FORBES Feature: The Metaverse: What Brands Should Know Moving Forward
Updated: Mar 29
It's a new year, which means it's time to take a fresh look at the metaverse. We've seen several developments as more companies look to enter this digital realm. Importantly, consumers are becoming more familiar with the term. As our agency continuously keeps a pulse on new technologies and is becoming more involved with the metaverse, we've done our fair share of research on how brands can ease into this new frontier practically.
So, how are people's opinions on the metaverse shaping up, and what do brands need to know as they begin their journey?
Revisiting The Metaverse
First, let's take a refresher on what the metaverse is. Author Neal Stephenson first coined the term in his 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash. There, he envisioned people taking on lifelike avatars and interacting with a realistic digital world. The reality today isn't far from Stephenson's vision, largely thanks to online games like Roblox, Fortnight and Minecraft.
However, online gaming is only the tip of the iceberg for what the metaverse can do. While the growing popularity of gaming helps companies develop the technology needed for a full metaverse and raises consumer awareness of the idea, companies investing in the technology want it to be about more than just leisure. To borrow from the name of a metaverse predecessor, these companies want it to be a second life.
What Do Consumers Think About The Metaverse So Far?
Recently, HubSpot released its 2022 Consumer Trends Report. While understanding and adoption of the metaverse are still small, it is growing. Importantly, a majority of the 1,000-plus U.S. respondents have positive outlooks about the metaverse:
• 34% said that the metaverse is the "future of technology."
• 30% feel brands should open virtual stores.
• 28% believe the metaverse is an extension of reality.
Importantly, those who opt into the metaverse continue to use it. For them, the metaverse has become an important part of leisure and social activities, with 54% of users engaging in the metaverse for gaming and 46% for meeting with friends. For half of the metaverse users, the connection is about authenticity. They feel more themselves when they're in this virtual space.
While the metaverse has been plagued with controversies in the past year, primarily through its adjacent technologies of cryptocurrencies and NFTs, that hasn't harmed the overall face of the metaverse. When it comes to data security, something consumers feel strongly about, 53% of metaverse users felt confident their information has been stored safely on the metaverse.
What Should Brands Know About The Metaverse?
This overwhelmingly positive news may have you wanting to jump straight into the metaverse. Be where consumers are, after all. While the news is exciting, the metaverse is largely new ground, and there's a lot to consider before jumping into it. The full list is exhaustive, but a few key points will help any brand prepare itself for the metaverse:
• The metaverse is not just one thing. While Facebook's name change to Meta is a clear sign that the company wants to position itself well, the metaverse, like the rest of the internet, is made up of multiple platforms.
• The metaverse still poses a lot of questions about digital privacy, digital ownership and intellectual rights, and regulations around digital commerce and advertising.
• While virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) programs have several years of stress-testing in gaming, their utility to e-commerce is largely untested, with most e-commerce in the metaverse limited to either games or cryptocurrency and NFTs.
The Technology Is New; The Metaverse Isn't
The metaverse didn't spring up in the last few years. While we haven't reached a unified metaverse, it has been around for a while now. Brands you may not have realized are metaverse platforms include Niantic (Pokémon Go), Roblox and Microsoft. We're already there, just not with all the technologies and platforms we hope to utilize.
My key takeaways based on the HubSpot report's findings as brands look toward metaverse adoption:
• Make data security a priority. While the overall opinion of the metaverse hasn't been negatively affected by recent controversies accompanying the cryptocurrency industry, that doesn't mean consumers aren't cautious.
• Get to know your target demographics. The metaverse is young, and so are its primary adopters. However, remember that much of Gen Z are adults or approaching adulthood now, and millennials are established heads of households now. This is not something for kids. Metaverse users are sophisticated and diverse.
• Get to know the platforms. Even when we reach a unified metaverse, it's likely that people will still interact with it through the platforms they're most familiar with, much like how they interact with the internet and social media now. Just like with social media, not every metaverse platform will be ideal for every brand or every industry. Understanding the key demographics in each platform and the capabilities of the platforms will be just as important in the metaverse as it is in the current iteration of the internet.
• Don't wait for a unified version of the metaverse to jump in. If you do, you'll be lagging behind your competitors. Instead, look at the companies that already have their own metaverses and see what they have to offer your brand or clients. Consider how your brand or clients might have overlapping target demographics with existing metaverses and look for opportunities to bring your brand into those spaces, where consumers want them to be.
As we trek into 2023, we really are on the cusp of new things. The metaverse has a whole new virtual reality of experiences to share with brands and consumers. Importantly, consumers want to see the brands they know and trust in those virtual spaces. Companies that can position themselves and their clients in the metaverse will see growth. They just have to take the first step.