperia successful is their recognition that the metaverse is not meant to replace physical or virtual experiences — but rather serve as a bridge between the two. The aim is to “augment virtual and physical experiences rather than replace them.”

The company, which has offices in London and New York, sees its use of blockchain technology in the same way: supplementing the user experience rather than dominating it. This mentality is visible in their work with Lacoste.

That work with the French luxury brand happened in December 2022, blending metaverse and the blockchain long after they had left the trend of popular vernacular.  Their virtual store includes spaces accessible only to Lacoste NFT holders, allowing them to purchase physical items not available to anyone else. The use case for token-gated commerce has already been embraced by Shopify, and Emperia found that using NFTs as a digital key had a high impact on driving traffic to the Lacoste website and stores with strong intent to purchase.

“Even people who don’t understand NFTs can understand the concept of using a key to access a secret room,” says Fiona. “If it weren’t for that metaverse aspect, many of those people might have never come to the Lacoste website, let alone visit a physical Lacoste store.”

The potential benefits of virtually-enhanced experiences extend beyond e-commerce. For example, digital art galleries can leverage this technology to engage visitors in ways that are impossible with a traditional webpage. By creating virtual galleries, not only can people view art that is situated at the other side of the world, but they can experience it in a more immersive way.

For organisations that already sell or exhibit online, transitioning to a digital store is essentially seamless, but Emperia is also looking to brands that embed narrative and storytelling into their customer experience to provide case studies about how digital environments can be used most effectively. “We’re still in the educational phase,” says Fiona. “But our expertise in crafting connected immersive experiences that truly reflect the brand’s DNA help create long term trust with the brands.”

With virtual reality technology and blockchain, beyond just exploring virtual exhibitions, there is also the potential for purchasing art through NFTs, which could be redeemed as physical art or retained as digital assets. Organisations like Here & Now are already exploring what the metaverse can make possible for purchasing digital art, with the hope of making it an experience on par with, or better than, the traditional practice.

“We try to shape the metaverse experience so that it is actionable for brands.”

Fiona Disegni, Director of Partnerships, Emperia

Emperia hopes that their approach to data will help them stand out from the other companies pitching to brands from the broad ‘metaverse segment’. On metaverse platforms like The Sandbox and Decentraland, brands have little access to attendee data by default. Fiona explains that, by contrast, Emperia sees their offering as the beginning of a strategic trajectory for brands.

“Brands have an Emperia dashboard where they can see, for example, how their engagement is, what visitors are doing, and what they interact with, so they can optimise over time.” She adds that the company also includes a CMS platform that enables brands to take ownership of their virtual world and keep content fresh. “We do the creative direction,” she explains, “but the brand has the ability to switch, drag, and drop, the products, the SKUs, and media content.”

Carried away by excitement, the metaverse has escaped definition. Founded well before that excitement had even begun, in 2019, and fresh off the back of a $10M Series A in January 2023, Emperia plans to bring reality back into the conversation. “We try to shape the metaverse experience so that it is actionable for brands,” Fiona explains.

Emperia’s digital spaces, like Ralph Lauren's Swiss chalet, can be accessed by anyone with an internet connection, with invitations to make a purchase distributed throughout the room.
Emperia’s digital spaces, like Ralph Lauren's Swiss chalet, can be accessed by anyone with an internet connection, with invitations to make a purchase distributed throughout the room.
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Written by
Greg Larson
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Greg is an author and copywriter who's ghostwritten and edited more than 30 books, including Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestsellers. His most recent book, 'Clubbie', was featured in Forbes, the Los Angeles Times, and CBS Sports. In crypto, he's most curious about sustainable gaming economies and real-world NFT use cases.