New business ideas?

Can the furniture industry benefit from the metaverse?

Many companies are currently asking themselves these questions: Should they catapult their offers into the metaverse or rather wait and see how the digital parallel world develops? There is much to be said for keeping calm. On the other hand, there is a lot to be said for courageously and experimentally setting out into new worlds. Both make sense: carefully weigh up the advantages and opportunities offered by the new digital world and integrate them into the business model in good time.

Aug 18 2022

Burgers, mansions and trainers in the metaverse  

It sounds strange and is hard to imagine, but in the - perhaps even very near – future, we could enter restaurants virtually, be advised by charming, surreal service staff, place orders and – from then on, everything becomes familiar again – have our desired meal delivered. 

The fast food chain McDonalds seems to be convinced of this and has already filed applications with the US Patent Office to enable, among other things, the "operation of a virtual restaurant" including delivery service.  

Reading tip: Part 1 of our series: What exactly is the Metaverse?  

This may sound strange, but it is based on the well-known marketing strategy of addressing customers where they are – and that is often online. Deliveries are then made in real life. Companies like Roblox, on the other hand, are establishing completely virtual trading platforms where brands like Nike, Gucci and Ralph Lauren sell their branded products for avatars.  

Most companies cooperate with companies that create their own metaverses. Many sell estates, mansions and yachts that exist solely on hard drives and servers, and at horrendous prices. Economists speak in this context of a rapidly inflating real estate bubble, as we have already experienced a few times in our universe.

The big difference is that in the metaverse world there is an unlimited amount of virtual space available and only through artificial scarcity are properties demarcated, valued and markets created. Regardless of how real estate will develop in the metaverse, the furniture industry can profit from these developments.

After all, houses are being built on many plots of land, waiting to be furnished. The fashion industry has long since entered the business and sells its bags, clothes and chic accessories as NFTs. Synthetic fibres with a difference – not made from mineral oil, but from programming codes.  

Opportunities for surreal furniture worlds 

The metaverse is surreal, existing in a dimension we can only see and experience with technical aids like headsets, gloves, suits. This is precisely what makes it interesting for companies. Already now, although technology and infrastructure are not yet mature enough to enter the brave new world carefree and safely (see ambista article: "Metaverse – mega opportunity or mega bluff?").  

Nevertheless, Dajana Eder sees a great opportunity in the metaverse: "Brands and companies will find solutions to enter the metaverse and connect with people via new possibilities – unrestricted by place and time." 

The NFT consultant has been working on social networks for ten years, creating communication strategies for companies and brands. She is excited about the technical development of Web 3.0 because she sees it as "the opportunity to connect us as people globally through shared interests, not just as we currently do through social media, with images, video and text, but through three-dimensional interaction." 

If we look at the companies currently active in the metaverse in the here and now, we can see three areas in which furniture companies could successfully engage and establish themselves: they can use the hip, new digital world as a work and advertising platform. The visionary among them can specialise in creating special furniture for this special world.

Web 3.0 enthusiast and founder of wom3n.dao Dajaner Eder is a qualified contact on the topic of metaverse and NFTs. Photo: Screenshot

Working in the metaverse 

Ford, Mercedes, Microsoft and others are leading the way: They no longer have their employees fly to work sites and meetings, but equip them with technology to meet in a digital, metaverse conference room or studio to work together on a project. To do this, they film and scan real places and objects, digitise the data, and create metaverses in which everyone can be present and cooperate at the same time. 

They test entire production lines in it, for example, and do so so successfully that BMW Production Director Milan Nedeljković enthuses: "It's no longer about simple simulations on the computer, but about the immersion of the production technicians in a digital space that is created at BMW by the 'Omniverse'. With Omniverse, we increase the precision, the speed and therefore the efficiency of our planning processes." 

The costs of carrying out such projects are high. Currently, only large, international corporations can afford them. It is worth it because it allows employees to work together without time delays, travel costs, jet lag or jerky video conferences. 

The results of their work are also visible and calculable for everyone, can be checked and presented to other departments or the public. One goal of this development is that entire factories can be controlled and operated remotely, in the metaverse.  

Digitising and thus simplifying work processes is attractive for the entire economy. For small and medium-sized enterprises, however, the technical and financial possibilities are limited. For advertising, on the other hand, some companies already use all worlds, real and virtual.  

The metaverse as an advertising platform 

The third dimension of the metaverse is tempting. Everything – from armchairs to building instructions - can be touched and tried out, provided you have the technical aids such as headsets, glasses, etc. to leave our world and enter the metaverse.

