Beauty in the metaverse: Where it’s heading

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Beauty lends itself well to virtual experiences thanks to the inherent experimentation and sense of play in cosmetics. However, it’s less collectible than fashion and less enmeshed with current gamer habits, experts say. 

Beauty brands wishing to make their mark in the metaverse need to be tailored in their marketing, flexible with expectations and willing to take a grassroots approach.

“The metaverse is starting to be adopted by beauty consumers, but this adoption may be as small as using an AR filter. At the other end of the spectrum, they might be ready to buy an NFT from a beauty brand,” says Abi Buller, foresight writer at The Future Laboratory, a strategic foresight consultancy based in London.

The opportunity may be more significant. “Gaming is far more mainstream than many people realise, especially among women,” explains Lisa Hau, COO at Bidstack, a gaming advertising technology company. She notes that it’s a misconception that only teenagers and young men play video games, referencing research from the Global World Index seen by Vogue Business showing that in 2021, 53 per cent of beauty fans played or downloaded a free-to-play game. Reaching beauty shoppers authentically and offering them real value is the next step.

Many beauty brands are taking a hybrid approach. Crossovers with gaming and esports communities include Charlotte Tilbury sponsoring the Girl Gamer Festival in 2021; L’Oréal-owned YSL Beauté partnership with streamer Talia Mar for a sponsored stream promoting the Black Opium Fragrance; and Estée Lauder’s microsite Anrcade, where users play arcade-style minigames and learn about the brand’s Advanced Night Repair serum. NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, have proven popular: Clinique, Elf Cosmetics and Nars are among the first brands to market them in the beauty space.

Positioning before product sales

Expectations must be more marketing-led, says Dina Fierro, vice president of global digital strategy at Nars, which partnered with Nintendo’s Animal Crossing game. “We’re not necessarily looking to these partnerships to drive product sales. Realistically, what’s more important to us is the positioning of the brand and the sentiment around these activations. As an artistry-led brand with strong connections to the fashion world, our NFTs made complete sense.”

Drest, a mobile gaming app in which users complete styling challenges, launched a Beauty Mode addition this year, featuring both Gucci Beauty and Nars. According to CEO Lucy Yeomans, their users see themselves as creators. “I see a demand from the next-generation customer to actually be part of a kind of creative experience,” she says. “The experimentation and discovery are incredibly important, because it’s so immersive.” Branded challenges offered on Drest are most popular, with the highest engagement, she adds.