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Beauty Through the Metaverse: Tapping into the $800 Billion Opportunity

Published January 23, 2023
Published January 23, 2023
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Ready or not, the metaverse is here. When science fiction writer Neal Stephenson coined the term in his 1992 novel Snow Crash, virtual and augmented reality wasn't on the average person's radar. Fast forward, the metaverse market could reach $800 billion in 2024, up from $500 billion in 2020, according to analysis by Bloomberg. Online game makers and gaming hardware are projected to exceed $400 billion in 2024, with opportunities in live entertainment and social media making up the remainder.

Social media platforms and the internet as we know it are evolving to reflect the convergence of the digital and physical. While the potential for new revenue streams and ways to engage consumers appear infinite, metaverse development is still nascent, making the ability to create real value in a virtual world up for debate. Do you jump into the rapidly developing space for fear of being left behind, or do you watch intently from the sidelines waiting for the right time?

This is a question businesses have to ask themselves each time a new technology emerges. Tony Jaillot, Global VP of Beauty & Personal Care at Univar Solutions believes the answer to the question lies in the DNA of the brand, “ If you are an innovative beauty tech or digitally native brand, experimentation in the metaverse probably makes sense even if you don’t know what to do, because there is an inherent expectation based on the company’s DNA. For more traditional brands, allowing other ventures to do the trial and error and establish best practices probably makes more sense.”

Arnita Wofford, Global Marketing & Technical Director of Beauty & Personal Care at Univar Solutions added, “The metaverse is so fresh, so new, and has so many unknowns that if you are not digitally native and are hopping on the bandwagon solely for that purpose without the resources to make a real commitment, you may not be perceived as legitimate in the space and it is not worth it.”

As early adopters, the beauty industry has always leaned into new technologies that promise to bring them closer to their consumers through education, entertainment, and community. The metaverse has become ground zero for all that is immersive, engaged, and virtual, with brands across the industry experimenting in this new digital frontier.

The Future of Beauty Will Be Physical, Digital, and Virtual

As the desire for a “real me vs meta me” rises, our physical and virtual worlds continue to blur, creating a complex reality with endless ways for consumers to interact with brands. This creates a fluid space in which consumers seamlessly navigate online and offline worlds, where everything is possible, and no barrier is impenetrable.

In turn, beauty brands and retailers are diving deeper into the digital world, meeting consumers with innovative and interactive ways to connect through online spaces and virtual storytelling. The future will require a differentiation between living in the moment with meaningful in-person interactions and navigating new forms of expression and escape as more consumers experiment with the metaverse.

Arnita shared, "As people, we are very tactical, but as beauty consumers, we are also very visual. The more we can interact with or be entertained by a brand, the more engaged we become. The metaverse can elevate these experiences by adding a new dimension.

Creativity and Connection Become the New Status Symbols

The dawning of the Web3 era is ushering in an age where co-creation and creativity are the new symbols of status. The metaverse is a space where boundless possibilities replace the pragmatic concerns or anatomical restrictions of the physical world, democratizing access with no limitations other than creativity. The first incarnation of the World Wide Web or Web 1.0 refers to the first stage sometimes called “the read-only Web,” which involved the one-way search for reading information. Web 2.0 evolved to what is often referred to as the participative social web focused on participating and contributing. Currently a work in progress, the vision for Web 3.0 is a vision grounded in ownership and decentralization.

“Web3 is a collaborative experience that consumers are part of building and where we will all be able to define our own space,” says Arnita. “The consumer of the future will be much more intertwined and involved in what they are buying.”

Success will force businesses to distill the DNA of their brands by defining how they show up in this emerging virtual world where sharing creative control with consumers is requisite. Young consumers want to be part of the process and reward the brands that listen to them. Co-creative platforms and digital ownership are changing the face of commerce and shaping the next generation of retail.

While the potential is exciting, Tony also shares a warning, “Web3 is a new type of social network where misbehavior is a concern because it happens instantaneously, making it very difficult to moderate. For brands on the forefront of Web3 this is a potential risk.”

“The metaverse provides an opportunity to make everything available to everyone by breaking down the barriers, distance, geography and language while reinforcing human-to-human connection in the process.”
By Arnita Wofford, Global Marketing & Technical Director - Beauty & Personal Care, Univar Solutions

Ramping Up Virtual Offerings

The social media era has primarily focused on the visual expression of beauty, but the metaverse will have us all questioning the current cultural lexicon of beauty. Early activations in this virtual world show the promise of genuinely immersive experiences that engage the senses beyond vision. Beauty brands have begun exploring what a multisensory metaverse could smell like, initiating the expansion of existing beauty constructs in the process.

Up to this point, beauty has been grounded in inherently physical experiences. Pioneering the metaverse will require marketing-led strategies with flexible expectations and rethinking traditional beauty cues that separate them from purely physical elements, while embracing new virtual storytelling and immersive content creation.

Arnita points out, “The metaverse provides an opportunity to make everything available to everyone by breaking down the barriers, distance, geography, and language while reinforcing human-to-human connection in the process.”

Enter the Beautyverse

The metaverse provides limitless opportunities for sharing information, enabling businesses to extend their reach to consumers. Ask yourself: How does your business show up in this new virtual world?

The Solutions Centers glam lab (a global network of formulation labs creating specialty solutions) for ingredient distributor Univar Solutions Beauty & Personal Care has leaped into this digital landscape with New Sensations, a collection of textures inspired by the metaverse. The latest ingredient innovation kit is a galaxy of possibilities consisting of jelly, iridescent, sustainable, and futuristic-tech prototypes.

The Instagram era forever changed how we develop beauty products. Social media now demands that product developers consider how the product will appear online in the hands of content creators. Univar Solutions invites beauty brands down the rabbit hole to contemplate beauty products of the future with inspirational textures to modify or customize meta-world formulations that also work in the real world.