Trend Forecaster Lisa White unravels how the Metaverse is about «creating entire universes of products and services» in the eternal quest for tribe belonging
Forecasting the future of the Metaverse and its synchronization with upcoming trends
Lisa White is a cultural futurologist and creative director at WGSN. A trend forecasting group tracing consumer behaviors, their lifestyles, and market analysis. In the course of over twenty years of trend forecasting, WGSN has taken account of timeframes, predicting two, and up to five and even ten years ahead. In the case of the Metaverse, Lisa White highlights the link between physical and digital worlds.
«The physical world will still be connected to the digital world. They will be driving each other back and forth». The shopping experience of the future is going to be phygital with the launch of physical stores created by Facebook’s Metaverse, who «want consumers to interact with them in the physical world because they know this is vital. There are still going to be products to buy, but you’ll go there for the experience».
Designers are also playing with the duality between the Metaverse and physical world. Textile researcher, Ganit Goldstein, created a yarn that people can wear with VR glasses, with the garment existing both inside and outside the Metaverse.
Department stores were the first to take a step towards educating shoppers on digital and hybrid consumption, since they have been affected by the installment of the internet’s ‘everything store’ services. Selfridges’ collaboration with designer, Charlie Chan; for the twenty-fifth anniversary of Pokemon compelled consumers towards a 3D virtual world of avatar adoption, digital fashion, block-chain-powered items, and digital wallets.
Lisa White – the ongoing and upcoming tendencies at the Next Design Perspectives
With her work for Fondazione Altagamma (ed. Italian committee of brands that includes companies in the design, fashion, food, jewelry, automotive and hospitality sectors. The Italian high-end industry is worth about 126 billion euros; representing about ten percent of the global market, and generates an average of fifty percent of its turnover through exports).
Lisa White surfaced the ongoing and upcoming tendencies debated at the Next Design Perspectives. An event organized by Altagamma and dedicated to trend and habit predictions. White has been working with them for the past three years. At the 2019 conference, she was already highlighting the phenomenons we experienced in 2021. «A lot of businesses have been working with outdated systems: those could be digital, production or even HR systems, because these areas have changed radically in the past two years».
Another trend that has rapidly advanced, and that WGSN was already predicting in 2019, is digital craftsmanship. «The increase in e-commerce sales, decreasing floor space, optimization of the digital experience and the fact that gen Z and Millennials will want to embrace the idea of crafting creations in digital design».
The pandemic accelerated creativity and design digitization, supporting the rise of new aesthetics absorbed by physical fashion, in particular streetwear. «When we first started to discuss digital fashion at WGSN about four years ago with brands like The Fabricant, there was a lack of digital craftsmanship. They were saying how it was difficult to find someone who could create buttonholes or intricate fabrics digitally that has changed radically the move to digital design during the past two years, with the whole new generation of digital artisans».
Discussing the management of customer perception and societal awareness in the Metaverse
White presents a study of the American market, stating: «Two-thirds have heard of the Metaverse. Of those, only one-third of Americans like to think they have a good understanding of what the Metaverse is». Generational belonging plays a role in the attitude of consumers as well.
Shoppers over the age of twenty-five perceive the Metaverse as a ‘gimmick’. On the other hand, «the average consumer under the age of twenty-five is convinced and compelled by these products, a generation that’s going to be defining future consumption».
A moment of hype, newness, and excitement, resembling the early stages of internet evolution, characterizes this phase of the Metaverse and NFT phenomenons. If brands adopt the right strategies – as White suggests – the movement will continue to grow.
«In the U.S., about thirty-eight percent of consumers feel that NFTs are worth investing in». In order to stimulate clients and welcome them into these digital realms of consumption, brands can create gamified experiences. «This also includes collaboration through community building, allowing consumers to work, play, and connect with one another».
Being part of a private club with privileges
The transition from ‘drops’ to ‘drips’ is another consequence of new creative approaches, in which design and purchasing processes become more fluid. This means the need «to adopt a mindset where you’re always creating something new for your consumer. Since it’s digital, that can happen all the time. You can have creatives innovating 24/7 all around the world; making new experiences, products, and ways of capturing the imagination that are compelling».
This mechanism will lead to decentralized systems that do not require shipping and embrace the ‘dripping’ mindset; where consumers are engaged in collecting tokens or NFTs; while buying into exclusive aspects of one brand, thus stimulating the architecture of new communities and loyalty-building.
