There is a lot of buzz around the Metaverse, and it is for good reason. By using a mixture of digital twin technology, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and other technologies, the Metaverse will provide a virtual environment that connects real-world people. Put simply, it is the increasing shift toward digitisation.

While it’s too early to determine what the Metaverse will look like, one thing is certain: digital twins of real-life spaces from the built world will serve as an important foundation for how the Metaverse is built. Today, 3D twins are bringing endless opportunities for retailers and consumers alike, and in 2022, the line between the real world and virtual reality will only continue to blur.

Here are a few predictions that are set to take the retail industry by storm this year:

Foot traffic will turn virtual

Much of 2021 was spent contemplating if patrons will return to brick and mortar stores – but the better question would have been how? As the Omicron wave threatens retailers’ recovery and profitability, more retailers will embrace digital twins or photorealistic and dimensionally accurate replicas of physical stores to elevate their customer experiences through virtual showrooms and curating shoppable digital experiences with eCommerce integration.

More consumers will visit their favourite stores and interact with and purchase merchandise virtually anywhere (as you can see of this digital twin of a Nike store) or do a location scout of a physical store for assurance on social distancing measures before making the decision to leave the house.

Digital twins will streamline store operations

One of the biggest challenges facing retailers in the hybrid shopping environment is how to manage store planning and operations virtually. This year, more retailers will embrace digital twin technology to organise, restructure and update their operations, all while spending little to no time in the physical space. 

Interactive 3D digital twins, allow retailers to completely redesign retail spaces virtually, considering shopper routes and customer flow. Instant access to accurate measurements will change the way retailers plan visual merchandising, seasonal promotions, and new product rollouts. For larger retailers with multiple stores, these redesigns can all be reviewed and approved by stakeholders virtually.

Employees can also benefit from 3D walkthroughs of retail spaces. Using a digital replica of a store, retailers can train new sales staff remotely, streamlining onboarding and saving time and resources.

The new gatekeeper of customer data

Digital twins collect a treasure trove of data on a physical space, and in 2022 we’ll see more Australian retailers take advantage of this technology to understand their customers and inform their customer experiences, from planning shopping routes or the accessibility of products on shelves to the flow of customers (practicing social distancing) through a store. 

All store assets can be labeled with digital tags to document usage, repairs, maintenance, and training information, allowing staff to find information easily and remotely. Visual records can ensure each space is up to par while store owners can easily deduce when replacements are required, repairs need to be scheduled or insurance needs adjustment.

Digital twin technology, a critical component underpinning the makings of the metaverse, is making waves and reimagining the way retailers deliver omnichannel customer experiences. Over the course of 2022 and beyond, retailers must adapt their business strategies to this increasing shift toward digitisation in order to stay ahead.

Ben Corser is managing director for Asia Pacific at Matterport.