Ever since Facebook announced its name change to Meta, the tech space has been buzzing with the term “metaverse.” How will this new virtual world fundamentally change the way humanity works? How does the metaverse affect marketing?
With the continued rise of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), the metaverse is permeating the internet. It is estimated that by 2021, approximately 85 million users will experience AR or VR at least once a month.
But what exactly is the metaverse? Although the term was first used in the science fiction book snow crash by Neal Stephenson in 1991, its new relevance can be attributed to both the change of Facebook’s “Meta” brand and popular avatar-based games like Fortnite †
Science fiction writer Neal Stephenson coined the term ‘metaverse’ in his book snow crash (1991), uses it to refer to a computer-generated universe. It is usually a highly immersive shared virtual world where people gather to play games, socialize and work. It is also linked to the development of Web3.0, which some say will be the next chapter in the Internet’s existence – a chapter built on blockchains that will, in theory, democratize access and power and increase the grip of the largest technology companies will weaken.
But let’s keep it simple. A metaverse is a hyper-realistic, immersive and interactive shared virtual space through the use of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). There can be multiple virtual worlds within a metaverse, where people can engage in a wide variety of activities that result from a mix between physical and digital. Instead of staring at a screen like you do now, you can be in a metaverse in all your online experiences like shopping, meeting friends and family, going to a concert, filling out official documents, etc.
From another point of view, it is possible to describe the metavers in two ways.
- One is a direct parallel to the internet as we know it today
- The other consists of multiple products that act as online spaces where people can interact in an immersive way.
So let’s say the metaverse (capital “M”) is the Internet; Metaverses (small ‘m’) are platforms developed by Facebook, Microsoft, Nvidia, and co that provide context and deliver specialized products needed for specific use cases.
With this in mind, many brands and marketers are starting to see the same potential behind the metaverse and this potential has bolstered the marketing industry.
The metaverse relies on people spending a lot of time — and sometimes money — in virtual environments at first. So it’s no surprise that early examples tend to focus on one thing: video games.
The Roblox Platform , for example, allows players to inhabit worlds created by other users, leaving the design to the community. They have also recently started experimenting with interactive advertising, which gives marketers much more freedom than product placements or simply placing an ad at the level of a static video game. They create a blended experience that changes as players move through games, bringing ads to life.
hyundai also benefited. The automaker has created his own Roblox level where all the cars are his. He entered the metaverse to seek a younger base in his home turf – games – and aims to “nurture lasting relationships with fans”.
In May 2021, Gucci also opened the Gucci Garden at Roblox, a virtual experience to complement an actual installation called Gucci Garden Archetypes, which took place in Florence, Italy. Vogue Business revealed that people can “mix with others exploring space and buy digital pieces created in collaboration with Roblox creator Rook Vanguard.”
With exposure to Roblox’s more than 43 million daily active users, it’s easy to see why brands jump at the opportunity to get noticed.
But that is not everything. The metaverse presents another unique opportunity for digital marketers: a new way to collect data and understand user behavior. A survey shows that 65% of Gen Z consumers have spent money on a virtual item, such as a character mod or specialized gear, that only exists in-game.
Today, no border is off limits to digital marketers. But metavers or not, marketers need to design interactive experiences that generate involvement and thus forge authentic relationships.