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Feel like Facebook just isn’t taking up quite enough of your time anymore? It agrees. The company now known as Meta wants to drag you off your computer and into a brick-and-mortar store—where it will then stick you back online and into the metaverse.

On May 9, 2022, Meta opened its first retail store on the company’s campus in Burlingame, Calif. There, customers can get their hands—and eyes, and brains—on products like the Quest 2 virtual-reality headset (boasting excellent reviews); the Portal video calling device (known for its portability and privacy concerns); and the Ray-Ban Stories smart sunglasses, which Ray-Ban describes on its website as follows: “Our smart eyeglasses and smart sunglasses, with camera and audio, combine legendary Meta technology and iconic Ray-Ban style. With Ray-Ban X Meta glasses you can take photos and videos, listen to music and calls, and share content directly to your social media channels.”

The new store, open Monday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m., fits in with Meta’s overall strategy, which fundamentally is to get more consumers more involved with the metaverse—which by one recent forecast, could be worth as much as $426.9 billion by 2027.

The company changed its name from Facebook to Meta in November 2021, as part of its whole-hog investment in the metaverse, even as many people still struggle to really understand what the metaverse means, precisely. A simplified definition notes that the metaverse is essentially an amplified and more immersive version of the online life users currently know, with more ways (e.g., smart glasses, virtual reality headsets) to engage more fully in the digital world and to merge it with their real-world selves. Even with this general sense though, the metaverse remains abstract and confusing. With the new Meta retail store, the company thus hopes to demystify the metaverse, by making it more concrete for, appealing to, and buyable by potential customers, reflecting the belief that “The best way to understand virtual reality is to experience it,” according to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s co-founder and the CEO of Meta. In other words, Meta wants to make the metaverse less virtual and more real.

As customers increasingly try and adopt new gadgets and learn how it feels to spend even more time in different digital worlds, they are likely to develop their own unique preferences, potentially dissimilar to what companies expect or hope for. So another reason that Meta opened this store is to gain insights into what consumers actually like, or don’t, which in turn will help guide its business.

Thus, virtual reality informs real-world retail practices, which redefine the next iteration of the virtual reality. This infinite real-life-virtual-reality feedback loop is also, we believe, part of the metaverse. Does that make it clearer?

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why did Meta open a physical store?
  2. How do you use the metaverse now, and how can you see using it in the future?
  3. What would you advise a company to do, if it were trying to make the metaverse more understandable and appealing to customers?

Source: Mike Isaac, “Meta Plans to Open its First Retail Store as It Highlights Metaverse-Related Products,” The New York Times, April 25, 2022; Dan Gentile, “Meta’s First-Ever Retail Store Just Opened in the Bay Area. Here’s What It’s Like,” SFGATE, May 9, 2022; James Martin, “Inside Meta’s New Retail Store,” CNET, May 6, 2022; Jessica Goodman, “Facebook’s Meta Opens First Tech-Based Retail Store in California,” KIRO 7, May 10, 2022; Salvador Rodriguez, “Facebook Portal Go Review: A Great Portable Video Calling Screen Marred by the Company’s Privacy and Trust Issues,” CNBC, October 19, 2021; Shamani Joshi, “The Metaverse, Explained for People Who Still Don’t Get It,” Vice, March 15, 2022; “Metaverse Market Worth $426.9 Billion by 2027 – Exclusive Report by MarketsandMarkets™,” PRNewswire, May 11, 2022