Mon May 23 2022 Michael McQueen

By now we have all heard of the metaverse. Despite having heard of it, it’s likely that many of us are still baffled by what it actually is, and even more bewildered by the thought of what might actually go on there. Far from being gimmicky or niche, this is an innovation that will be commonplace before we know it, and which is already presenting businesses with opportunities they’ve never had before.

By way of definition, the metaverse is an extensive virtual reality where people exist and interact through their avatars. Mark Zuckerberg refers to it as the “embodied internet” – not something we log onto but somewhere we essentially live, work and play. [1]

Unsurprisingly companies at the cutting edge have been quick to explore what business might look like with this new version of reality. There have already been numerous bold moves by brands looking to be first to market with their own metaverse products, stores and experiences.

One of the first of these was skate footwear and apparel giant Vans. In September 2021, Vans launched a virtual skate park in Roblox where users can try new tricks and earn points by hitting waffle-shaped floating coins while skating. They can use the points to redeem items such as virtual shoes and skateboard customizations.[2]  Within its first two months, ‘Vans World’ had attracted more than 48 million visitors.[3]

It’s no surprise that Roblox was the platform of choice for Vans considering it is has spent a number of years mastering the skill of engaging users in an immersive virtual world. Judging by a recent flurry of marketing and products partnerships with the likes of Sony Music, Warner Bros., Hasbro and even Gucci, Roblox has positioned itself as a powerful way for brands to dip their toe into the metaverse and reach out to younger generations.[4]

Roblox is a favourite amongst teens and tweens with two-thirds of their users under the age of 12. This is also indicative of just how comfortable and familiar the next generation are with the metaverse as a concept – it’s something they are literally growing up in.

Recognising this, youth-focussed fast fashion brand Forever 21 launched a virtual retail experience in January 2022 that allows Roblox players to create and run their own virtual stores selling real merchandise. Users will be able to buy and sell real Forever 21 merchandise, hire non-player characters as employees, and customise every aspect of their store.[5]

While this could appear gimmicky and merely a tech-enabled version of ‘playing shops,’ the idea of creating virtual stores in the metaverse to change the way customers discover, interact with and experience products is definitely a trend to watch.

In February 2022, McDonald’s filed a patent application in the US to create the world’s first virtual fast-food store.[6]  Skincare brand Dermalogica have also created a virtual store where you can see all the details about a product and can add in a virtual shopping cart for delivery to your real-world address. Iconic direct selling company Mary Kay has looked to do the same thing in allowing its consultants to meet and interact with customers in a virtual environment.[7]

The banking and financial services sector is also steadily making its way into the metaverse. The launch of J.P. Morgan’s virtual "Onyx lounge" in March 2022 offers a sign of what could be to come. The Onyx lounge was built in Decentraland and will do much of what a real-world bank branch does in terms of facilitating transactions.[8] 

The metaverse is set to play a key role in the sporting arena too. Manchester City have entered a partnership with Sony to re-create a virtual Etihad Stadium where fans can interact with the Club and each other in the metaverse.[9] 

While many businesses and industries are using virtual reality to drive customers to purchase real world products, the next frontier of the metaverse will centre on the sale of products and services that are entirely virtual. 

This trend had been underway for a few years now with video game players initially displaying a surprising appetite for purchasing ‘character skins’ for their avatars. However, the market for personalized digital avatars has expanded beyond the gaming world and has been popularized by services and apps like Bitmoji, Memojis, Genies, and[10]

In an indication of how mainstream avatar personalisation is becoming, the American heritage brand Ralph Lauren launched a range of digital clothing in August 2021 – a trend that has been dubbed Direct-to-Avatar (D2A) by industry analysts. [11]

For their part, Nike launched their own D2A range of digital products in November 2021. This will see the sportswear giant start selling digital versions of its sneakers, clothing, and other goods to dress customers’ avatars.[12]

While it’s one thing to pay good money to deck out your avatar in the latest fashions, it’s another thing entirely to invest your hard-earned money in a virtual home for your avatar to live in. And yet that is increasingly becoming a reality.

In the last week of November 2021, for instance, sales of digital land purchases brought in $105.9m across just 4 metaverse projects. One noteworthy sale of a virtual property in the metaverse platform Decentraland involved a $2.43 million purchase of 6.9k square feet of virtual space.[13]

Aggregate sales of metaverse real estate in 2021 topped $500 million and expectations are that this figure will double in 2022. One of the factors driving this is the belief that there is quick money to be made. For instance, a company called Republic Realm paid a record $4.3 million for virtual land in early 2022 on which it is planning to develop 100 virtual islands called Fantasy Islands. Each island comes with its own villa and an optional boat or jet ski. Ninety of the islands sold on the first day for $15,000 each and some are now listed for resale at more than $100,000.[14]

While the jury is still out as to whether this digital land grab is a sustainable trend or a glorified Ponzi scheme, what’s clear is that entirely new business models are being rapidly developed and some will become genuine opportunities for those who are prepared.

However you look at it, the metaverse is transforming today’s business. Cutting edge companies are jumping on the opportunities to both market existing products and sell ones we would never have even imagined just a few years ago. For those willing to navigate the new tide, the potential is endless.


Michael McQueen is a trends forecaster, business strategist and award-winning conference speaker.

He features regularly as a commentator on TV and radio and is a bestselling author of 9 books. His most recent book The New Now examines the 10 trends that will dominate a post-COVID world and how to prepare for them now. 

To see Michael speaking live, click here.

For more information on Michael's keynote speaking topics,


[1]  Heath, A. 2021, ‘Inside Facebook’s metaverse for work,’ The Verge, 19 August.

[2] Laporte, N. 2021, ‘Vans is launching its own world inside of Roblox,’ Fast Company, 1 September.

[3]  Bruell, A. 2021, ‘Brands no longer see metaverse-like worlds as abstract gimmicks,’ The Wall Street Journal, 29 November.

[4]  Laporte, N. 2021, ‘Vans is launching its own world inside of Roblox,’ Fast Company, 1 September.

[5]  Magloff, L. 2022, ‘Fashion brand lets gamers open their own virtual stores,’ Springwise, 11 January.

[6]  Main, K. 2022, ‘McDonald’s discovers the golden ticket to making money in the metaverse,’ Inc, 15 February. 

[7]  Safien-Demers, E. 2021, ‘The metaverse and retailing opportunities,’ Wunderman Thompson, 23 August. 

[8]  Davies, P. 2022, ‘JPMorgan is the first bank to open in the metaverse,’ EuroNews, 17 February. 

[9]  Thomas, D. 2022, ‘Manchester City partners with Sony to create first football stadium in the metaverse,’ Binance, 22 February.

[10]  2021, ‘The Metaverse mall and why it matters,’ CB Insights, 10 March.

[11]  Deeley, R. 2021, ‘Ralph Lauren enters metaverse with Zepeto partnership,’ Business of Fashion, 25 August.

[12]  Oshin, O. 2021, ‘Nike moving towards sales of digital sneakers,’ The Hill, 2 November.

[13]  Cohen, J. 2021, ‘The virtual land boom, explained,’ The Hustle, 7 December.

[14]  Frank, R. 2022, ‘Metaverse real estate sales top $500 million,’ CNBC, 1 February.