Experience Radar: H&M Enters The Metaverse And Immersive Experiences Top CX Trends

At The WXO, we want to connect the dots across the Experience Economy and across the globe – so each week, we’ll be bringing you our round-up of the experiential stories that we think reveal something interesting, relevant or transferrable about the Experience Economy.

Welcome to this week’s Experience Radar, where we’re getting the lowdown on the latest experiential trends from the Future 100 report, training our brains to be happier, and blissing out at Sound Unwrapped in London.

1. Game-Changing Experiential Trends For 2023

Headline and above image; Dopamine Land, London; Pantone Color of the Year 2023, Viva Magenta. Credit: Huge

There’s a lot to unpick in Wunderman Thompson’s The Future 100 report, which takes a deep dive into the 10 emerging trends shaping 10 key sectors, from culture and tech to travel and retail. This year we’ll see the growth of the ‘joyconomy’ – perfectly encapsulated in Pantone’s Colour of the Year (Viva Magenta) – with brands offering uninhibited play for all ages to bring light-hearted fun amid the hardship. We’ll also see the emergence of the ‘superself’ and the ‘sleep economy’ as self-care gets supercharged and people prioritise their physical and mental health while harnessing the power of psychobiotics. “A holistic approach to health is evident across all categories as people expect to enhance their wellbeing at every touchpoint, suggesting that all brands need to be a health brand,” says WT’s global director, Emma Chui.

Meanwhile, tech is moving at lightning speed, leading the lines between our physical and virtual worlds to blur. As we move closer to the reality of living at least part of our lives in the metaverse, from nurturing virtual pets to hanging out in digital cities, brands are diving into web3 with brio and a more democratised, decentralised internet is emerging, driven by creator communities, as digital engagement moves from passive consumption to active engagement. Offline, consumers are rewilding their minds, and are developing a thirst for extreme adventure, from sleeping in a floating avocado in Chile and checking into a sexual wellness retreat to dining on dishes cooked over lava at an active volcano in Saudi Arabia.

2. Reinventing The Concert Experience

Sound Unwrapped series at King’s Place, London

Keen to turn concerts into a multi-sensory experience, London music venue King’s Place has converted one of its halls into a 360° sound system as part of its Sound Unwrapped series. As reported by Euro News, the high-tech system, developed by d&b audiotechnik, includes 19 speakers and 48 channels that control reverb and echo and alter the way sound exists in the space, allowing audiences to experience all-encompassing audio tailored to the desires to the artist in session. The venue also wants to shake up the seating setup, with some concerts hosted in the round and others encouraging people to lie on the floor.

“There was a kind of sensory deprivation over the last two years,” Helen Wallace, artistic and executive director of King’s Place, told Euro News. “There’s a real thirst for becoming more involved in a more immersive way, where the musicians and the audience are sharing a space. We’re really soaking the audience in an experience that they’re sharing with the musicians, we’re trying to break down that and dissolve that and make it so that you might be lying on the floor and feeling vibration through the body.” The venue’s ‘Moonbathing’ immersive experience reworks tracks by Gruff Rhys, Oliver Coates and Rival Consoles as the audience melts into the soundscape on mats and beanbags.

3. Training Your Brain To Maximise Experiences

Project Dream, created for The Wellcome Collection

While we’re a happy lot at the WXO, we’re always on the lookout for self-improvement and were fascinated to find out about a recent study that suggests it’s possible to train your brain to be happier. As reported by Stylist, according to University of California Berkeley researchers, it’s possible to learn new ways to activate feelings of engagement in a positive experience, and our ability to get the most out of them can be strengthened through training. The trick is to learn how to savour positive experiences in order to process them in a heightened way.

According to Psychology Today, by learning to engage in a positive experience, we develop a greater sense of resilience and self-worth, creating an ‘upward spiral’ in which good times build on themselves, enhancing our happiness levels and leaving us with a happiness toolkit of psychological resources. “By letting the enjoyable experiences change you on a deeper level, those good times can become both more frequent and more long-lasting,” the publication said. First you need to have the enjoyable experience, whatever it may be, then you need to extend it and keep it active in your consciousness by exploring how it made you feel physically and emotionally by reliving the best bits.

