FASHION INDUSTRY – METAVERSE AND SUSTAINABILITY
In a 2020 analysis, management consulting company McKinsey projected that even if nothing changes, the fashion industry will be responsible for 2.7 billion metric tons of carbon emissions annually by 2030. Therefore, it is of paramount importance for the sector to reduce what it produces and pollutes. The fashion industry accounts for 10% of the world’s carbon emissions and is the second-largest water consumer globally.
THE METAVARSE’S CONTRIBUTION TO SUSTAINABILITY IN THE FASHION AND RETAIL INDUSTRY
The fashion industry is increasingly taking on more responsibility for its environmental impact. Concerning issues such as climate change and the depletion of natural resources are prompting fashion brands to take action on sustainability. Brands now feel a greater need to reduce environmental impacts and develop sustainable business practices.
Especially Generation Y and Z consumers expect more than just the quality and style of products from brands; they also expect to see sustainability efforts. Sensitivity to global issues, particularly environmental concerns, is on the rise, driving brands to adopt a more responsible attitude. As a result, it’s becoming increasingly evident that brands must align with customer values and take concrete steps towards sustainability. Hence, many brands are beginning to use Virtual Stores as a significant tool for sustainable shopping. In this article, we will examine the positive impact of Virtual Stores on environmental sustainability.
While the term ‘digital fashion’ may seem somewhat associated with the world of gaming, even someone not inclined towards gaming has likely come across digital fashion in one way or another. Regardless of how your first encounter happened, digital fashion has been around since the inception of the internet, though it’s true that it hasn’t gained such widespread recognition until recently.
Over the past few years, augmented and virtual reality technologies have opened up new opportunities and discussions around digital fashion. The pandemic further deepened the place of this term in our vocabulary. When many industries, including fashion, had to take a step back during this period, advocates of digital fashion emphatically stressed that it is more than just a technological marketing gimmick or CGI runway shows.
Digital Fashion, seizing this opportunity, aims to keep the fashion world alive with runway shows held in a dreamlike world, virtually free from production, pollution, waste, and international flights.
At this point, a question that piques the curiosity of everyone in the industry and closely concerns the textile and fashion world emerges:
Is the Metaverse and digital fashion a better option for people, the planet, and animals?
Is this the solution we’ve all been waiting for in our sustainability plans?
*Fortune Business Insight, 2022
THE SUSTAINABILITY CONTRIBUTION OF VIRTUAL STORES TO THE BUSINESS WORLD
Virtual stores enable consumers to experience a 3D, 360-degree visual encounter within the brand’s e-commerce site, making shopping a digitized and sustainable endeavor. Virtual stores act as the gateway to the metaverse, offering consumers the opportunity to interact with a real-time digital environment through their personalized avatars.
There are two fundamental approaches to creating virtual stores. The first involves generating virtual stores by creating 3D images of existing physical retail spaces. The second approach is to digitally construct an envisioned environment within the virtual world to provide a virtual shopping experience. This format allows users to feel like they are visiting their favorite stores from the comfort of their homes. When users opt for metaverse shopping experiences instead of physical store visits, brands can begin to create a more positive environmental impact.
REDUCING BRANDS’ CARBON FOOTPRINT
Over the years, many industries have improved the in-store shopping experience through innovative and appealing exhibitions. However, these in-store experiences come with an environmental cost.
Traditional physical stores struggle with generating significant carbon emissions. Promoting complex exhibitions that require a lot of lighting and resources can increase carbon footprints and have negative environmental impacts.
Virtual stores can assist brands in reducing their environmental harm. When a brand creates a virtual store, they can design attractive, beautiful, and innovative exhibitions virtually without the need for a physical presence. Furthermore, serving more regions virtually means they need to open fewer physical retail stores, thus minimizing carbon footprints and production waste. Virtual stores offer brands the opportunity to be creative and appealing to their customers while helping them stay as sustainable as possible.
REDUCING CONSUMERS’ CARBON FOOTPRINT
Virtual stores can also help consumers reduce their carbon footprint. Most consumers still use environmentally harmful means of transportation to visit physical stores. However, when stores move to the metaverse, consumers can access their favorite stores by simply logging into their computers, eliminating the need for cars or public transportation. The store is at their fingertips.
A significant source of carbon emissions in the retail sector is related to shipping and returns. When a person orders a product and then returns it, sending the product back to the store’s inventory increases environmental pollution. Determining how well a clothing item fits a consumer online, and consequently returns, have negative effects on the environment.
Additionally, online shopping leads to users ordering multiple sizes and variations to decide which one they like the most. With the promise of free returns, they send back unwanted items to the store. Such practices increase transportation and have a negative impact on the environment.
Virtual stores have developed tools to help users reduce the frequency of returns. The use of augmented reality for trying on items and more accurate size charts reduces the volume of returns and their adverse effects on the environment. With fewer inbound and outbound shipments, virtual stores provide an excellent way for shoppers to improve their carbon footprint.
SAVING IN THE SUPPLY CHAIN
Brands often grapple with the issue of producing more inventory than they sell. When excess inventory piles up, brands usually resort to selling products in discounted stores, which can tarnish their brand image. In an attempt to avoid discounting, luxury brands sometimes choose to dispose of their products, resulting in a disaster. Despite the efforts of sustainability teams to put an end to this practice, the destruction of unsold products is quite common in the luxury fashion industry. As stated in an article on the matter:
“In an industry that is only beginning to factor in environmental impacts into business decisions, the practice of destroying unsold items has long been the norm for brands. For luxury brands, destroying unsold items also ensures the preservation of brand value. This issue has been exacerbated with the rise of online sales associated with an increase in product returns. Reselling returned items can be challenging because many businesses lack the necessary infrastructure or technological capacity – these products can easily end up in the trash.”
Thanks to virtual stores, many brands design and showcase their products virtually before physically producing them. Brands can collect data about product demand, generate virtual product pre-orders, and produce only the necessary inventory. As a result, significant savings are achieved in the supply chain, and harmful practices like inventory destruction can be avoided.
Sustainability is no longer the concern of just one sector; it has become a general priority for the business world. Virtual stores represent a significant step toward achieving sustainability goals for all industries. By showcasing products virtually before physically producing them, virtual stores improve product development processes and reduce excess inventory issues. This leads to savings in the supply chain and reduces carbon footprints. Additionally, virtual stores have the potential to provide customers with a more inclusive and accessible shopping experience. Sustainability is a fundamental commitment of the business world, and virtual stores can be a part of this commitment.