Buy or Sell: Avatar Commerce

This week's hot trend and take!

Buy, buy, buy, and no, that’s not an NSYNC tribute.

It’s an admission that I’m all-in on Avatar Commerce, and I’m excited that Ernest Cline’s “Ready Player One” is coming to fruition.

Aside from the feel-good vibes you get when styling an avatar in this season’s hottest handbag or sneakers, it represents opportunity.

From FOMO to sustainability, it enables brands to grow without environmental implications; for example, products designed for avatars require no manufacturing and can be sold in a press of a button - it’s genius.

So, what’s Avatar Commerce?

Avatar Commerce is the buying or selling of goods for a consumer’s digital-ego and a catalyst in the virtual expression of one’s self-identity.

Now, let’s take a look at how we got here and the who’s-who leading the way…

History

In 2015, I consulted for Buscemi and presented a marketing opportunity for Glu, the developer and marketer of Kim Kardashian: Hollywood (“KKH”).

KKH offered brands monthly take-overs, where they’d promote products that users could purchase for their avatar’s wardrobe. Each take-over cost $275K; however, it had an audience of 60M active users per month and a 100%+ return-on-investment (“ROI”).

In turn, making KKH Avatar Commerce’s first marketplace, and doing so, for brands, it validated:

  1. Brand Value: Unlike real-world marketplaces (Amazon), a brand’s value was not diluted by being accessible or alongside commoditized products. As a result, it amplified the brand and became a customer acquisition channel.

  2. Pricing and Returns: Brands could test pricing without creating friction across their distribution network and calculate clearer returns without manufacturing overhead.

For consumers, it provided:

  1. Access: A $895.00 sneaker is out of the question for most, but a $29.99 one isn’t. KKH allowed consumers to take ownership of products from brands that they typically couldn’t afford or didn’t even know of.

  2. Fluidity: Unlike the real-world, consumers can change their avatar’s appearance at-will and instantly portray a better representation of themselves, free of everyday limitations and stigmas.

And, while new platforms like KKH have emerged, the underlying dynamics haven’t.

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For example, Fortnite is employing this strategy with Nike, which allows users to purchase and customize sneakers for less than $20 - 1/10th of the cost and price of the actual sneaker!

The best part?

It’s not limited to physical goods.

“Skinning,” a concept in gaming known as the outer appearance of an avatar, isn’t limited to clothing and accessories. Recently, Travis Scott also partnered with Fortnite to allow users to purchase his skin within their Item Shop. Enabling users to transform into Travis - literally.

In addition to Fortnite, here are others at the intersection of avatars and commerce:

Trendsetters

  • Facebook: for years, the company’s been mapping facial expressions to photo-realistic versions of ourselves; specifically for VR emoji reactions. Its technology is patent-pending; however, if successful, it’ll bridge the non-verbal communication gap that exists across the digital and physical worlds - expressions and gestures.

  • Fortnite: the frontrunner in becoming a real-life oasis, the platform’s partnered with the Avengers, DC Comics, John Wick, Jordan, Marvels, the NFL, Star Wars, Stranger Things, and has an Icons series that brings the biggest names in pop culture onto the platform, including J. Balvin, Major Lazer, Marshmellow, and Travis Scott.

  • Gap: in partnership with Avametric and Google, Gap created “Dressing Room,” an app that allows consumers to try on any look. Initially, the Dressing Room came with set avatar body types; however, it’s expanding to include real-world characteristics to personify a consumer’s fit model better.

  • Genies: in partnership with Gucci and Giphy, it is a software development kit (“SDK”) and marketplace, managing the avatar rights to Shawn Mendes, Justin Bieber, Cardi B, and Rihanna. Once a Genie’s created, it can be added to any app, website, AR/VR space, or Giphy’s GIF network.

  • Morflax: it’s the first interactive 3D clothing mockup builder for the web. It’s also easy to use, just pick an avatar, upload your artwork, merchandise it, and download it. You can then use your avatar anywhere!

  • Pokemon Go: Gucci and North Face partnered with Niantic‘s Pokémon GO for their collaboration collection. The collection includes backpacks, hats, and t-shirts and will be available for a limited time only at over 100 PokéStops worldwide.

  • Snapchat: is patenting avatars-as-a-marketplace, where consumers can purchase products, for their avatar(s), directly from retailers. This patent would rival Amazon’s “1-click Checkout” in terms of impact; additionally, it gives Snap an entry-point into commerce that could challenge Amazon and Shopify, without the need for actual products.

  • Yoox: a pioneer in AI for fashion, it was also one of the first to bring avatars into commerce via Yoox Mirror, a virtual fitting room where shoppers can interact with an avatar to create looks. Yoox also used AI to generate new designs based on consumer selections, using its mirror as a research tool for cultivating trends.

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Closing

I’m buying Avatar Commerce, here’s why:

  1. Expressionism: It creates fluidity for consumers and enables them to portray a version of themselves that’s not under attack or scrutiny.

  2. Sustainability: It increases the internet's GDP without creating a carbon footprint or using any of the world’s resources to manufacture and distribute its products.

  3. Creator Economy: It will place more power in the hands of creators and further eliminate business obstacles - capital and manufacturing - that restrict their imagination.

Also, a few predictions:

  • Avatars will become business leaders and political figures - heck, they’re already celebrities.

  • Avatars will become a gateway to higher levels of consciousness.

  • Neo-nationalists will use avatar-based communities as a way of instilling new forms of government and institutions.

  • Real-world real estate value will decline as consumers spend more on their avatar’s commercial and residential properties.

  • Snap, or a competitor, will create an avatar-based marketplace that challenges Alibaba, Amazon, and Shopify.

  • The world’s pollution is reduced by 40-60% due to consumers spending more time living through their avatars online.

  • The world’s population is regulated by using avatars as a new form of sex that’s safer, more satisfying, and reduces the effects of population density.

  • Websites will be designed with avatars in-mind and have features specific to them! Read the Face section of EditorX’s 2021 Web Trends.

Lastly, here ways to jumpstart your journey into avatars:

  1. Create a Bitmoji

  2. Request access to Genies

  3. Play Fortnite, or follow an eSports team - 100 Thieves and Faze are my favorites

  4. Throwback to the Sims

  5. For iOS users, create an Ani or Memoji

On that note, let me change my Bitmoji’s sunglasses; she’s looking a little too Paris 2004.

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