If you follow any of the world’s leading tech giants on social media over the last year or so, there’s a good chance you will have heard the buzz word metaverse. For many people it still feels like a futuristic concept, while others recognise that we’re on the verge of something big and cannot wait to jump in.
But if you’re not a tech giant, what really are the opportunities and challenges the metaverse presents? It is a question I get asked a lot, so here I have tried to break down a simple guide.
For me, starting with the opportunities makes sense because I really do believe that the metaverse has great potential for brands to offer a better, richer, and more immersive experience to their customers.
First mover advantage
In a new space, with not many brands participating, you can have the luxury of the first mover advantage. Though that concept may be more complex than it first seems ‘ timing is everything and sometimes being too soon can be a disadvantage. I believe that in this case it will pay off to start experimenting with CX and marketing in the metaverse, just start with something small, experimenting will allow you to really grasp what the real possibilities are.
Interesting cross-channel mix
It’s important for brand recognition and overall accessibility that brands are present on all the channels that are relevant to their customers. If a new channel pops up, offering the possibility for a whole new audience, it’s a bad idea to ignore it. If consumers can’t find you in the metaverse, chances are that they might desert you on the other channels too.
Laws of physics don’t apply
We’re all used to dealing with the laws of physics in this world. But just think of the sheer creativity that their absence in the metaverse could unleash. The sky is not the limit there. You could allow your customers to fly, float through space, morph into eccentric avatars and so many things that are not possible in real life. Use all its possibilities. Don’t just stick to replicating the ‘boring’ real world.
It’s still affordable
Seeing that branding, marketing and advertising in the metaverse are so new, prices to run a campaign are still pretty affordable. It depends on what you’re willing to do there but investing in virtual billboards within video games will be a lot less pricey than the IRL alternative. Events in virtual locations will mean you can cut costs on employee travel and lodgings, rent or energy consumption.
Reaching new audiences
If your brand wants to keep reaching Gen Z, Millennials and even Gen X, you will need to follow them on their channels of choice. The younger the generation, the likelier they are to play games. Around 81% of Gen Z gamers, for instance, reported playing games in the past six months, spending an average of 7 hours and 20 minutes on the pastime per week. So, it makes a lot of sense that brands are manifesting themselves in metaverse games like Roblox and Fortnite to reach them.
A limitless scale
One of the big advantages of experiences in the metaverse is a scale that IRL events cannot possibly match. For example, the game Roblox has 200 million active users, who spent $319 million on in-game currency in just the second quarter of 2020 while Fortnite has 350 million players across the globe. The fact that Meta’s also heavily investing in the metaverse, and you’ll see early warning signs of a change.
Going beyond the product
Things that are for sale in the metaverse often com in the form of an NFT. For those who don’t know what an NFT or non-fungible token is, it’s a record on a cryptocurrency’s blockchain that represents a piece of digital media that is a unique digital piece that cannot be replaced. NFTs are often used as collectibles. The huge potential here is that NFTs hold the promise to deeply change the game in customer loyalty.
Every new technology and platform also have their drawbacks, which are important to think about as well. Even Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg recently admitted that it could take up several years for the main features of the metaverse to become mainstream.
Not yet enough VR and AR headset owners
Firstly, even though the scale of for instance events and concerts is a lot bigger in the metaverse, the total of consumers who own the infrastructure ‘ VR and AR headsets and even an internet connection ‘ to enter them is still significantly lower than those of them who can’t. If the metaverse will want to enable some breakthrough changes, the scale of global users must rise to the numbers of the smartphone.
A flawed Customer Experience
The VR and AR experience is currently far from frictionless, which obviously also explains (next to the affordability) why the adoption described above is still underwhelming. Users of virtual reality games have reported harmful side-effects such as damage to their vision, disorientation, and even seizures. Another challenge lies in having high-quality and high-performance models for a realistic virtual immersion.
Rethink narratives in three dimensions
We are so used to developing stories for non-immersive environments like video and podcasts, that we’ll need to learn how to tell stories differently in the metaverse. The challenge of brands is to keep playing a part and stay visible in that story which they cannot completely control themselves.
Measuring is hard
Finally, though some believe that it is only a matter of time before the metrics catch up, the measurement and tracking we’re used to with other marketing tactics isn’t there yet. That’s obviously an issue for determining the return-on-investment. If brands are not able to track return on ad spend as clearly as other digital channels, their marketers might find it difficult to justify what they spend over there.
So, these are the challenges and opportunities of the metaverse that I see. Do you think I missed important ones? Let me know in the comments of my social channels.
Steven van Belleghem is one of the world’s leading thought-leaders, speakers and authors on customer experience. His latest book, The CX Leader’s Manual to Customer Excellence can be downloaded for free at www.stevenvanbelleghem.com