Technology   //   November 14, 2022

Baby registries are entering the metaverse

Expectant parents and their loved ones can now order baby gifts and create registries from the metaverse.

Registry service Babylist today launched a colorful candy-themed virtual showroom called “Babylist Land – Gifting Edition.” Shoppers can navigate through rooms organized by clothes, strollers, and other gear, click on the item to get more detail then add it to their registry or place an order.

Since 2011, Babylist has grown to host registries for about one in three expectant U.S.parents, per company data. It most recently raised $40 million in a Series C funding round in November 2021, with a goal of hitting $250 million in annual revenue.

Chief Growth Officer Lee Anne Grant told Modern Retail that the move to the metaverse is to give consumers a more tangible way to shop and register.

“This is a really high-consideration product area, similar to furniture. You want to really understand what fits for you, how much to spend and what does this look like,” she said. “We also know that our users spend about 40 hours building a registry so they want to spend a lot of time on it, and the metaverse is kind of perfect for that.”

As many new parents are millennials and Gen Z, the experiences could resonate from a demographic standpoint: fintech company FIS found this year that 49% of millennials and 35% of Gen Z say they’re likely to access the metaverse in the next year, compared to 29% of all consumers.

And Babylist is far from alone in experimenting with experiential online shopping; recent weeks have seen launches from brands like Clarie’s, PacSun and Cheetos.

Grant said the virtual showroom doubles as a way for the brand to gather data and test hypotheses on how customers want to shop. Shoppers can invite friends to join them in the showroom via a Zoom-like feature, and there are integrated games that unlock special offers. Product reviews and tutorials are linked throughout. There’s a photobooth for virtual selfies, and an astrology-themed wall with baby name suggestions.

“The metaverse is just a big old experiment right now,” Grant said. “We wanted to start learning early because we believe that in a couple of years, or in five years, or in 10 years, it will be a core part of kind of how people are shopping. So why not start learning now?”

An evolving strategy

The genesis of Babylist Land started in 2021 as in-person events began to pick back up following COVID-19 lockdowns. Babylist had long toyed around with the idea of having a physical shopping space, and the brand set up two pop-up showrooms in apartments in Los Angeles and New York City.

For three weeks shoppers could visit the apartments in person, or browse the rooms online. Those experiences yielded a combined 1,000 viewing hours, 100,000 page views, and 5,000 items added to registries.

Grant said those experiences proved there was an appetite for people to look at baby items in a simulated environment.  So this June, while mapping out holiday marketing strategies, the team revisited the idea to launch Babylist Land – Gifting Edition.

This time, the shop will be up indefinitely. There are added features like the Zoom-like integration, and Babylist plans to market the shop to its roughly 5 million customers via newsletters including parents making registries and people who’ve bought gifts in the past.

The displays in the showroom go beyond newborn baby, including toddler gear or gifts for parents and grandparents — an intentional move to help the company go beyond shower gifts, Grant said.

“It’s a big opportunity for us to serve expecting and new parents and their friends and family across not just that shower moment, but baby’s first birthday and holiday, etc.,” she said.

Grant wouldn’t share how much it costs Babylist to run the operation, she said that it was “a very small” portion of the company’s marketing budget to hire third-party contractor Obsess to build the infrastructure. Babylist’s in-house content team, The Push, scored a sponsorship from buy now, pay later service Afterpay which will give a $15 coupon to users that opt to pay through the service.

“Even if it’s 1% of users use it, we’re learning and having fun with it,” Grant said.

Targeting early adopters

Deb Gabor, a brand strategist and CEO of Sol Marketing, said metaverse-based experiences can be a boon for online-based brands by providing a simulated experience. In the case of baby gear, that might mean getting a better idea of the size of an item or seeing how a piece of furniture fits into a nursery.

Metaverse-based experiences will succeed if the end consumer is able to navigate the space easily and feel fully immersed, Gabor said. And despite the potential upsides, virtual shopping experiences are far from a baseline requirement for brands operating in today’s environment.

But that may change should more and more metaverse-based experiences become commonplace.

“Brands in this space are still early adopters,” Gabor said. “Once it becomes standard equipment in the category of retail, then others are going to have to start adopting it.”

But she cautioned against brands leaning too much into the tech itself as a marketing ploy. Most consumers aren’t interested in flashy technology for its own sake, Gabor said.

“Consumers don’t care what technology you’re using, or the story behind it,” she said. “What they care about is the experience of having it be made more exciting, easier and and more emotionally engaging for them to be able to shop.”

Grant acknowledges the system might not be for everyone. But for those who are game to try it out, the main goal is that it will be an engaging experience.

“I don’t want them to feel like they’re a part of the metaverse,” Grant said. “I want them to feel like they’re having a good time, and they’re learning and they’re finding some products that they need.”