Ralph Lauren to Venture Into the Metaverse

Ralph Lauren is advancing ‘phygital’ commerce in the metaverse with a real-life boot originating from Fortnite.

Ralph Lauren, a renowned fashion brand, has taken an innovative step in bridging the divide between the physical and digital worlds. The company has created a ‘phygital’ version of its Polo P-Wing Boot, which will launch on August 3. This product takes its cues from a digital item previously sold in the online gaming platform, Fortnite, last year. This unique move represents an emerging trend in the fashion industry, showcasing how brands are increasingly using the metaverse to test products and new commerce channels. However, it also illustrates the challenges involved in intertwining the physical and digital realms effectively.

Ralph Lauren’s Integration with Fortnite

Ralph Lauren has been making its presence known in the gaming world since last year. 

This began with the launch of a variety of in-game outfits and items within the popular Fortnite game. While all in-game cosmetics from Ralph Lauren were valued around $20 previously, the physical version of the Polo P-Wing Boot is set to be sold for a hefty $250. The company plans to produce only 200 pairs, a strategy expected to create a sense of exclusivity and drive demand, according to Ralph Lauren’s Chief Innovation Officer.

To accompany this innovative sale, Ralph Lauren has crafted a unique Fortnite experience dubbed “Race to Greatness by Polo Ralph Lauren.” Developed by Beyond Creative, this virtual island incorporates various locations inspired by Ralph Lauren runway shows and other properties. The Polo P-Wing Boot remains the central attraction.

The Influence of Virtual Commerce on Product Testing

The expansion of virtual commerce presents an intriguing avenue for product testing in the fashion industry. Various brands, including Forever 21, have started releasing items on metaverse platforms such as Roblox to assess their potential success as physical products. For instance, a virtual beanie hat sold over 1.5 million times on Roblox before Forever 21 introduced it as a physical item.

Footwear brands, like Nike and Puma, have also adopted this approach. By tapping into the collectible nature of sneakers and combining it with innovative tech, these brands are making inroads into virtual commerce. With the introduction of the Polo P-Wing Boot, Ralph Lauren joins this growing trend, acknowledging the influence of virtual consumers on the fashion industry.

Ralph Lauren: A Pioneer or Just Another Billboard?

Despite Ralph Lauren’s bold move, its virtual commerce endeavor has certain limitations. The Polo P-Wing Boot, while virtually available in Fortnite, can only be physically purchased through RalphLauren.com. Consequently, gamers cannot buy the boot directly from the game even if they own its digital counterpart.

Critics argue that this model of “phygital” releases, without providing direct in-game purchasing options, might just serve as a futuristic marketing technique rather than a groundbreaking commerce channel. To truly engage with consumers everywhere they are, brands should ensure a seamless connection between their physical and virtual offerings.

While this might be seen as a limitation, Ralph Lauren intends to continue its metaverse expansion. The brand acknowledges the need for direct virtual commerce opportunities. Although it doesn’t plan to sell the P-Wing Boot within Fortnite currently, the company is open to allowing purchases directly from games and other virtual platforms in the future. Thus, if Fortnite users express a desire to shop within the game, Ralph Lauren stands ready to cater to this need, thereby making its metaverse presence truly interactive and engaging.

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