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When riding into a new frontier, it helps to seek out others who are going in the same direction. Some may know the terrain, and can help guide the way. In other cases, it can just be helpful to travel with others who are navigating the same ground. Even if it’s new to both of you, figuring it out together can strengthen the chance for success.
This dynamic is playing out across the consumer goods landscape as brands enter the metaverse. With virtual environments forming where people seek to play, be entertained and shop, there’s a clear sense that brands must build a presence. But as with many innovation-centered initiatives, partnerships play a key role.
One recent example can be found in a collaboration between Puma and 10KTF.
It’s a partnership between a brand and a shop, but this one is taking place in the digital world.
With this collaboration, Puma entered New Toyko, a city in the metaverse where 10KTF has a shop. Puma said it's the biggest web3 initiative is launching to date.
Wagmi-san at 10KTF's shop in the metaverse. (Handout photo)
Run by the popular fictional owner, Wagmi-san, 10KTF’s shop is known for its streetwear. A quote in a press release from Wagmi-san suggests this partnership will bridge both the physical and virtual worlds.
“Thanks to the rise of our 10KTF community and the like-minded craftspeople at PUMA, a long-held dream of mine gets to be fulfilled. I am grateful for the opportunity to bring our crafts and our stories into the physical realm and usher in a new era for New Tokyo,” Wagmi-san said in the release.
For brands, the potential held out by entering the metaverse lies not only in setting up shop in a new place where people are likely to shop, but also in how goods that are available in the virtual world interact with the products that are made in the physical world. Puma chief brand officer Ben Detrick explained where this could be heading in an interview with Vogue Business:
“As a sports company, we have to be thinking about engaging with people in the physical world and giving people the opportunity to bring physical products into the digital world,” Petrick says. Digital products open up new possibilities, he says: a digital basketball shoe can carry with it athletic abilities in virtual worlds, for instance. “Whether it’s gamified utility or access, it’s like a fourth dimension of experience with the product,” he says.
The digital goods have their own processes and infrastructure. They are often distributed as digital collectibles, with ownership conferred through NFTs, or nonfungible tokens. 10KTF creates these digital goods, often in the form of one-of-a-kind accessories for NFT holders. It has created goods for Gucci by creating “picture for proof” NFTs that offered a representation of the fashion house’s looks in the digital world.
It eases Puma's entry into the digital world, while at the same time enabling 10KTF to enter the physical world.
It also offers entry into a world where they can meet others. Along with 10KTF, collectors from 16 additional NFT communities are in New Tokyo. There are chances to partner with others. Now it can take steps to become part of the community.
Trending in Shopper Experience
Microservices architecture allows the company to give retailers ownership over omnichannel software.
With the growth of digital commerce, providing consumer choice is at the center of all of a retailer’s operations.
In recent years, that became especially evident in the area of fulfillment.
Ecommerce made the process of moving an order into place for delivery a crucial function, as the ability to source products close to demand quickly was an imperative.
“Retailers are looking to own more of their fulfillment destiny because consumer expectations have increased,” Chap Achen, VP of product strategy and operations at Nextuple, told The Current on the floor of the NRF Big Show 2023. “Fulfillment is now a competitive weapon.”
As digital operations increasingly blend with the physical store, a host of new fulfillment options are coming online. They can have an item delivered from the store on the same day, or they pick it up. Even a wider offering such as in-store pickup has a host of different choices inside of it. Consumers can pick up an item at a counter, or a locker. They can stop by anytime, or schedule a pickup on Saturday.
While this optionality helps retailers meet customers where they are, it also adds complexity to the systems that run them, and requires operational adjustments to put them in place.
It means the software that powers fulfillment operations must also meet retailers where they are, Achen said. Many retailers have specific setups and processes. They may have a store located in a mall with a nearby distribution center, or a series of small storefronts. At the same time, retailers need to have flexibility with the software that they use so they can provide options to consumers.
For Nextuple, the vehicle to provide this is microservices, which describes a software architecture in which the parts of an application work independently, but are also built to work together. The company harnesses microservices to offer an ownership-centered approach to deploying its software through a product called Nextuple Fulfillment Studio.
“Today, there are only two ways to buy software: [software as a service] or custom building,” Achen said. “You can do it yourself or with a partner. We are a third option. We will help you accelerate your time to market because we've already developed 80% of your requirements, and then we'll give you that as source code.”
The software is composable. Retailers own the source code, and they can iterate. Along the way, they have the ability to swap out components of the software for pieces that enable them to better respond to the needs of customers, if they choose.
It shows how composable commerce is spreading throughout retail operations. A first wave of development applied the approach to the “front-end” of commerce, such as operating an ecommerce store and marketing. With fulfillment software such as Nextuple coming online, there are signs it is being applied to backend operations, as well.
In all, Nextuple offers 14 microservices as part of the Studio, including engines for same-day delivery, storage, inventory management and sourcing.
At the NRF Big Show, Nextuple announced that it is live with five national omnichannel retailers. Together, they have $50 billion in annual revenue and 7000 store locations.
The company is aiming to serve a group of retailers that are widely known, but still looking to hone operations for omnichannel retail. When it comes to fulfillment technology, the retail landscape has distinct tiers.
The largest players have built their own fulfillment tech to power logistics networks that reach across the country.
Name brand retailers with a national presence also want to offer competitive fulfillment, but haven’t made the move to acquire platforms or developed their own software in-house. Typically, they would seek out a software provider that offers a set platform on a subscription model. But the particular needs of commerce require software that powers physical operations with digital tools. That requires a different type of solution, Nextuple believes.
“We want to level the playing field,” Achen said. “We're helping the mid-tier [retailer] compete with Target, Amazon and Walmart.”