While brands go virtual, the tech giant that ignited the metaverse craze is breaking ground with brick-and-mortar.
On Monday, Meta revealed plans to open its first retail location at its Burlingame, Calif., campus, so the public can “discover Portal, Ray-Ban Stories and Quest 2 and try them out in person.”
Set to open on May 9, the 1,550-square-foot store will feature demo areas where shoppers can check out the hardware. People can make video calls with store employees using Portal, play Beat Saber or other titles on the Quest 2 virtual reality headset and try on Ray-Ban’s connected camera glasses, available in three styles.
“The Meta store is going to help people make that connection to how our products can be the gateway to the metaverse in the future,” said Martin Gilliard, head of Meta store, in a statement. To be clear, he noted that “we’re not selling the metaverse in our store, but hopefully people will come in and walk out knowing a little bit more about how our products will help connect them to it.”
The company joins the ranks of its Big Tech brethren with physical outposts, including Apple, Google, Samsung and Microsoft, though the latter drastically cut its retail efforts during the pandemic.
In Meta’s case, the move makes sense for esoteric technology like virtual reality and smart glasses, for which there’s no substitute for firsthand experience. Opening up opportunities for people to engage with that and see, hear and feel it for themselves may help spur traction.
The only wrinkle is the location: It’s not clear how much foot traffic a Burlingame location will generate. That might be different had the company gone 15 miles north to San Francisco or sought out another major city.
Instead, the company is setting up shop close to home, specifically near its Reality Labs division. So it’s not purely about sales or even consumer education, but technical development. Gilliard explained that the store offers “more opportunity to experiment and keep the customer experience core to our development,” adding that those lessons will help shape Meta’s future retail strategy.
In other words, this first foray into physical retail may be just the beginning.