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Why more consumers are showing interest in ‘virtual living’

A new survey says more people want to buy travel experiences, attend sporting events and even pick digital clothes for their avatars in the metaverse

Attendees use a virtual reality (VR) headset during a presentation from March Gaming during the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California on May 4, 2022.
Attendees use a virtual reality (VR) headset during a presentation from March Gaming during the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California on May 4, 2022. (AFP)

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According to a new survey by technology company Accenture, consumer interest in “virtual living” – which involves everything from virtual fashion, products and locations – is growing. Purchases in the metaverse, the survey findings say, look set to rise in 2023.

The growing use of immersive technologies such as augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) will spur consumer-facing companies – such as those in retail, consumer goods and travel – to increase investment in new capabilities and experiences to blend physical and virtual worlds, or risk being left behind, the survey findings explain.

Also read: Indian brands are playing in the metaverse with mixed results

Accenture’s Consumer Pulse Survey – of more than 11,000 consumers in 16 countries, including India – found that almost two-thirds (64%) of consumers had already purchased a virtual good or taken part in a virtual experience or service in the past year. That figure is expected to rise, as 83% of the respondents showed interest in making purchases via the metaverse.

Further, 42% of the survey respondents said they had visited a retailer in the virtual world to get advice, make a payment or browse a product range when shopping for a physical item. Meanwhile, 56% of respondents plan to do so next year. Among millennials, these figures increase to 51% and 61%, respectively.

This year’s survey is relevant to all consumer industries but is focused on consumer goods, retail and travel. Accenture surveyed a representative sample of 11,311 consumers online from 16 countries: Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, the UAE, UK, US and Vietnam.

On the other hand, according to the Accenture Technology Vision 2022 report, “Meet Me in the Metaverse: The Continuum of Technology and Experience Reshaping Business,” more than half (55%) of consumers agree that more of their lives and livelihoods are moving into digital spaces. In response, a vast majority (90%) of retail executives said that they anticipate that leading organizations will push the boundaries of the virtual world to make it more real. Further, 72% of global executives state that the metaverse will have a positive impact on their organizations, with 45% believing it will be breakthrough or transformational.

Visitors attend a presentation of holograms which display creations by designer Maisie Wilen during New York Fashion Week: The Shows, in New York City on February 12, 2022. The show featured 28 seven-foot-tall augmented reality hologram models.
Visitors attend a presentation of holograms which display creations by designer Maisie Wilen during New York Fashion Week: The Shows, in New York City on February 12, 2022. The show featured 28 seven-foot-tall augmented reality hologram models. (AFP)

The survey also found that half (50%) of consumers said that they are buying, or would be interested in buying, a travel experience such as a sightseeing tour or hotel stay. This figure rises to 55% of millennials, compared to 29% of baby boomers. For leisure, 54% of consumers said that they are buying, or interested in buying, tickets to a concert, a show or sporting event taking place in a virtual world.

For the Accenture Technology Vision report, the company conducted a global survey of 24,000 consumers to capture insights into their use of, interactions with, and beliefs about technology in their everyday lives. In addition, Accenture also conducted a survey of 4,650 C-level executives and directors across 23 industries to understand their perspectives and use of emerging technologies across their organizations.

Consumers don’t want to stop at new ways to shop, travel and socialize. Virtual products and locations are also high on their lists, highlighting an opportunity for consumer-facing companies to grow in these sectors.

In the Accenture Pulse Survey, 39% of consumers said they have purchased clothes or accessories for themselves or an avatar. Over half of them (51%) are keen on shopping for digital clothes to wear in a virtual environment in the next 12 months. A recent example: in 2021, Gucci created The Gucci Garden Experience to sell virtual products and sold a virtual-only digital twin of a Gucci purse for a higher price than its real-world counterpart.

Meanwhile, 38% of the consumers said they have shopped for “virtual looks” – make-up, hairstyling that can be applied to an avatar or virtually on themselves through a digital filter. Around 48% are “interested” in buying such virtual looks in the next 12 months.

It doesn’t end here – 39% of the consumers have participated in a consultation in a virtual or AR environment on topics ranging from health to DIY. More than half of them (53%) would want to participate in a virtual consultation in the next year.

Also read: How will the world of fashion adapt to the metaverse?

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