Talking Social Shopping, NFTs and the Metaverse with Meta's Eva Press

The Metaverse certainly seems to be on everybody’s mind this year but, so far, everyone we’ve spoke to seems to have a different definition of what the Metaverse actually is. On this episode, we go straight to the source as Julia Hare sits down with Eva Press, vice president of the global business group at Meta.

During their conversation, Eva reveals how social commerce has evolved during her time at Meta, the role technology will play in tomorrow’s retail landscape, and delivers the scoop on what retail will look like in the Metaverse.

About Eva Press: Eva is vice president of the global business group at Meta, where she leads Meta’s sales and account teams in the US for the Retail, Consumer Packaged Goods and Health verticals. Eva and her teams focus on partnering with large, complex, traditional advertisers to navigate the disruptions shaping the marketing landscape.

Before joining Facebook, Eva spent ten years in Brand Management at Kraft Foods, leading such iconic brands as Planters Nuts and Oreo Cookies. She holds her MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management, and undergraduate degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and the Wharton School of Business.

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Host: Julia Hare
Produced by Gabriella Bock

TRANSCRIPTION

Julia Hare:
Hello. And welcome back to another episode of Rethink Retail. I’m your host Julia Hare. And today we are speaking with my guest Eva Press. Eva is the vice president of Meta’s North American global business group. Thank you for joining the show today, Eva.

Eva Press:
Thank you so much for having me. I’m really excited to chat with you.

Julia Hare:
Well, I am out of the world, excited to talk with you, because every single person in retail right now is talking about the metaverse, it’s the hottest topic, I would say. There’s a lot of naysayers. There’s a lot of promoters. There’s a lot of opinions. And I think there’s also a lot of confusion.

Eva Press:
Yes.

Julia Hare:
So hopefully you can help clear some things up, but I’ll just set this stage by mentioning that we’ve seen consumers spending shifting from products to experiences over the last couple years, it’s a pretty big shift and we’re seeing immersive brand experiences popping up more and more, and becoming more quality. And alongside of this is social media, influencer culture, younger consumers, gen Z, and now gen alpha are seeking out these brand experiences that are highly visual, interactive, and worthy of sharing with their peers, which is really hard to do for any retailers listening, you know it’s way, way harder than it looks to really get those exceptional experience. So Eva, can you walk us through the trend a little bit on how social selling has evolved during your time at Facebook, now Meta, and what does that look like in 2022?

Eva Press:
Yeah. I’ve been with the company now for over 10 years, and social selling or commerce has really been a central part of the experience on our platform for probably most of that time. And it’s really been guided by what we see happening with the people who use our platforms. And so if you think about marketplace, that evolved after we saw people using our platforms to sell things, and they were selling everything from bicycles to coffee tables, to used cars and everything in between. And the way they were starting to do that was by posting a picture of the product on their profile with a, for sale caption. And then over time, they started building out these buy and sell groups and we saw that happening and created marketplace, which now has over a billion people globally visiting Facebook marketplace. So, that really came out of consumer behavior.

Eva Press:
And then another great example is if you think back to the early days of Instagram, you actually couldn’t link out from a post to be able to purchase a product. So we saw brands and creators being really clever and they were posting the links to their websites in their profiles, so people could actually go and buy the products that they saw and liked. And you fast forward to today, you can not only link directly to shop now from a poster and ad, but you can also tag products in the post. So it gets easier and easier to buy the things that you see and love. And I think the thing that’s been consistent about the way that we see our commerce work, and really everything that we do, is that we are focused on removing friction and on making it easier for people to discover and then ultimately to buy the products that they love.

Eva Press:
And we see a lot of times, those are things that people didn’t even realize that they wanted or needed, and over and over and over again, we found that really one of the superpowers of our platform is driving what we call discovery commerce, which is that serendipitous moment when you find this amazing product through the power of personalized ads, through your connections with creators. And that really has been central to a lot of the commerce and the social selling that we see on the platform. And I always like to ask, so I’m going to ask you, is there a product or a brand that you have discovered through Instagram or Facebook that you didn’t even know that you needed in your life until you found it?

Julia Hare:
Absolutely. From big to small items, but the most recent one, because I am pregnant, I think a lot of the listeners know, or at least if you didn’t know, I am seven months pregnant. So I have baby products on the mind and I was targeted with a Lalabu Dad Shirt.

Eva Press:
Cool.

Julia Hare:
And it’s a t-shirt, but it has a pocket in the front and it’s reinforced so they can put the infant baby like a kangaroo pouch, but for dads. And it was-.

Eva Press:
Awesome.

Julia Hare:
… so odd, but it had tons of reviews and people commenting, and it looked like really authentic reviews. So I went ahead and bought one. And that was my latest impulse buy based on Instagram and Facebook targeting.

