Will virtual gifts be making it on your Christmas list this year?

No more presents under the tree or shredded wrapping paper being found for days after; instead, email notifications on Christmas morning as the activations roll into your inbox. Are tangible gifts a thing of the past? We take a look at how different brands are navigating this new world.

The Rise of Roblox Gifting

In recent years, virtual gifting typically meant something you can send online but with an ultimate real-world application — a beauty box, a streaming service subscription, or an experience day. But as the metaverse grows, digital items are starting to develop their own inherent value.

Roblox is currently one of the most successful examples of the metaverse, enabling users to create and explore virtual worlds within their online gaming platform. It is one of the biggest platforms in the world, with 58.8 million daily active users; 24.2 million of these users are under 13 years old according to Statista. Brands such as Gucci, Walmart and Chipotle are now partnering with Roblox to create virtual items that could be making their way onto Christmas lists everywhere this year.

Gucci, for example, started a partnership last year with Roblox by hosting the virtual pop-up event ‘Gucci Garden’. This has now become a permanent feature of the platform, hosting mini-games, a café community space and a virtual store where users can purchase their virtual wares. The brand boasted more than 20 million visitors in its first two weeks.

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Nike and Gap are inviting creators to design new items, creating a different offering to their in-store merchandise; while Adidas opted for a 16-piece NFT collection of virtual clothing to diversify their revenue streams completely.

Manchester City has taken this a step further by staging their first-ever kit launch on Roblox with the grand unveiling of their new third alternate jersey for the 2022-23 Premiere League season, the design of which is an online-only edition.

The Middle Ground

O2 launched their Snowgran Christmas campaign this year, which combines the giving of something virtual, in this case, mobile data for those in need, with something physical to put under the tree. Two million UK households are now at risk of digital exclusion and in a cost-of-living crisis, ‘necessary’ gifts such as this could become much more prevalent.

To combat the lack of tactile moments, a Christmas card containing the sim card has been created, so that your loved one still has something to open on the day. Helping to reconnect friends and family at Christmas.

Even in the Roblox world, some brands have taken a similar direction to unite the physical and virtual worlds. For example, some clothing brands are offering virtual versions of their in-store apparel, so you can match your online character.

The Fabricant has been blazing the trail of virtual clothing since 2018, with a monthly drop of free items to help users explore virtual fashion. They have also created the digital platform Leela, where people can experiment with virtual fashion and also make friends in the community at the digital playground.

Tribute Brand has taken this a step further by making their virtual styles limited edition, so once they’re gone, they’re gone! Transferring economies of scarcity for designer items from the real world into the digital one.

Over to you

The digital-first generation is starting to gain more buying power and disposable income, making them an increasingly high-priority target audience for many marketers. This raises the question; how much should brands enter into the metaverse? Concerns remain around sustainability, regulation, ownership, mental health implications and more, but it certainly appears there are opportunities for brands who want to experiment in this new industry.

Pairing physical and virtual items could be the next step for integrating the metaverse into the real world to open up new revenue possibilities. Grandma gets you matching jumpers with your character; now you can wear one out and about, and the other gives you a way to express your style digitally.

On the plus side, at least one of the jumpers will always fit.

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