Many fashion companies are already using it. Benetton, for example, linked the two worlds in a promotionally effective way at the beginning of 2022 by bringing the shop programmed for the metaverse to Milan's famous Corso Vittorio Emanuele II for Fashion Week.  

Such actions, already the presence in the Metaverse, currently attract a lot of attention and are thus a good marketing instrument – also for furniture companies. In theory, any number of people around the world can be reached simultaneously in the metaverse. 

Presenting pieces of furniture to them and then perhaps even bringing them out of the digital world into the good old analogue world is a very effective way of getting the media and people interested (see Moooi armchair). 

Furniture companies can also benefit indirectly from this trend. They don't even have to enter the metaverse themselves. They can offer the companies that move from the meta- to the universe to recreate the furniture or shops for them. Benetton, for example, had to hire craftsmen to make their chic shop shine in metaverse splendour. 

Such actions provide the furniture industry with orders and also the opportunity to concentrate on this niche. After all, shops that come out of the metaverse also need furniture and systems that offer opportunities to integrate technology and media that can be used to network the analogue with the digital world.  

Many creatives are convinced that wandering between worlds will be part of our reality in the future. We will buy more and more furniture, fashion, real estate for the metaverse, which we will enjoy alone in it. Today, for example, fashion enthusiasts are already passionate about outfitting their avatars with fine shoes, bags and clothes from luxury brands, and visiting classy hotels with them. 

If we transfer this idea to the furniture industry, it can create the appropriate furnishings for this world. Many people have a soft spot for interior design, but cannot live it out within their own cramped four walls. So what could be more natural than offering them to fulfil their dreams in the metaverse? 

Synthetic furniture for artificial living environments 

Programming furniture and selling it as NFTs – what sounds like tomorrow today may be our reality the day after tomorrow. Experts assume that people will not only purchase furniture for avatars and virtual homes, but will bring virtual furniture into our real world. 

In this way, many could furnish their homes with modest basic furnishings and then create a different life for themselves via augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR): Simply put on headsets and project a cool Bauhaus sofa onto the basic couch. 

You could basically decide anew at any time whether you want to spend your evening off shrill, cool, mini- or maximalist, in the midst of rococo, empire, baroque or modern design. With the appropriate technical AR and VR equipment – and virtual furniture – this is easily possible. 

At present, it is easier to imagine potential customers entering a virtual living world in the metaverse, where they can select furniture in 3D, try it out and redesign it themselves, adapting it to their personal wishes and needs. 

They then place the order to reproduce this furniture with furniture companies from their sofa at home. The resulting highly individual design can then be used to furnish the house in the metaverse, but can also end up as a commissioned piece in the carpenter's workshop for reproduction.  

The beauty of this idea is the free imagination, there are no limits to it: Furniture made of the finest porcelain, of wafer-thin glass, silk or cobwebs - anything is possible. "Physics no longer plays a role!" says Dajana Eder happily. 

With the appropriate technical equipment, anyone can live in a chic villa, Versailles or a colourful adventure land. "Currently, this still requires knowledge, but brands can offer solutions and therein lies a good opportunity to win new customers," Dajana Eder is convinced. 

Wait and see or tackle? 

The answer is difficult. It is still hard to estimate when the metaverse will be so far advanced that it will be accessible to all without great inconvenience and high costs. Surveys also show that most people are currently very sceptical and would not invest their money in NFTs or cryptocurrencies. 

They see the Metaverse as an entertainment platform in which they do not want to spend their hard-earned money. From this perspective, it currently makes more sense for furniture companies to take advantage of the fun factor and launch advertising campaigns in the metaverse. There are already some creatives and agencies that offer corresponding services.  

On the other hand, the metaverse is more than fun. For technical development is advancing and experts agree that the digital, three-dimensional world will be central to development, production and sales. When exactly it will dominate is not foreseeable today. Everything is in flux at the moment, in a strong current full of rapid developments. 

This offers companies the advantage that they can now help shape the new world and mould it for themselves. Thus, Dajana Eder advises companies to enter the metaverse, because "now everyone has the opportunity to shape and try things out. Now new solutions are found, ideas are created and implemented." 

The now, however, is defined by hugely fluctuating prices and uncertainties: It is not easy to find web 3.0 experts who really deserve this designation. Companies have to do thorough research to find suitable contact persons and agencies. They have to think carefully in advance about what measures they want to take, where these should lead and expect imponderables. 

The path to the metaverse is perhaps comparable to space travel: it costs a lot, promises possibilities and solutions, and yet we know too little to know whether other worlds will meet our expectations and offer us new homes if this earth is no longer enough for us.

Author: Christine Sommer-Guist

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