Self-expression is a vital part of many people’s experiences in immersive 3D spaces—especially Gen Z, who are growing up building connections in digital worlds. That’s why we’ve put together the 2023 Digital Expression, Fashion & Beauty Trends Report, which explores the full spectrum of self-expression through avatars, including brand considerations, the psychology behind creating an avatar look and the impact of authentic self-expression on people’s physical style, purchasing decisions, and even mental well-being.
This work builds on the research we did last year that provided valuable early insights on how people express themselves in immersive spaces. Our 2023 report offers new insights that will help creators, brands and industry experts better anticipate and respond to quickly evolving consumer needs.
Here are the top 5 takeaways from the 2023 report*:
1. The importance of digital self-expression continues to grow
In this year’s survey* of over 1,500 members of Gen Z in the U.S. and UK who are active on platforms like Roblox, 56% say styling their avatar is more important to them than styling themselves in the physical world. And for older Gen Z aged 22-26, 64% say that, given a choice, dressing up their avatar would be more important than dressing up in the physical world.
Additionally, 84% of Gen Z respondents say digital fashion is at least somewhat important for them, and 85% think the importance of digital fashion has grown at least some over the past year. More than half (53%) think it’s grown a lot.
These findings echo what we see on our platform: self-expression through digital identity and fashion is an essential part of people’s experience. For example, during the first three quarters of 2023 on Roblox, there were a total of 165 billion avatar updates, up 38% year over year, and people bought nearly 1.6 billion digital fashion items and accessories, up 15% year over year. Plus, millions of Roblox users continue to update their avatars every day.
But the influence of digital style and fashion doesn’t stay in the virtual world. In the survey, 84% report that their physical style is at least somewhat inspired by their avatar’s style, including 54% who say they are very or extremely inspired by what their avatar and other avatars wear.
2. Brand recognition matters for Gen Z in the metaverse
When it comes to metaverse fashion, survey respondents stress that they care about distinct styles and brand recognition: 52% say “stylish digital clothes” is the attribute they pay most attention to when deciding if an avatar is “cool-looking.” And three in four say wearing digital fashions from a recognized brand is at least somewhat important, including 47% of survey respondents who say it’s very or extremely important.
This dynamic can drive purchasing behavior: 84% say that after wearing or trying on a brand’s item in virtual spaces, they’d be at least somewhat likely to consider this brand in the physical world. In fact, 50% say they’d be very or extremely likely to do so.
3. Consumers are open to spending on digital fashion—the more exclusive the better
Meanwhile, designers and brands will be happy to learn that most Gen Z users are also willing to spend on digital fashion: in our survey, 52% say they’re comfortable budgeting up to $10 each month, while another 19% are willing to spend up to $20 monthly and an additional 18% are open to buying $50-$100 of items every month.
The launch of Limiteds this year highlighted Roblox users’ demand for exclusive and rare items, as evidenced by most Limiteds reselling for more than their original cost.
Similarly, a leading electronic music brand, Monstercat, recently teamed up with community creator @WhoseTrade on six single-edition necklaces. Each sold within minutes, including the Ruby Pendant, acquired for 1,000,001 Robux (approximately $10,000), the highest initial Limited sale to date.
4. From head to toe, avatars enable experimentation with expression
While digital fashion is important to Gen Z users, people are also experimenting with other innovative ways of expression through their avatars.
One example of this is avatar makeup, which is already available in some community-created experiences. In addition, numerous brands—like Fenty Beauty, Maybelline, NARS, Givenchy Beauty, NYX, and L’Oreal—are now investing in meeting customers’ interest in it.
And there’s real opportunity for them. According to our survey, more than a third of all respondents (35%) say it’s important to customize their avatar’s makeup daily or weekly, and the number rises to 51% for self-identifying female respondents.
People are also increasingly customizing their avatar hair on Roblox. This year alone, users purchased more than 139 million hairstyles, up 20% over the year before, including more than 7.3 million people who bought five or more hairstyles on Roblox.
But self-expression doesn’t end there: Roblox users have increasingly been adopting emotes, and so far this year, 9.8 million Roblox users bought them, up 64% year over year. That’s something that Tommy Hilfiger took note of in introducing emotes into its Roblox digital fashion collection.
Users are also choosing fantastical auras that match their vibe, like a colorful variety available within Paris Hilton’s Slivingland.
And soon, Roblox users will be able to have expressive avatars featuring realistic emotions. That’s likely to be well-received by Gen Z users since 86% of survey respondents say it is at least somewhat important that their avatar is able to express emotions in order to feel fully represented in the metaverse.
5. Authenticity drives self-expression in immersive spaces and positively impacts well-being
One striking finding from the survey is that most members of Gen Z strive to look good in the metaverse for themselves rather than for others. When choosing their avatar look, 62% say they care a lot that their avatar looks good to them as compared to 37% who say they care a lot that it looks good to others.
And 40% of Gen Z feel it’s easier to present their authentic selves in the metaverse than in the physical world. Among the reasons cited: more “freedom of expression” and “creative options.” Further, people feel they “can be whoever we want” and that it’s “less judgemental” when they interact with others as avatars in immersive spaces.
In fact, our research showed:
- Twice as many respondents believe they are judged less on their looks in the metaverse than in the physical world, and;
- Respondents were 2.2 times more likely to say that expressing themselves in immersive spaces via their avatar feels better (“more me”) than posting 2D photos from the physical world on social media.
Finally, respondents cited a positive impact on their mental well-being: 88% say expressing themselves in immersive spaces has likely helped them comfortably express themselves in the physical world. They note it helps build connections with others (29%), boosts confidence (24%), allows for true self-expression (21%), and helps improve mental health in other ways (25%).
A Universal Connector
Authentic self-expression is often described as a universal connector for people: by sharing who we truly are, we can make genuine connections. As Roblox continues building its platform and products for immersive communication and connection, we’re ensuring that people have the broadest set of opportunities to authentically express themselves. We’re excited to continue studying this space because as our research demonstrated, we know that when people have more control over the many elements they can choose to represent themselves in immersive 3D digital spaces, it can lead to positive impacts on their physical-world connections and well-being.
* Methodology: The ‘2023 Digital Expression, Fashion & Beauty Trends’ report includes two complementary sets of data:
- Behavioral data collected from the Roblox platform from January through September 2023.
- Self-reported survey data collected from 1,545 Gen Z users between the ages of 14 and 26, living in the United States (1027 respondents) and the United Kingdom (518). To obtain these responses, Roblox commissioned a nationally representative survey from Qualtrics fielded September 27-29, 2023. Included stats represent the full respondent sample given sentiment between the two markets (U.S. and UK) was largely similar. The sample has been balanced for gender in both markets using the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey for the U.S. and Office for National Statistics in the UK to reflect the demographic composition of these markets’ population in that age range. In the full report data is referenced as ‘2023 Roblox Self-Expression Survey.’
- For any additional clarifications or questions on the data please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.