Brand Engagement in the (Almost) Metaverse: 2023’s Best Shoppable Brandiverses

Published 20 December 2023

4 min read

Shoppable brandiverses (discovery-based non-communal virtual environments) can deliver 61% higher session times and 26% higher average order values than regular e-commerce sites. With US sales in these virtual stores set to reach $7.1bn by 2030 (see Key Stats), we look back at 2023’s best in class and what they’re showcasing for 2024.

Key Stats

General

$7.1bn

In the US, virtual store sales are set to expand at an annual rate of 27% to reach $7.1bn by 2030

61%

Immersive commerce developer Obsess reports that session times on its fashion brandiverses are 61% longer than on a retailer’s regular e-commerce site

26%

Immersive commerce developer Obsess says the average order value on its fashion brandiverses is 26% higher than on a retailer’s regular e-commerce site

91%

In the US, 91% of brands and retailers that have invested in browser-based virtual stores report an increase in online sales

73%

Virtual platform developer Emperia says conversion rates in its virtual stores are 73% higher than on e-commerce sites, with an 11-minute engagement time and 450% return on investment (ROI) (As reported to Stylus)

11%

The Middle East is forecast to be the only global region to see double-digit growth (11-12%) in the beauty sector until 2027

50%

Virtual platform developer Emperia states that 50% of visitors to the French beauty brand L’Occitane’s brandiverse created postcards of personalised wish lists (As reported to Stylus)

  • J Crew’s Year of Heritage Celebrations: American fashion retailer J.Crew marked its 40th anniversary in 2023 with two brandiverses. Both were developed by US-based immersive commerce platform Obsess. The latter’s research shows that 91% of American brands and retailers that have invested in browser-based virtual stores report an increase in online sales.

    The first brandiverse, in June (no longer active), was a summer beach house with six shoppable rooms – all with links to J.Crew’s e-commerce site for checkout. Customers could browse clothing, shoes and accessories and learn more about individual products: a pair of espadrilles came with a history of the 14th-century origins of its design. The brand’s heritage was celebrated with images from past catalogues.

    For Christmas, the beach house was replaced with a shoppable ski lodge within a winter wonderland landscape. Features included a scavenger hunt to collect five ski passes for the chance to win a cashmere gift (once the user had signed up to the retailer’s loyalty scheme) and a retro-style slalom skiing game (no prize opportunity; designed to increase dwell time).
  • J Crew’s Year of Heritage Celebrations: American fashion retailer J.Crew marked its 40th anniversary in 2023 with two brandiverses. Both were developed by US-based immersive commerce platform Obsess. The latter’s research shows that 91% of American brands and retailers that have invested in browser-based virtual stores report an increase in online sales.

    The first brandiverse, in June (no longer active), was a summer beach house with six shoppable rooms – all with links to J.Crew’s e-commerce site for checkout. Customers could browse clothing, shoes and accessories and learn more about individual products: a pair of espadrilles came with a history of the 14th-century origins of its design. The brand’s heritage was celebrated with images from past catalogues.

    For Christmas, the beach house was replaced with a shoppable ski lodge within a winter wonderland landscape. Features included a scavenger hunt to collect five ski passes for the chance to win a cashmere gift (once the user had signed up to the retailer’s loyalty scheme) and a retro-style slalom skiing game (no prize opportunity; designed to increase dwell time).

J Crew

J Crew

J Crew

J Crew

J Crew

J Crew

J Crew

J Crew

J Crew

J Crew

J Crew

J Crew

J Crew

J Crew

J Crew

J Crew

J Crew

J Crew

J Crew

J Crew

J Crew

  • Bloomingdale’s Celebrates Christmas with Willy Wonka: In another Christmas gifting brandiverse, US-based department store Bloomingdale’s created a three-section shoppable experience, with a virtual reimagining of the Warner Bros Discovery film Wonka (released in December). The concept aligned with an in-store and online partnership.

