The term ‘Metaverse’ is increasingly being thrown around in the business world, but it seems many people are struggling to fully understand the different realms and what the new virtual world means.

Leading spatial data company, Matterport explores the Metaverse and real-world uses of digital twins. Matterport managing director for Asia Pacific, Ben Corser describes a digital twin as a navigable, photo realistic and dimensionally accurate digital replica of a physical space.

“When it comes to Matterport technology, you take a photo of a space using our professional camera, the Pro2, or your smartphone using Matterport’s Capture app, which creates a high-definition 3D online replica with detailed, accurate information,” he told Retailbiz in a recent interview.

“This gives retailers a digital twin of their space and unparalleled spatial data insights that help them design, build, and operate their stores more efficiently, cost effectively, and more sustainably.”

As the pandemic led many retailers to invest in ecommerce, digital twins provided retailers with a tool to drive interactive online shopping experiences. “Digital twins provided the basis for retailers to create 3D virtual walk-throughs for shoppers, but they also helped elevate store management, planning and inventory through a wealth of data. Digital twins allow large retailers to manage thousands of store locations remotely, and efficiently,” he added.

“On-site employees can use their smartphone to capture a digital twin from every location across a chain of properties, enabling merchandising teams and facility managers to virtually inspect, plan, and manage multiple locations online, eliminating routine travel and on-site visits.”  

By capturing a digital twin of a space, businesses can create a virtual experience for consumers to visit, interact with, and purchase merchandise virtually anywhere.

“Digital twins also help store planners redesign retail spaces, plan shopper routes and the flow of customers through a store, and train and collaborate with sales staff, all remotely, to ensure a safe and seamless working environment for staff and their customers,” Corser said.

The value of a digital twin

It goes far beyond a dimensionally accurate replica down to the centimetre – it transforms a space into spatial data to better understand, measure, explore and experience the space, according to Corser. “Now you can search it, tag it, or query it. When buildings become data, it’s easier to see across locations, analyse how it operates or simply keep a record of changes, and that includes inventory management and maintenance,” he said.

“Using digital twins, retailers can create a visual record of the assets they have on hand, then label them with digital tags to document repairs, maintenance, and training information. They can then easily find all relevant information on where specific inventory or equipment is located without having to depend on other personnel.”

The future of digital twins for online retail  

As Matterport continues to expand globally, digital twins will become more embedded in everyday online shopping experiences, drastically accelerating innovation and efficiency for retailers.

“Combining digital twins with virtual and augmented reality will provide high-definition 3D visuals and realistic showroom experiences for buyers to continue engaging remotely. For instance, with virtual access to showrooms, retail merchandise buyers can view a garment from any angle and zoom in for closer inspection of its seams or texture,” Corser explained.

“Prior to having access to digital twins, buyers were required to travel around the world to view new collections and place orders, but in recent years, there has been a greater attention to environmental sustainability and net-zero initiatives. We’ll see more retailers adopt digital twins to eliminate unnecessary business travel and as a result, help lower their carbon footprint.”