Eva Press:
I love that. And I love when you find something and you’ve never heard of it, you never thought of it, but suddenly it is the thing that you desperately need.

Julia Hare:
Yeah. It was just so cool. I was like, I didn’t know this existed.

Eva Press:
Yeah.

Julia Hare:
So I don’t know. We’ll see, it’s in the mail. So I’ll-.

Eva Press:
You’ll have to let me know.

Julia Hare:
… maybe. Yeah. And there was another thing. It was just silly. I’m on marketplace all the time. It’s actually, it’s an addiction. I like to check and see what’s out there. And there was an ad tucked into just my search and it was for some prank sticker and I showed my husband and he went ahead and bought it, because we play jokes on my brother. So just even little things where you’re not even expecting to buy it, but you’re like, this is funny.

Eva Press:
Yeah. Yeah. And it’s that joy of discovering something that really is the most fun about the way that products get sold and find people on our platforms.

Julia Hare:
What about you? I have to punt it back to you. Do you remember your last impulse purchase?

Eva Press:
I don’t know if it’s my last, but one of the ones that’s just stuck with me is Prose, which is, I don’t know if you know it, it’s a personalized hair care products and the ads kept finding me on Instagram and it’s amazing. It had great reviews, just like the shirt that you described, and they basically customize the hair care for your hair type, for the season. You can choose the fragrance. It’s amazing. And my hair has never been healthier or looked better. And so I’m a huge advocate.

Julia Hare:
Okay. I wrote that down, because I’m going to have to look at that brand. I will say I’m currently using Davines hair products, because we had someone from there on the podcast just a month ago. And she sent me some really nice products, which I do love their stuff, but I’m always open to testing new things. So I will look, it’s Prose, P-R-O-S-E.

Eva Press:
That’s it.

Julia Hare:
Very cool. Well, I wanted to get back to some questions specifically about the metaverse, because that’s the hot topic right now. And I wonder, we’re going straight to the source, so Eva, if you could explain from your point of view, your bird’s eye view, what it is.

Eva Press:
Yeah. It’s such a good question. And I think the metaverse is hard to pin down right now, really for two reasons. First is, it’s not just one thing, it’s a lot of different things. It really is a series of interconnected digital spaces that are ultimately going to allow people to move seamlessly between them and do things that you can’t do in the physical world, a lot of times with people you’re not even physically with. And I think a lot of people make this leap that the metaverse is synonymous with VR, but that’s really a small part of the overall experience. It encompasses everything from 2D video calls to augmented reality or AR, to entirely immersive 3D virtual reality worlds that are all stitched together to form this next iteration of the internet. So the fact that it’s multiple things, means that it’s a little harder to wrap your head around.

Eva Press:
And I think the second reason is, because it really is early days. I think about it as, we’re back in the early days of the worldwide web, for those of us who live through that in the early to mid nineties, or smartphones in, around 2005, everyone is talking about it. Everyone thinks it’s amazing. Not a lot of people have really experienced it or figured out what to do with it yet. And in the same way that those technologies changed so much for us, the metaverse is fundamentally going to change the way people interact with each other, the way they interact with brands, the way they interact with both the physical and the digital worlds.

Eva Press:
And for us, we believe that it is the next evolution in social technology. It is the next big computing platform. And that’s really why we changed our name to the metaverse to ensure that we’re really focused on that future state. But I also want to be really clear that in the same way that the metaverse isn’t just one thing, it’s not going to be owned or built by just one company. We are working very closely with others across the industry and building devices and platforms and marketing strategies that will really enable, empower and grow the space.

Julia Hare:
I think that is definitely something that is a little bit like a black box right now in terms of who the big winners will be in the metaverse space and what the coolest experiences will be. And it’s hard to imagine, I think for a lot of people, because even back, like you said, when the worldwide web was a relatively new thing, you just couldn’t imagine how people would operate 20 years later, and live online in a lot of ways, and have these online personalities that are an extension of yourself, but maybe a little bit highlight reel and things like that. But you said 2D video calls, AR and VR, it’s multiple formats, it’s not just the, what you’re thinking of, put on a headset and VR and you’re in the metaverse, it’s more than that.

Eva Press:
Yeah. It’s really about all of these digital experiences that are connected together to create this other dimension, this other world that people can participate in, and you can participate in it fully immersively, but also in ways that are a bit more lightweight, that are more connected to the physical world. And I think that’s really important to understand the full spectrum, particularly for marketers and for retailers, as you’re thinking about how to lean into this space, knowing that you don’t have to go all the way to building this virtual reality world, I think is really important as you think about how to experiment and how to try things and see what works and see what drives your business.

