The metaverse is no longer just a buzz word. It’s now a reality as an increasing number of retailers opt to use VR, AR, AI and the metaverse to interact with customers and provide personalised, immersive shopping experiences. 

Brands skewed towards gaming, entertainment or social media, such as Meta, Microsoft and Nike have paved the way for wider retail businesses to follow. More recently, Nike opened Nikeland in late 2022, a micro metaverse built within the Roblox ecosystem, allowing consumers to try on virtual products with their avatars, buy NFTs and take part in games.

In Australia, survey findings from PayPal found that 23 per cent of shoppers would consider giving metaverse shopping a try. For Aussies who are already using the Metaverse, over half had already used the platform to shop. Given that 97 per cent of Australians shop online (making an average of three purchases a week), the move to metaverse shopping and exploring new forms of reality is an expected and natural progression.

The role of AI in the metaverse

AI plays a vital part in shaping the evolution of the metaverse by facilitating captivating and immersive virtual realms that adapt to user actions and behaviours. From optimising performance, generating 3D models and providing real-time assistance through AI-powered chatbots, it is clear that the role of AI is indispensable. 

The technology also assumes a crucial role in creating virtual landscapes and characters, simulating real-world physics and facilitating seamless interactions between users and its virtual surroundings. Its contributions extends to not only enhancing the user experience but also delivering instant, tailored feedback and informed insights based on individual behaviours. 

Applications of metaverse in retail

Virtual shopping, while popular for its ease and simplicity of product selection and transactions, lacks a crucial element that many consumers desire: social interaction. Now is the time for retailers to look at marrying the experience of social interaction and shopping – this is where the metaverse and AI come in to provide the solution:   


AR/VR in the digital world: AR and VR are transforming the retail industry by creating immersive and interactive shopping experiences. While AR enables customers to use their smartphones to visualise how products would look in their homes or on their person, VR enables customers to enter a fully immersive virtual store, allowing them to browse, select, and purchase products in a simulated environment. As these features continue to evolve, we can expect to see even more innovative and interactive shopping experiences that blur the lines between physical and digital retail environments.

3D avatars

With 3D avatars, customers can create virtual representations of themselves, which can then be used to try on clothes, accessories, and even test out makeup products. This level of interactivity can help to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty whilst encouraging consumers to purchase these items to reflect their characters in-person.     

Virtual shops

By creating a virtual storefront retailers can reach customers in any location at any time, eliminating the need for physical store locations. This not only saves on overhead costs but also allows retailers to expand their customer base beyond their immediate geographic area.


NFTs can be leveraged by retailers to create limited edition virtual products or experiences that customers can purchase or bid on, creating a sense of exclusivity and ownership. NFTs provide a popular way to engage with social media influencers or popular artists and designers, who can design and promote items. This not only merges real people and brands to a virtual reality but also creates a new revenue stream for brands. 

Cybersecurity in the metaverse

As with any emerging technology, the metaverse has brought fresh concerns around cybersecurity and data privacy. To navigate these challenges, the retail sector should consider embracing a Zero Trust architecture that grants employees access to resources while warding off cyberattacks. This necessitates strengthening and optimising the infrastructure at the network’s edge to enable the seamless processing of AI with minimal latency, as well as enabling systems to swiftly detect and counter cyber threats. 

Yet, the realm of cybersecurity demands more than just robust capabilities. Blockchain technology emerges as a pivotal player. Through its implementation, retailers can establish secure and transparent transactions while upholding the sanctity of user data. As the Metaverse’s evolution continues, the integration of blockchain technology is poised to assume growing significance, pivotal in upholding the sanctity and privacy of user information.

Partnering with the a trusted vendor to support the expansion and adoption of AI in operations is the key to success. Businesses such as Lenovo ISG play a significant role for retailers in the metaverse, providing the foundational hardware and solutions necessary to support AI-driven initiatives across various industries.

The future of the metaverse

As the metaverse continues to evolve, we can expect to see ever more sophisticated and immersive shopping experiences that blur the lines between the physical and digital worlds. Australian retailers have a unique chance to harness the capabilities of virtual reality, augmented reality, and other emerging technologies to craft exceptional customer experiences, fostering loyalty and amplifying brand recognition.

Although the complete potential of the metaverse for the retail sector is an ongoing exploration, it’s evident that this technology will progressively shape the course of commerce in the future. Given the rising integration of 5G technology and the escalating desire for immersive, interactive encounters, the metaverse alongside AR/VR, is poised to gain momentum in Australia, so now is the time to be exploring its opportunities for retail operations. 

Sinisa Nikolic is director Asia Pacific for high performance computing and AI at Lenovo ISG.