4. H&M Enters The Metaverse With Roblox

H&M’s Loooptopia Experience, Roblox

Swedish fashion giant H&M is the latest brand to enter the metaverse via a collaboration with gaming platform Roblox. As reported by Brand Innovators, H&M’s Loooptopia Experience allows players to get creative with materials and patterns and design their own clothes for their avatar, collecting fabrics in various virtual worlds from rainbow fields to a neon studio. The goal is to allow consumers to engage with the products and looks that the brand has to offer. Devised by metaverse studio Dubit, the digital experience, based in a virtual city square, includes various environments, styling sessions and games.

Leaning into co-creation, players can make their avatar dance and layer music onto their fashion shows while socialising and sharing looks with fellow gamers. There’s an eco element too, as players are encouraged to recycle their old clothes to earn points in the game. “We’ve created the game to be able to connect with people of all ages in a playful way, enabling them to express themselves while learning more about sustainability,” said Linda Li, head of customer activation at H&M Americas. “We’re targeting a digitally savvy customer who is focused on building their identity and fashion through the metaverse.”

5. Immersion Contributes To Faster Learning

Dopamine Land, London

Immersive experiences are not only good for the soul; they have the potential to contribute to faster learning, according to immersive specialists Imagineerium. While research on the psychological effects of immersive experiences is thin on the ground, studies are emerging as immersion is being used both as a learning tool and for pain management in patients. “What we do know is that immersive experiences ignite imagination, engage with emotions and have the potential to transform,” Imagineerium says. “Exercising our brain, just like exercising our bodies, is essential to keeping it healthy, stronger and more flexible for longer and being immersed is the perfect way to do this.”

Taking you out of your comfort zone and encouraging you to be more present in the moment, immersive experiences elicit a range of emotions and psychological states, from happiness and excitement to fascination and fear, and have been proven to have long-term effects on our state of mind and thoughts, from changing attitudes, priorities, daily habits and behaviour to core principles. They also lead to enhanced feelings of connectedness and community through the shared experience. According to Imagineerium, “participants who become more expert in handling their emotions as a result of an immersive experience develop the capability to cope with and manage strong emotions in the future, opening a pathway towards more emotional availability and empathy.” (Read more on Immersive Learning And How To Implement It from chroynko’s Kerrie Fraser here.)

6. Sleep Under The Stars In Washington

Oculis Lodge, Washington

Stargazers in the Washington area are in for a treat, as a smattering of igloo-like domes have popped up deep in the Cascade Mountains boasting 15-foot-wide skylights and heated decks with private saunas and hot tubs. As reported by Travel and Leisure, the shiny new Oculis Lodge is designed to help travellers switch off from their busy day-to-day lives and tune into the wonders of the universe, basking in expansive, star-studded skies and finding awe in the remoteness of the mountains. Due to open in April 2023, each dome features a jacuzzi, fire pit, smart home tech and a heated deck for your morning workout. 

Surrounded by seven acres of land in the small town of Glacier, during your stay you can ski, hike, bike, catch up on some sleep in a hammock or seek out Jupiter through your in-pod telescope from the skylight on the roof of the dome. The 700-square foot pods feature a sleeping loft, kitchen and a bathroom with a giant tub. The structures are made from reclaimed and recycled materials and use 50% less energy to heat and cool than a space of comparable size. The project is the brainchild of the founders of the Igloo Beach Lodge in Costa Rica, a 24-room pod hotel near Espadilla Beach, and is being crowdfunded on Indiegogo.

7. The Trends Shaping CX This Year

Mixed reality company Perfect Corp augmented reality (AR) ring and bracelet try-on settings

Immersive experiences are leading CX trends right now according to a new report from Zendesk, as customers seek out elevated shopping experiences. As a result, retailers are revamping the customer journey and are turning to AI to deliver convenient and compelling customer experiences. Personalisation isn’t going anywhere either, as brands seek to stand out in a crowded marketplace by offering loyal customers ever-more bespoke offerings tailored to their individual needs and desires. Genetic merch no longer cuts the mustard in 2023. Wellbeing and delivering a pleasant, stress-free experience is also being factored into CX as it is in all areas of industry this year.

The findings from Zendesk are based on data from over 4,700 customer service and experience leaders and over 100,000 Zendesk customers worldwide. “In the past two years, we’ve seen customer expectations rising like never before and businesses having to up their CX game at an unprecedented speed, all in the midst of major macro trends shaping the global economy,” said Matthias Goehler, chief technology officer EMEA at Zendesk. “Harnessing the power of exceptional CX will be a key for business resilience and growth this year and beyond. Companies that understand the value of investing in technology to provide what their customers want – a seamless, immersive CX – will be those gaining more customers, building on loyalty and becoming profitable in the long run.”