Julia Hare:
And I want to ask you, because we had the VP of innovation at Carrefour on, and he was mentioning, he was like, I can’t talk about it yet, but we have just purchased real estate in the metaverse, which sounds a little crazy. However, if you think back to the worldwide web, when people were purchasing domains, I guess you could say that’s similar, it’s digital property. How do you see the retail space tying into the metaverse maybe in the next year from now, do you think it’ll take three years? What’s the timeline for retailers to really get invested?

Eva Press:
I think it depends on how deep of an investment we’re talking about. I think the reality is that people are already leaning in. And so in the same way that we started to see changes happening, as you mentioned, with the way that people market, as they got further and further into worldwide web, as those experiences and as it became more common for people, if you think about the very simple banner ads that we all used to run, there were basically static banner ads. And then it evolved to full page takeovers, to video ads with interactive experiences. It wasn’t even possible to think about. And so I do think that if we think about what we’re going to see over the next year, it’s probably going to be more in the AR augmented reality type space. And I also think it’s going to continue down this idea of personalized experiences and thinking about how to build out not only businesses to sell the digital and fiscal goods, but also how to build deeper connections with people.

Eva Press:
And so a few examples of how that could play out, and we’re starting to see things like this already, but a fashion brand could invite their VIP customers to a front row virtual seat at their fashion week show. And that it would be a more immersive experience, but you think about a furniture company, making it possible to see what the products are going to look like in their home before they buy them. We see people doing that already. You can think about a grocery store hosting interactive demos of recipes with a celebrity chef with sponsored ingredients, or clothing companies creating digital avatars, or digital clothes that your avatar can wear, but that you can also wear out in real life to bring that connection between the physical and the virtual worlds. And the thing that I’m honestly really excited about is if you think about retailers, they are not only some of the most creative marketers in the world, they’re also among the best at creating interactive and experiential marketing experiences and using that to build these deep connections with people.

Eva Press:
So, seeing retailers start to lean into this space and turn their creativity to this new space is extraordinarily exciting. I think the only other thing as I think about what this is going to look like for retailers, is the thing that we know will always be true about marketing is it has to drive business goals, and it has to drive sales. So what we are seeing is that the partners we’re working with who are being really smart and thoughtful about how they are entering the space are making sure that they are thinking about what their business goals are as they go into building any sort of an experience. How they want their consumers to feel? Whether they want their consumers to know or to learn about the brand or the product from that activation, and then building out the experience rather than just trying to build something that’s cool, but may not fully drive the brand or sales goals for that company.

Julia Hare:
Yeah. So you’re saying we always have to drive back to the business goals from any of these relatively large marketing investments. And you mentioned a lot of sub-verticals in retail, fashion, furniture, grocery. I can think of entertainment with the Fortnite video game and the Travis Scott concert that was streamed over the pandemic. And that was extremely successful. So if you’re listening, you can look up some of those shocking stats, but is this geared toward, a lot of people talk about demographics, I think there’s a lot of psychographics that are really important probably for the type of people that are going to be first movers, or who are first movers. Do you have any information on that so far?

Eva Press:
Again, I think that if you’re looking at the broader experiences and really thinking about AR filters, there are far less limitations. I think, yes, the full on virtual reality experiences are a bit more limited today, but we know 55% of consumers are saying that more of their lives and their livelihoods are moving into digital spaces. So we know that consumers are starting to spend their time in these digital spaces in much more immersive ways. And they’re spending on digital products in those spaces. So I really do think that it’s going to be, we’re going to see people continuing to lean into AR as the first phase.

Julia Hare:
Interesting. Yep. That makes a lot of sense. And we’ve heard about different brands having limited collection drops. You mentioned the users spending money to get a digital version of their product, that’s probably really specific for luxury, but I could see it in other categories. What about NFTs? Because I know Nike and beauty brands like Clinique are dabbling in NFTs. Are there other retail categories that you think are leaning into that trend?

Eva Press:
I think we’ll start to see it more and more, again, it’s really early days, but there isn’t just any one retail category that’s leaning into the metaverse and into NFTs. This is where the full creativity of retailers becomes really important. And it is about how do you drive that excitement and passion for the brand while also driving business goals. And the retailers who are doing it in really smart ways are using NFTs even at this early stage as an experimental way to build connection, to drive sales, because it’s often not just the NFT that they’re selling, but the physical version of that NFT as an exclusive. And then what is that? What do you learn from that? And how do you continue to evolve your strategy around NFTs? At the end of the day, I don’t think that we are going to see major distinctions between any company thinking about how to engage in this space and how to use NFTs in really smart ways.

Julia Hare:
Okay. Well, I wanted to ask, because if I’m a retailer listening and I haven’t yet invested in the metaverse, can you talk at all to how that process looks, how they go about it?

