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About the Authors:
David Gearhart, CFA
Senior Vice President
David Gearhart has worked in finance and investment for two decades and joined First Analysis in 2011. He works with entrepreneurs as an investor and as an advisor on growth transactions to help build leading Internet of Things and e-commerce software businesses. He has played a key role in building First Analysis’ Internet of Things and e-commerce franchises and is a thought leader in his sectors, having authored several widely read white papers. He supports First Analysis' investments in CoolR Group, EdgeIQ, Freeosk and SmartCommerce. Prior to joining First Analysis, he was an accountant with The Northern Trust Co. and an options broker with American Option Services. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Purdue University with a concentration in economics and finance and his MBA at DePaul University with a focus on finance and entrepreneurship. He is a CFA charterholder.
Novisa Petrusich
Associate
Novisa Petrusich is an associate with First Analysis. Novisa joined the firm in 2018 from Crosstree Capital Partners, a boutique health sciences investment bank, where he was responsible for sell-side merger and acquisition processes and financial advisory. He previously worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers, where he was a part of the private company services group providing customized audit, tax, and advisory services for privately held businesses and private equity portfolio companies. Novisa graduated from the Florida State University College of Business with a bachelor's degree in finance and a minor in applied economics. He was also a member of the Florida State Seminoles football team.
First Analysis E-commerce Optimization Team
Matthew Nicklin
Managing Director
David Gearhart
Senior Vice President
Richard Conklin
Managing Director
Novisa Petrusich
Associate
First Analysis Quarterly Insights
E-commerce Optimization
Brands move toward VR and AR to deliver immersive e-commerce experiences
October 26, 2022
  • The metaverse is poorly understood and has failed to gain traction as a concept, in large part because many offerings to date have focused on niche or novelty uses that have little or no relevance to most people.
  • But we think key technologies underpinning the metaverse - virtual reality, augmented reality, and extended reality - have significant potential when applied to e-commerce to enhance the everyday experience of the billions of people who shop online.
  • We expect brands and retailers to increasingly demand technologies that help them compete and increase sales by delivering more engaging, immersive online experiences, particularly those that help consumers better understand and appreciate product qualities via online interactions that replicate experiences of holding, examining and evaluating products in stores.
  • We discuss how these technologies work, key application areas, why sellers and consumers find them compelling, and which immersive technology provider strategies seem most likely to succeed. We also profile several interesting immersive technology providers.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Includes discussion of 10 private companies

Focus on immersive environments, relatable use cases to replace overhyped metaverse

Many types of immersive e-commerce environments

The potential audience and user base for immersive e-commerce is substantial

Compelling reasons to adopt immersive capabilities

Multi-year tailwind for thoughtfully positioned solutions

Representative vendors

Compelling opportunity in tech for immersive e-commerce experiences

First Analysis E-commerce Optimization Index rangebound near one-year low

E-commerce optimization M&A pace slows

E-commerce optimization private placement pace slowed in Q3

Focus on immersive environments, relatable use cases to replace overhyped metaverse

Most people have encountered the term metaverse, particularly since Facebook adopted the name Meta to reflect its metaverse ambitions. However, despite the broad awareness, most people do not understand what the metaverse means. Without a widely accepted and understandable definition, metaverse proponents have stumbled in their efforts to educate the market. Their reliance on general descriptions - for example, the metaverse represents a merging of the real and digital worlds - provides insufficient insight and often creates confusion.

In addition, the most visibly promoted metaverse offerings, which are largely focused on niche or novelty uses that have little or no relevance to most people, have done little to advance mass-market understanding. Examples include buying and selling digital real estate, purchasing digital representations of things in the form of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), buying and changing clothes on digital representations of people (called avatars), and spending the majority of one's time in virtual environments viewed in headsets that display three-dimensional spaces. Buying things in metaverse applications often requires paying with cryptocurrencies, which most people do not have nor know how to get, making the metaverse even less accessible. As a result, most people, even institutional investors, have a negative perception of the metaverse, considering it aspirational technology at best or pure hype at worst.

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