Gucci and Giphy add avatars to their apps as potential digital revenue drivers
For a while now, video games have profited from selling digital goods or “skins” to more than 2.5 billion people who spend an estimated $100 billion on virtual goods. Fortnite itself has made a billion dollars over two years of selling “skins” for players to dress up their characters.
Now, brands and social media platforms are eyeing a piece of the digital goods economy for themselves.
Today, luxury fashion brand Gucci and gif-sharing and creation platform Giphy are introducing virtual avatar creators into their apps, and with them, the potential to make money from digital goods that users can purchase to personalize and dress them.
Both brands are partnering with Genies, known for creating bobble-headed, expressive avatars in campaigns for brands like Procter & Gamble and New Balance, and celebrities like Justin Bieber, J Balvin, Shawn Mendes, Cardi B and DJ Khaled.
Genies has created a new 3D Avatar software development kit (SDK) enabling its partners to place a branded avatar experience and online marketplace directly in their apps so users can express themselves through avatars and thousands of digital clothing and accessories. How this SDK is being used varies depending on the partner and platform.
Akash Nigam, Genies CEO and co-founder, believes this SDK offering caters to Gen-Zers and millennials looking for more ways to express themselves digitally, and brands looking to reach young shoppers online—something the pandemic has only accelerated. “I think they’re looking at that next level of expression that gets them to their authentic selves,” he says.
When shoppers go into the Gucci app, they have the option to create their own digital avatar which they can then dress in about a dozen digital Gucci styles. Until now, Gucci has been working with Genies for the past two years for its clothes to appear within the Genies app only.
Robert Triefus, executive VP and chief marketing officer at Gucci, says digital shirts, jackets and hats have been the most popular for avatars within the Genies app, so he’s predicting the same will be true when bringing the technology into Gucci’s own ecosystem. So far, items will continue to be free, but the brand plans on adding monetary value to them in the coming year. More categories, such as sneakers and accessories, will be added as well.
“The future of retail will not be confined by walls but will continue to evolve through a digitally enhanced ecosystem, allowing customers to try items on before buying them through avatars or AR or VR experiences,” says Triefus.
For brands that might not be selling their own digital goods, Genies has its own Shop connected to its avatar creation technology that offers thousands of outfits, some for free and some available to be purchased.
Giphy, for instance, will use that store for its own avatar integration. Through the Giphy app, users will have the option to create an avatar when they’re onboarded or add one in their profile settings and purchase additional accessories or outfits for them through the Genie store. Users can then share their creations through texting or any of the social accounts in Giphy’s distribution network, which includes Facebook Messenger, Pinterest, WhatsApp and more.
Selling digital goods within their own apps gives brands like Gucci a new revenue line. In all instances, the revenue from any digital goods sold through Genies’ SDK is split between the parties. If a celebrity is involved, the revenue split goes three-ways: Between the platform, Genies and the celebrity. Nigam would not comment on the price to incorporate the SDK or how the revenue splits would be weighed.
J Balvin and other celebrities will also start using Genies’ new 3D avatars in their social media posts and future album releases.
The avatar and digital goods integration also allows for brands like Gucci and Giphy to glean new insight into how users interact with their avatars and which digital goods they gravitate towards or buy. Genies’ SDK has a content management system revealing what Nigam calls “aspirational data,” because users often create avatars based on an aspirational version of who they want to be.
“An avatar is not a one-to-one representation of what you are in the real world, it’s an aspirational version of what you want to be. That’s how people create avatars,” says Nigam. “An SDK partner or brand can learn a lot about what users want to be and that’s really interesting to them. They can then create features or try different methods of putting content in front of users, based on the aspirational content they’re accruing.”
Genies has plans to roll out this feature to desktop eventually and is also looking into creating a potential secondary marketplace where users who buy online goods can then sell them to other people online. A person who buys a Gucci shoe to decorate their avatar could then sell it to another user.
Nigam says that more brands are set to introduce avatars and their own digital goods ecosystem beginning in 2021.