    Devised by British virtual retail platform developer Emperia, the highlight of the space is a visually rich Willy Wonka chocolate room, echoing the film’s magical aesthetic with its giant chocolate tree and pink candyfloss clouds. A scavenger hunt for chocolates hidden among the gifting ideas encourages gift discovery with links to the retailer’s e-commerce site. Emperia told Stylus that its virtual stores deliver an 11-minute engagement time on average, 73% conversion rate increase and 450% average return on investment (ROI).
  • Bloomingdale’s Celebrates Christmas with Willy Wonka: In another Christmas gifting brandiverse, US-based department store Bloomingdale’s created a three-section shoppable experience, with a virtual reimagining of the Warner Bros Discovery film Wonka (released in December). The concept aligned with an in-store and online partnership.

    Devised by British virtual retail platform developer Emperia, the highlight of the space is a visually rich Willy Wonka chocolate room, echoing the film’s magical aesthetic with its giant chocolate tree and pink candyfloss clouds. A scavenger hunt for chocolates hidden among the gifting ideas encourages gift discovery with links to the retailer’s e-commerce site. Emperia told Stylus that its virtual stores deliver an 11-minute engagement time on average, 73% conversion rate increase and 450% average return on investment (ROI).

Bloomingdale's

Bloomingdale's

Bloomingdale's

Bloomingdale's

Bloomingdale's

  • L’Occitane’s Magical French Landscapes: French beauty brand L’Occitane launched two brandiverses in 2023, both also developed by Emperia. The first, L’Occitane en Provence, in July, stood out for its bilingual capabilities, being navigable (via text translation) in both Arabic and English, in recognition of the fact that the Middle East is set to be the only global region to see double-digit growth (11-12%) in the beauty sector until 2027 (Beauty Matter, 2023). Conceptualised as an exploration of L’Occitane’s native Provençal landscape, it showcased the origins of its key ingredients, lavender and almonds (more on it in The Brief).

    For Christmas, L’Occitane’s gift-filled Alpine ski lodge (also showcased in Holiday 2023: Brand Engagement Trends), featured the work of British illustrator Steven Wilson. As well as being shoppable, it enabled users to create personalised postcards of wish lists to share with family and friends, granting both the sender and the recipient a discount voucher. Emporia told Stylus that 50% of visitors had completed the postcard process.
  • L’Occitane’s Magical French Landscapes: French beauty brand L’Occitane launched two brandiverses in 2023, both also developed by Emperia. The first, L’Occitane en Provence, in July, stood out for its bilingual capabilities, being navigable (via text translation) in both Arabic and English, in recognition of the fact that the Middle East is set to be the only global region to see double-digit growth (11-12%) in the beauty sector until 2027 (Beauty Matter, 2023). Conceptualised as an exploration of L’Occitane’s native Provençal landscape, it showcased the origins of its key ingredients, lavender and almonds (more on it in The Brief).

    For Christmas, L’Occitane’s gift-filled Alpine ski lodge (also showcased in Holiday 2023: Brand Engagement Trends), featured the work of British illustrator Steven Wilson. As well as being shoppable, it enabled users to create personalised postcards of wish lists to share with family and friends, granting both the sender and the recipient a discount voucher. Emporia told Stylus that 50% of visitors had completed the postcard process.

L'Occitane

L'Occitane

L'Occitane

L'Occitane

L'Occitane

L'Occitane

L'Occitane

L'Occitane

L'Occitane

  • Lululemon’s Virtual Wellbeing World: Launched to showcase a single product rather than an entire storewide range, Canadian athleisure brand Lululemon worked with Emperia in August to generate excitement around the launch of its Chargefeel 2.

    The browser-based activation, accessed via the Lululemon website, included virtual try-on with third-party Wanna technology, which allowed visitors to try on the new shoe and verify the right fit using their mobile phone.

    There were Run, Train and Go themed spaces to explore, and customers could shop for the sneakers and other fitness apparel via links taking them back to the e-commerce site.
  • Lululemon’s Virtual Wellbeing World: Launched to showcase a single product rather than an entire storewide range, Canadian athleisure brand Lululemon worked with Emperia in August to generate excitement around the launch of its Chargefeel 2.

    The browser-based activation, accessed via the Lululemon website, included virtual try-on with third-party Wanna technology, which allowed visitors to try on the new shoe and verify the right fit using their mobile phone.

    There were Run, Train and Go themed spaces to explore, and customers could shop for the sneakers and other fitness apparel via links taking them back to the e-commerce site.

Lululemon

Lululemon

Lululemon

Lululemon

Lululemon