Eva Press:
Yeah. The reality is that we are very focused on helping to create the solutions and the ways that people can lean in on starting to build out their activations in this space. And working with partners like Spark AR to create AR effect is a really great way to lean in and try things. I’ll give you a couple of examples, because I think it can be helpful to dimensionalize how to think about this space.

Julia Hare:
Sure.

Eva Press:
There’s a great example that came from The Gap recently. They created this AR effect that let people try on their puffer jacket, that iconic Gap puffer jacket. And the filter was an AR filter that was as realistic as a 3D rendering. And then they brought some of The Gap spirit, brand spirit to it with these cartoon legs, and then these snowflakes that fell around you and a holiday jingle. And they were able to use that effect in both ads and organic posts and with a creator to bring it to life in a pretty holistic way. And I love that example because it really does lean in on a product that’s really important to Gap. So there’s a clear business goal, and it gives you a sense of what you’re going to look like in it, but it also has the fun of The Gap and the playfulness of the brand incorporated. So it is a fully realized experience.

Eva Press:
And then I want to give you another example, because that one is pretty clearly tied to something that we can all understand. You mentioned, we think about beauty and we think about fashion when we think about some of the activations in the metaverse, one of the examples that I really love and that I think taps into some of that creativity I talked about comes from Sephora, and they launched their fragrance brand during the pandemic. And we all know, stores were closed. It’s really hard to sell fragrance when you can’t actually go into the store and smell the different scents. They really smartly partnered with a neuroscientist and they created these ads that used visual cues to trigger scent memories that gave you a sense of what that perfume, what that fragrance was going to smell like. And they called the campaign, smell with your eyes. And it drove really impressive results on ad recall and purchase intent.

Eva Press:
And again, they partnered with creators. They used their owned assets in a really smart way. And to me that just speaks to, of all the things that I think we’ve struggled with in digital, fragrance is one of those, because there is that sensorial need, and this was such a smart and creative way to think about that a little bit differently using new capabilities that weren’t necessarily possible a few years ago.

Julia Hare:
That is so cool, because I think scent is actually one of the strongest senses tied to memory. Right?

Eva Press:
Exactly.

Julia Hare:
That’s what I’ve heard. So, that’s really interesting. And it comes back to just old school marketing when you think about subliminal messaging-.

Eva Press:
Yes.

Julia Hare:
… because they brought in the neuroscientists to try to figure out what would trigger those memory senses for people. That’s so cool.

Eva Press:
Yeah. Actually I’ll share, there’s one other one that I think is really interesting, that’s also not quite as straightforward as some of the ones that I think we’ve been talking about, that one came from Athleta. And during the pandemic, they realized that women really needed a little bit of a break and that they were really stressed and struggling, as I think we all were. And so they used, they created an AR effect that let you be transported to one of three destinations for this moment of tranquility and meditation. And you would choose either mountain or beach or field, and then you would choose if you wanted to have a selfie view, so to see yourself in that setting, or if you wanted to have the opposite perspective and be looking out at that setting.

Eva Press:
And it was a really calming way to give people a little bit of respite and a little bit of break at a really difficult time. And I love that example because, again, it’s so clearly tied to priorities for the brand and the spirit that they want to create and the work that they want to do to support women, but it’s not an obvious answer of how you would do it.

Julia Hare:
Not obvious at all.

Eva Press:
And let me ask, would you choose beach, or mountain, or field?

Julia Hare:
It’s a hard one. I’m a Florida girl. So I’d probably choose beach.

Eva Press:
Yeah. I’m beach all the way.

Julia Hare:
All the way. Yeah. That’s awesome. I love that you gave those examples between Gap and Sephora and Athleta. And Eva, I really enjoyed having you on the show. I want to close out with one more question, which is, just looking into the future, are there aspects of the metaverse, or of retail experiences that you’re most excited to see how they evolve?

Eva Press:
I go back to this idea that it’s still such early days, that the thing that excites me the most is seeing these creative examples. We are at the beginning of the next computing platform, which is just so much fun to think about. And while it’s really easy for us to imagine how this comes to life for fashion and beauty in very straightforward ways, as we think about what’s going to happen next. And you think about some of those examples I just shared, that’s what’s most exciting. It’s really not about which retailers have the right to play in this space, or which retailers are going to do the first things in this space. It’s about, who’s going to really lean in, make the most of the metaverse, create these really personal interactive, immersive experiences that people get really excited to discover and experience. And then obviously ultimately drive their business results. That’s what gets me really excited, is being part of this from the ground up.

Julia Hare:
Well, it’s an exciting time and it was an absolute pleasure to have you on the show, Eva, with all of your knowledge and just direct connection to some of the biggest game changers in the industry. Again, we had Eva Press, the vice president of Meta North American global business group. Thank you so much for joining and I hope to have you on the show again in the future.

Eva Press:
Thank you so much. I would love to come back and chat some more.

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