Last night I stood in the same room as Modern Retail's Senior Reporter Gabriela Barkho, Oui the People's CEO Karen Young, and Hawke Media's West Coast Partnerships Manager Chanelle Dayrit. Normally that would be a remarkable enough way to spend a Monday evening, but to make matters more interesting, we were all represented by 16-bit avatars and interacting in the middle of a digital field of booths manned by real-life DTC brand ambassadors.
Welcome to the MetaMarket
If you're not familiar (I wasn't until just last week), MetaMarket, billed as "the only multiplayer shopping experience on the internet" is a joint project between Parade Commerce and Consumer Packaged Goods Directory. You don't need an Oculus or any other kind of VR headset to participate; a laptop or a smartphone is all that's required to gain entrance to the virtual grounds.
Once you pick a user name and enable audio/video, your avatar is deposited in front of the MetaMarket entrance and free to roam the online marketplace, interacting with objects and people along the way. The digital landscape gives off Coachella vibes, while the layout of the brand booths makes it feel more like a trade show floor.
As you navigate the video game terrain you're able to click on informational sign posts and zoom in on branded visuals. If your avatar crosses paths with someone else's and you both have your camera and microphone on, you can immediately start a real-time video conversation (that you can just as easily back out of if necessary). There's also a chat bar on the side of the screen where you can receive messages from people in your immediate area and see general announcements from the organizers.
While I was there primarily to meet the people behind the brands that were exhibiting and explore the market-exclusive deals (DEUX cookie dough at 20% off!), it was also fun to cross paths with whoever else was visiting a booth at the same time that I was. At one point I wound up in a conversation about trashy TV shows with Gabriela, and in another I got tips on where to go in Newport, Rhode Island from a fellow attendee at the Golde booth.
Shopping at the MetaMarket
I guess I had assumed you'd be able to click on the digital rendition of a product in a booth to buy it, but in this regard, the MetaMarket is very similar to normal online shopping - you enter the store URL in a new browser tab, curate products in your shopping cart and check out with a credit card or Shop Pay.
To take advantage of the night's deals, MetaMarket attendees were directed via signposts and chat links to a Shopify storefront with all the participating brands listed. From there you could add a kelp burger bundle from AKUA, 1200 day aged sandalwood from Iron Lion Soap and pregame setting spray from YOUTHFORIA to your cart and purchase all three together.
There's something very cool about buying a product right after video chatting with someone who runs (or at the very least cares a lot about) the brand. And the discovery aspect of the MetaMarket is also something that gets me excited. Learning about new DTC brands directly from the people who are building or working for them is a unique aspect of this experience - of the 17 brands that participated, I had only heard of three before. I had such a good time socializing with everyone that I was one of the last 11 people there when someone from Parade announced that the market was officially shutting down for the night.
If this is the future of ecommerce, sign me up (literally, I have already signed up for the next one! See you there?).