White reveals, «it’s about creating entire universes of products and services. So people are going to become more dedicated to the brands that they feel a part of, as part of their community. They’ll spend more in that brand’s universe, digitally and in real life. It’s going to be more like being a part of a private club with privileges».
Addressing the establishment of new possession and worth archetypes
Part of the declarations coming from Mark Zuckerberg and its digital investor emphasize how crypto art and NFTs have the power to dissolve reality privilege; allowing people to have access to design objects they’ve always dreamed of.
No matter how true this might be, «it can also mask reality poverty; because in many parts of the world there’s not enough food, clothing or access to basic things like toilets». White explains, «ethically speaking, because we know that it’s going to make more money; for brands to be efficient within this digital universe they have to be involved in making the physical world better for everyone, including those who are not buying their products».
Taking into account the energy consumption attached to NFT mining, digital objects of desire are not necessarily more sustainable, yet they do reflect a recently established mentality of the ‘end of more’, about which WGSN was speaking of even before 2019.
In other words, «we are moving towards an economy based on emotions, experiences and knowledge sharing. When we talk about looking at the Metaverse and thinking about digital fashion, becoming part of communities is prominent. There’s also the human psychological desire for newness and that’s going to be satisfied through digital means in many ways».
Digital art, NFTs, and the Metaverse reshape consumer perspectives on value. As White suggests, «value is often based on two things: rarity or emotional value. It can happen in real space, and it can happen in digital space».
The future is bound to a digital lifestyle
Current and future generations will have their values and memories bound to a digital lifestyle. In this setting, digital art embraces new audiences, welcoming outcasts of the art world and people from different backgrounds. While sold at high prices, crypto art and NFTs can be accessed by just about anybody through screenshots
or folder saving, casting light on a new ownership form directed by the blockchain acting as a possessor identifier. This authentication method is necessary, since «in order to move forward within the Metaverse, there has to be a certain form of trust because things are not going to be physically tangible».
Authenticating goods becomes a key component of their essence, protecting clients from counterfeits. A future solution suggested by White is the creation of a blockchain consortium, comparable with luxury groups such as LVMH or Kering. Through collaborations and unions, brands can bring the market forward.
These partnerships are now expanding to the world of art, one example being the Single’s day event designed by Alibaba, where they «launched a Metaverse art exhibition across some of the Taobao and Tmall platforms, presented by an avatar and offering shoppers the opportunity to buy NFT artworks sponsored by brands like Burberry and Coach».
The emotion of the future and its digitally divergent orientation
Consumer behavior, both inside and outside the Metaverse, is still choreographed on emotions. Some of these feelings are «of time perception, like not knowing what time it is or looking back at an idealized past».
Numbness and the ‘reminiscence bump’, which references «that past that you experience between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five, the key nostalgia years that you always go back to».
Radical optimism and cautious motivation fulfill the list of emotions that characterize the upcoming years, while eventually «the overriding psychology and consumer emotion, what we call emotional plurality, will mean we’ll feel all of those things every day, at different times».
The human need for discovery and knowledge doesn’t find boundaries within the Metaverse, while digital identities represent singular facets of our lifestyle tendencies. ‘More than human’ designers are trying to give a voice to other species by visualizing the world from their perspectives.
One example of this is Dr. Alexandra Daisy Ginsburg, who designed a garden for the Eden Project from the point of view of bees, where humans become the spectators instead of the creators. Stepping into a moment of transition, these might be key.
«to understand how trees work, how bees work, how whales work, how whatever it is works, in order to help encourage a world that is still going to function in the next couple of decades. What we can do is to can create digital worlds, go to other planets, imagine speaking to aliens and other life forms, but we still don’t know what’s going on underneath our own oceans. We need to come back and think about the universe that already exists in the physical world. We can’t forget that».
Creative Director at WGSN and the Head of Lifestyle & Interiors & The Vision for the same company. White is a brand builder, content creator, and cultural futurist. A trend forecaster and future thinker with over 25 years of experience, Lisa White is an expert in design and lifestyle trends.
She has predicted key long-term trends as different as the ascent of experience design and the rise of rosé. A highly-demanded speaker, lifestyle trend consultant, and award-winning editor of publications such as View on Color and Bloom, Lisa is also the head curator and creative director of the 2019 International Design Biennale in Saint Etienne, France.