E-commerce began as separate side projects or wings of the business, but there’s no question that it has moved to the center of business and begat a newer wave of digital-first retail. Only time can tell if the metaverse will follow the same trajectory. But there’s at least one company apparently willing to make that bet.
Men’s underwear company Saxx chose the metaverse as the site of its first dedicated shop, the online brand revealed Tuesday.
Developed by virtual store developer Emperia, the immersive experience features a 360-degree WebVR environment designed to highlight underwear, tops and swimwear from the brand’s DropTemp collection, a line that features a proprietary evaporative fabric that was designed to amplify the body’s natural cooling capability. The tech wicks moisture away from the skin and distributes it evenly across the fabric, so it evaporates more easily even as the body sweats.
The virtual scenery underscores the hot-cold theme, as the unusual sight of a snowfall in the desert greets online visitors. From there, they can wander the space and check out the products.
“We like to do things differently than other brands, and a virtual store gave us the opportunity to bring our DropTemp technology to life in an unexpected setting,” said Wendy Bennison, chief executive officer of Saxx. “This is an exciting step for Saxx as we’ll be able to connect with our customers in a new way.
“Not only does this mark our first virtual store, but it’s also our first-ever stand-alone retail location where shoppers can walk around and interact with our products — albeit virtually.”
The environment may be metaversal, but the shopping is real, with Saxx’s physical merchandise represented by 3D visual assets that people can browse in the open-air, virtual showroom. More products — such as underwear, short and long-sleeved tops, polos and water-friendly hoodies with UPF 50 protection — can be found by the swimming pool, and visitors are encouraged to dive in. Doing so unlocks another shopping area with more swimwear.
While Saxx bills the launch as the “first-ever dedicated virtual store by an underwear company,” it’s not the first such brand to dive into the virtual world. For instance, Victoria’s Secret filed patents for digital lingerie around this time last year, which begged a fascinating question of whether avatars actually need bras and other under garments. While the metaversatti pondered that, the company launched a Roblox destination for its Happy Nation brand a few months later.
Emperia, Saxx’s tech partner and developer, has been seeing significant momentum building among retailers. “[We saw] a great retail shift in 2022, with many of our partner brands creating virtual flagship stores, extending their e-commerce presence into a 3D form,” said Olga Dogadkina, Emperia’s cofounder and CEO. For Saxx, the launch allows the men’s brand to expand its reach to new, online-native customers, she added.
It’s the same reason that others, from fashion and footwear to food, venture into the metaverse, launching virtual pop-ups and events alongside their physical shows or main businesses. But far fewer, if any, dare to take up metaverse-first retail.
Saxx’s approach may be the closest thing to this sort of strategy, at least so far. But if it succeeds, it surely won’t be the last, and the effect of that could have far-reaching implications. After all, the advent of e-commerce, as a game-changing force in retail, started with books. Who’s to say that the birth of virtual commerce couldn’t start with underwear?