The Edge Magazine Vol. 7

FOR BRANDS IN THE METAVERSE, IT'S ALL ABOUT EXPERIENCE AND CUSTOMER INSIGHTS While CRE investors may be looking on from the sidelines for the time being, other commercial real estate players have opportunities in the metaverse today. Major retailers and brands, for example, are turning to the metaverse, hoping to create a place people want to visit to experience something unique. We've already seen major brands create virtual storefronts to enable visitors to engage with their products, promotions and services. Whether it’s Estee Lauder participating in a metaverse fashion show or Fortnite sponsoring an Ariana Grande concert, attracting visitors and giving them a reason to come again is the name of the game. That said, the metaverse isn't a replacement for brick-and-mortar environments. Rather, it enhances and complements physical locations, and brands are looking at the metaverse to position themselves with a new audience. Shoppers can try on the latest denim, create custom sneakers or sport the latest shades— then purchase their favorites as NFTs for their Avatar’s wardrobe. This is where the metaverse can intersect real life, as shoppers can also purchase these items in the physical world. Further, by revealing shopper behavior in a virtual world, the metaverse can offer a wealth of retail intelligence to brands, helping them better anticipate buyer habits in the physical world. That innovation gives brick and mortar companies insights that their online counterparts have enjoyed for more than a decade.

THE OFFICEVERSE For real estate occupiers, especially for organizations that use office space, the metaverse can enable a new workplace experience. What is being coined as the Officeverse is a potential solution to the tug of war between office workers who want the flexibility to work remotely more often and companies that prefer their employees to be in the physical office. The Officeverse is a private virtual space that recreates the office experience for the employee. Spaces are available in 2D or 3D formats, and both deliver specific benefits to the company and the employee. For example, the Officeverse can help facilitate unplanned meetings and replace the water cooler effect, fostering casual employee interactions. For the employee who may be working remotely, or even the hybrid employee who isn’t in the office every day, those interactions can promote a sense of connectedness to colleagues and to the company itself. For the company, those moments can foster a host of beneficial outcomes, whether it’s culture building, positive employee experiences or spontaneous ideas. When employees come to work in the Officeverse, they interact with familiar colleagues and coworkers. But perhaps more importantly, they may encounter new colleagues, develop new connections, and find new opportunities for mentorship. All of these interactions enhance a new employee’s experience in those critical first few weeks of joining an organization. The metaverse also provides a viable approach to leveling the playing field for various segments of employees who may feel disadvantaged in the physical workplace. Think of working parents, disabled colleagues, employees with long commutes or employees who suffer from medical conditions. In addition to increasing their sense of equal participation—for example, being able to casually drop in to speak with a senior leader or feel part of a planned meeting in a virtual conference room rather than dial-in participant for meeting in a physical conference room—the metaverse can give people the ability to be represented the way they want to be seen in the workplace.



Although the exact future of the metaverse remains uncertain, curious and ambitious speculators are seizing the opportunity to embrace this digital world, brands are exploring how it can complement the experiences of the physical world, and major employers are investigating how it might be part of the future of the workplace. How much of an impact the metaverse will have on commercial real estate and how quickly it will take place are two of the great unknowns. For now, you might consider getting your feet wet. Set up a profile in a virtual world. Create a wallet. Buy some NFTs. Explore shops. Try meeting colleagues at a virtual office—a few are available for free. If you’re feeling bold, maybe even buy some land. At the end of the day, the best way to understand the metaverse and its potential is to experience it and learn from it. If you do, no doubt you’ll be ahead of the curve. See you out there.

A Non-Fungible Token, commonly referred to as an NFT, is a kind of digital, tradable financial asset that represents physical world items like artwork or real estate. An NFT has a unique digital identifier that’s recorded in a blockchain, and thus can’t be copied or replaced—it’s one of a kind. In terms of commercial real estate, each plot of land within the metaverse is represented by an NFT, which can then be sold on the open market



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