Lacoste x Emperia: big winner in the Metaverse category at the 2023 Webby Awards

The brand with the crocodile was crowned the winner of the Webby Awards 2023 in the Metaverse category. The award recognizes the brand’s first virtual store, created with the help of Emperia and Arianee, two startups specializing in the web3.


Since 1996, the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (IADAS) has recognized the most qualitative initiatives in the Internet sphere each year: websites, interactive advertisements, online films, videos, or mobile websites.


Although the winners were announced at the end of April, the award ceremony for the 27th edition of the Webby Awards – a sort of Internet Oscars – took place on May 16.


The British startup Emperia, founded in 2019 and specializing in virtual reality, won the Metaverse, Retail & Shopping Award.


This award recognizes a retail activation for Lacoste’s virtual boutique that is consistent with the brand’s universe, respects web3 codes and is innovative in customer experience (notably via Token Gating).


On its Linkedin page, the startup Emperia was delighted with the win: “Our collaboration with the Lacoste team has resulted in a groundbreaking shopping experience that puts the community and the brand story at the center of the online retail shopping journey. Congratulations, and thanks to everyone involved in this great partnership!”


An immersive brand experience


The company was identified this year as one of the Forbes Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Web3, Metaverse, Blockchain, and Cryptocurrencies.


This virtual store strategy follows in the footsteps of other brands such as Gucci – winner of the People’s Choice Award at the Webby Awards 2023 for its Gucci Town activation – and Clinique. Emperia has designed immersive virtual retail experiences for Burberry, Dior, Bloomingdale’s, and Tommy Hilfiger.


The objective was to demonstrate the brand’s creativity by capitalizing on a personalized experience reinforcing the brand community’s sense of belonging.


To enter the store and fully enjoy the virtual experience, the user is asked to enter through the mouth of the crocodile. This portal to the other world is the silhouette of the brand’s animal emblem since its foundation in 1933. A storytelling operation inspired by the myth of Jonas and the cycle of the Hero’s Journey by American mythologist Joseph Campbell with its crucial stage of the “Belly of Whale.”


This is one of the strengths of the experience: to offer a unique adventure totally in line with the DNA of the House and its universe, mixing tennis and streetwear. The crocodile appears in the architectural framework and the omnipresent green hue of this digital sales space. At the same time, graphic details evoke tennis nets or the brand’s emblematic cotton jersey polo shirts.



The customer journey begins with a first room, a virtual showroom presenting five seasonal products.


Further, the customer discovers a second space allowing him to manipulate and rotate the virtual products to observe them from all angles.


A third room at the back of the virtual store uses token-gating, designed by Arianee, a flagship French tech startup specializing in NFT digital passports founded in 2017.


This ultimate space remains exclusively reserved for VIP members of UNDW3 (Underwater), the Web3 community of the Lacoste brand.

The community at the center of the shopping experience


To cross the threshold of the third space, you must be able to show your credentials, or rather have an NFT Genesis Pass from the Lacoste brand.


More precisely, you must be the holder of one of the 11212 unique PFPs of The Emerge collection put on sale in June 2022, at the time for the unit price of 0,08 ETH (95 euros). The number of pieces available strongly references the L1212, the polo shirt invented by René Lacoste.


A feat achieved with the help of Arianee through the launch of 350 exclusive virtual products.


Capture from the NFT collectibles collection The Emerge © Lacoste


These NFTs allowed their owner to join the web3 brand community UNDW3.

An initiative whose name translates as “Under Water” and which, according to Lacoste, aims to “allow community members to take ownership of Lacoste in a new creative way.”


The integration of decentralization, an essential Web3 value, is one of this activation’s great successes.


In December, members of the UNDW3 program were able to collect mystery gift boxes (loot boxes) containing prizes and exclusive offers.


Third room of the Lacoste virtual boutique exclusively reserved for members of the UNDW3 community © Lacoste/Emperia/Arianee


With a regularly renewed offer of virtual products (seasonal, virtual objects), the crocodile brand offers its community a good reason to return to its virtual store.


Lacoste thus fills one of the main flaws of the Metaverse exploration: the fact that most users see it as a one-time exploration.


As Pierre-Nicolas Hurstel, CEO and co-founder of Arianee, says,The personalization of shopping experiences, whether physical, digital or immersive, is key to the future of the web3 customer journey.”


Croco Island portal in the video game Minecraft © Lacoste/Minecraft


Lacoste is a pioneer in Web3, just like Gucci and Nike.


The French brand began its foray into nested Metaverse virtual worlds through the video game Minecraft. This 2022 collaboration resulted in an exclusive physical capsule collection and the construction of the Croco Island in the game.


Here again, we find the crocodile portal. And what better portal to exclusive benefits than token gating?


Token Gating and value creation


Today, fashion and luxury brands are driven by two crucial issues: preserving the rarity of their products but also reaching a younger clientele, composed of Gen Z (born between 1997 and 2010) and Alpha generation (born between 2010 and 2025).


A mission that the NFT, or Non-Fungible Token, perfectly fulfills. This rare digital asset represents the ownership of a unique object, whether a digital work, a collectible, or a video game accessory.


The NFT presents an undeniable retail opportunity in its ability to refine the targeting of its loyalty programs, mainly via token gating.


This marketing tool rewards NFT holders by creating exclusive content and giving access to events and exceptional products.


These holders can also benefit from priority access to product launches (physical or virtual) or NFT.


Token Gating allows you to have a loyal and committed community rewarded for its participation.
An NFT gated token can create value for members and their community and has the added security of verifying the authenticity of NFT holders.


With a simple wallet connection enabled by Arianee’s token-gating solutions, UNDW3 Genesis Pass NFT holders can access the third room of the Lacoste virtual store. Five users were drawn randomly during the holiday season to win exclusive benefits, including physical products from the Lacoste Holiday collection.


As Arianee’s co-founder and CEO, Pierre-Nicolas Hurstel, told Vogue Business: NFT and token gating underpin “the concept of digital memory but also that of qualification”.


Read also > Clinique takes another leap into the metaverse

Featured photo : © Lacoste/Emperia


Picture of Victor Gosselin
Victor Gosselin
Victor Gosselin is a journalist specializing in luxury, HR, tech, retail, and editorial consulting. A graduate of EIML Paris, he has been working in the luxury industry for 9 years. Fond of fashion, Asia, history, and long format, this ex-Welcome To The Jungle and Time To Disrupt likes to analyze the news from a sociological and cultural angle.

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