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Ecommerce moments of the week: Metaverse real-estate, digital order caps and robot stores

A girl sits on a yellow chair shopping on a phone

This week in ecommerce, the Metaverse and IRL stores are locked in a bitter battle to create the most Gen Z optimized shopping experience. Plus, a Gen Z ecommerce founder is teaching us all how to get sustainable ecommerce right.

Toward: the radical Gen Z fashion brand that’s limiting orders 

As marketers, it’s endlessly fascinating to see how Gen Zs are spending their money. But it’s equally worth looking at how they do business – after all, with just under half of Gen Zs aspiring to start an online business, they’ll be shaping the future of ecommerce in more ways than one. 

A pile of parcels in the back of a delivery van

Toward is one such brand – from launch, it made the radical choice to limit the number of orders per person to 12 per year. Shoppers can still order as many items as they wish in a single order, but by packaging and shipping them all at one time, the overall environmental impact is dramatically reduced. 

Toward and the ideas that have built it are so radical because they place sustainability above all else – including profit. Perhaps, this could only have come from a Gen Z founder. Anna Kannan graduated from college in 2020, and since then has been on a mission to combat greenwashing. Her work and her business represent a new type of ecommerce business – one set up with sustainability in mind from the start.

JD and Aldi open till-free shops 

When Amazon did it, it seemed to be a wacky experiment – but now till-free shops are entering the mainstream. The past week, two retailers have opened tech-infused physical shops in Europe: Chinese giant brought two “robotic shops” to the Netherlands, and affordable supermarket Aldi piloted its first checkout-less shop in the UK. 

An image of an Aldi storefront

As digital as Gen Zs are, our research shows that they’re not ready to abandon in-person retail completely. Indeed, they might never lose the urge to handle a product and try it out in-person before committing to purchase. Brands with online and offline presences have long been trying to distill the best of both into one shopping experience. 

A woman shops for fresh goods in a supermarket

The “grab and go” supermarket is an early pioneer that could very much change the world. Shoppers are anchored to the in-store experience via an app – Gen Zs’ favorite ecommerce format – and are charged for their items once they leave the store, having been tracked throughout by high-tech cameras. If it takes off, Gen Zs could embrace this hybrid of ecommerce and in-store retail across all verticals. 

Meanwhile, in the Metaverse… 

On one hand, brands are paying attention to Gen Z’s love of in-store retail. Over in the Metaverse, it’s a different story. Estée Lauder is the latest brand to throw open the virtual gates on a whole new digital world. Digital visitors to Maison Too Faced can wander around lush landscapes, play games, interact with other users and – ultimately – win discounts for Too Faced products. 

A screenshot of Too Faced's Metaverse world

Brands looking to launch virtual storefronts may need to move quickly. Real estate in blockchain-backed worlds is getting bought up quickly, and Estée Lauder is by no means the first to pioneer a digital shopping world beyond this one.

The future of ecommerce is in Gen Z’s hands. Read our full Future of Ecommerce report today.

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