The Metaverse is having a moment.
There are signs of it all around. Consider that just over a year ago, a fan paid close to half a million dollars just to be neighbors with Snoop Dogg… not in real life, but in the all-digital “Snoopverse” world. There’s also the proliferation of NFTs, and even Elon Musk’s attempt to sell Tesla merch in exchange for cryptocurrency.
These are all examples of how consumer interactions with the digital world are changing. Whether these changes are permanent remains to be seen, but for now, it’s important for print on demand sellers to have some awareness of what the Metaverse is, and what it might mean for merch sales.
With that in mind…
What is the Metaverse?
One of the challenges with discussing the Metaverse is that the term is fundamentally ill-defined. That’s because the Metaverse doesn’t refer to a particular piece of technology, or even to a broader technological ecosystem. Instead, it refers to a sea change in how we engage with the digital world. As an article from Wired notes, you can usually swap out the word “Metaverse” for “cyberspace” without any real loss of meaning, a show of just how porous this term can be.
Initially, the Metaverse indicated a type of virtual or augmented reality, available mostly through digital gaming. Today, though, the Metaverse is available even to those who don’t play any online games. Many companies have seized on the term to create an entirely new digital economy, one in which virtual merch can be bought and sold.
The Metaverse and Custom Merch
So, what does all of this mean for selling print on demand apparel and custom merch online?
On the one hand, there remains a lot of uncertainty over just how sustainable the Metaverse really is. It’s entirely conceivable that some of these trends will turn out to be exactly that: Trends that pass with time.
For now, however, it’s undeniable that more and more people are spending more and more money within digital worlds. As such, there’s a case to be made for print on demand sellers applying their original designs not only to real-world merch, but to intangible assets that can be bought and sold digitally.
One prominent example of this is the development of virtual “skins.” Essentially, this refers to clothing or apparel that can be worn by online characters or avatars, providing a higher level of customization within digital gaming environments. Designer skins and virtual fashions have proven to be big sellers, especially among Gen Z gamers, to the point that even long-established, world-famous fashion brands are getting in on the action. It’s not hard to see how print on demand sellers might find a space to compete.
The Case for Selling Custom Merch in Digital Environments
For print on demand sellers who might still be skeptical, there are a couple of important points to remember.
First, remember that designer skins and virtual fashions are very much a natural extension of identity development. Many of us choose real-world clothing that conveys something about our culture, our values, or our sense of self. With more and more of us spending time in digital environments, it’s unsurprising that the same concept would hold true in the Metaverse.
Second, keep in mind that the world of fashion is already unmoored from real value. In other words, the amount of money a piece of clothing goes for has less to do with its tangible assets and more to do with perceived social capital. So, the idea of spending money on digital skins (which might seem to be worthless in the most literal sense) is actually in keeping with the broader world of fashion.
Keeping an Eye on the Future of Custom Merch
Again, there remains some uncertainty about where the Metaverse is headed, but preliminary signs suggest that this is an important new competitive arena for print on demand sellers.
Here at Gooten, we’ll be keeping an eye on the Metaverse, and alerting our print on demand partners as to any important new developments. For now, we invite you to contact us with any questions about the best venues to sell your custom merch.