The internet is forever changing, but now with the metaverse being closer than ever, what does this mean for consumer experiences?

What is the metaverse?

The metaverse is an idea for the future of the internet being increasingly interconnected. The goal is to bring together a range of different aspects such as shopping, social spaces and gaming, under one cohesive platform.

Metaverse phone

 

Interest in the metaverse has spiked recently due to advances in VR technology and investment by big business. However, an accurate definition of the Metaverse is still hard to attain.

 

Facebook, which has a large stake in the metaverse and the future of the internet as a whole proposes that the metaverse will be a set of virtual spaces where people and brands can create and explore with other persons who aren’t in the same physical space. Definitions of the Metaverse can vary drastically, due to different interpretations of what the future may bring. 

There is no definitive start date to the Metaverse. Instead, it is an ever growing concept. With advancements in technology creating a gradual shift towards the Metaverse as a holistic platform. This is best explained by Matthew Ball - Venture Capitalist: There “will be no clean Before Metaverse and After Metaverse,” Ball wrote. “Instead, it will slowly emerge over time as different products, services and capabilities integrate and meld together. This will connect us in a way that will seem unimaginable even in today's closely linked world. ”

Essentially, the metaverse is the foundation of an increasingly interconnected society, affecting how people work, socialise, exercise and relax. At the core of this change will be the advancements in extended reality technology such as AR, VR and MR. These technologies will enhance user experience in the metaverse, making it a more immersive environment. 

 

Important definitions.

  • Extended Reality (XR) - XR is a term that encompasses all technologies that enhance or change our review of the world. This is usually done through immersing computer text and graphics into real world and virtual environments or overlaying. XR comprises AR, VR and MR.
  • Augmented Reality (AR) - AR enhances the view of the real world through overlaying what people see in reality with computer-generated information. This is common on smartphones that have AR applications where the user takes an image from the camera and the app will then display contextual information that looks like it’s in the real world.
  • Virtual Reality (VR) - VR entirely replaces the user’s view. The user is immersed into a computer-generated virtual environment and is not set in the real world in any way.
  • Mixed Reality (MR) - MR is the middle point between AR and VR as it combines the real and virtual world. A prime example of this would be the Pokemon Go game.

Brands at the forefront of change.

It is essential that brands start building their metaverse strategy in 2022 as businesses begin to adopt Metaverse technology. Brands who enter the space early will have the most to gain, developing an understanding of how to connect with consumers and establishing themselves as pioneers in the field.

In 2021, Mark Zuckerberg revealed that Facebook was being  rebranded as ‘META’, representing the future of the social media platform. This is a statement by the company as leaders in this new technological frontier. With their goal being to give everyone the tools to be present in the Metaverse no matter where they are, keeping everyone interconnected. 

Snapchat has long been ahead in their adoption of the metaverse, with the platform embracing the use of avatars and maps since 2017. Snapchat ‘Lens Studio’ allows users to create their own snapchat filters and share them throughout the community. Creators have partnered with brands like Nike and Fanta to help them create their own filters. This is one of the many ways which brands can look to adopt XR technology whilst it is still developing.

The high fashion industry has also been an early adopter. Gucci has recently demonstrated how brands can look to seamlessly incorporate themselves into new virtual spaces. Teaming up with the open world gaming sensation ‘Roblox’, Gucci has recreated 15 of their best campaign sets within the game for users to roam. The interactive rooms also allow users to view, try on and purchase virtual Gucci wear. 

Gucci and Roblox

Source: Roblox blog

With over 43.2 million daily active users, 67% of which are under the age of 16, Gucci’s partnership with roblox is an example of how brands can use new technology to increase their reach and target new customer segments.

 

NFT’s: The bridge for new consumer experiences. 

Non-fungible tokens (NFT’s) are digital assets and items such as images, videos, sound and other intellectual property that can not be replaced or duplicated. NFTs grant ownership of virtual items by registering buyers of virtual goods on the decentralised blockchain. Purchases are logged on the blockchain for all programs and users to clearly see, acting as a published certificate of ownership. 

The relationship between NFTs and the Metaverse is increasingly co dependent. Ownership of NFTs in the Metaverse is the foundation of the digital economy, adding value to digital assets such as art, architecture and clothing. NFTs are the key for creating user identity in the Metaverse, with the Metaverse providing a functional use for NFTs in virtual spaces. 

It is important for businesses to understand an NFTs function within the metaverse when advancing into digital spaces. Being a brand's digital commodity for users at the same time as providing them with unique consumer-brand experiences. 

State Farm, an American insurance company, is exploring the use of NFTs as a reward for participating in their virtual game. Their first NFT giveaway, challenges users to find and collect virtual footballs through their AR camera app, much like the famous Pokemon Go. Using NFTs as an incentive for brand participation is one of many ways brands can activate and engage new audiences.

State Farm Metaverse

Source: Marketing Dive and State Farm

How can brands start getting involved?

Consumers are going to start adapting their consumption to the metaverse throughout the technological shift in the upcoming years. Businesses need to start thinking on how through an omnichannel strategy, can they move consumers through the funnel across different touch points such as physical stores, e-commerce, social commerce and now the metaverse. 

The time has come to identify what is the best path for each brand to merge the strategies across channels or build unique plans for each. The ultimate goal for businesses should be to offer great value to the audience across all channels, whilst incorporating creative and unique consumer experiences.

The metaverse will be opening up endless possibilities for brands to extend their customer value. Brands who are unsure how to do this in the initial stages of the Metaverse can do this by partnering with programs already testing new blockchain, crypto and NFT technology. 

Stella Artois has exploited this opportunity by sponsoring one of the latest NFT and crypto projects. ZED Run allows users to purchase their own digital NFT horses and race them against other users. With over 100,000 stable owners ZED Run is pioneering Metaverse technology.

Zed Community

Source: Zed Community

Rather than just selling products, companies need to start contributing to the development of digital spaces. Actions businesses take in the Metaverse are going to have real life implications on brand perception, consumer engagement, opportunity for collaboration and much more.  

Partnering with influencers is a great way to break into and help build new realities, utilising the trust they have built with their audience to sell digital products and services, or convince consumers to step into the Metaverse. One of the most successful brands to do this has been Fortnite, creating custom skins for influencers and brands alike. Fortnite have worked with hundreds of influencers and celebrities including Travis Scott, Neymar Jr & Marshmallow to create a dynamic virtual world with over $5.1 billion in revenue in 2020.


Key takeaways and learnings. 

  • The metaverse is not something that exists now, but rather a concept that will continue to gradually emerge over time.
  • Businesses need to start taking the future metaverse more seriously now as the shift towards virtual realities has already begun, and brands who get in early will have a significant advantage.
  • Businesses should explore NFTs as more than just a virtual item. They will be the single most powerful tool a brand can use to create unique, consumer tailored experiences.
  • Brands can look to start their metaverse campaign by partnering with businesses and influencers who already have or are working on technology to get into the space.
  • There are two paths into the metaverse - aiding the building and creation of the metaverse or how the business and consumer will exist within it.