Digital marketing has always evolved at a breakneck pace. New technologies and platforms are emerging all the time, offering marketers new ways to reach and engage with consumers. One of the most talked-about trends of the last year is the metaverse.
So, what is the metaverse, and does it spell a brave new world for digital marketing? Or is it just another passing trend?
The term “metaverse” was first coined by science fiction writer Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel Snow Crash. In the book, the metaverse is a virtual world that exists parallel to our own physical world. It’s a place where people can meet and interact with each other in a virtual space.
Stephenson’s metaverse was accessed through virtual reality (VR) goggles, and it looked and felt very much like the physical world. The real-world metaverse is similar, and though it’s not yet a photorealistic duplicate of the world as we know it, it has come to be used as a catch-all term for any kind of digital universe, including augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR), and even video game worlds.
The metaverse is still in the early stages of development, but it’s already home to a number of popular platforms and communities. One of the best-known examples is Second Life, an online virtual world with its own economy, currency, and the ability to buy property.
Businesses are also taking note to see how they can leverage the metaverse to connect with consumers and expand their brands.
As with any other digital platform, marketers can use the metaverse to reach and engage with consumers in a variety of ways. For example, brands can create their own virtual spaces within the metaverse, which can be used to host events, product launches, or even just as a place for customers to hang out and socialise.
These branded spaces can also be used to drive awareness and create an emotional connection with consumers. Brands can create avatars – virtual representations of themselves – which can be used to interact with consumers in the metaverse.
What makes metaverse marketing so appealing to digital marketers?
The metaverse is the domain of young people, especially Gen Z and younger Millennials, who are slated to be the main income-earning force in a few years. In fact, a report by Razorfish and VICE Media Group showed that Gen Z consumers spend twice as much time meeting up with friends in the metaverse, compared to real-life interactions.
These demographics have grown up alongside the rise of omnichannel marketing and are used to interacting with brands in a variety of digital spaces. By leveraging the metaverse, marketers can get ahead of the curve and utilise this valuable demographic. Indeed, one-third of Gen Z survey-respondents claimed that they would like to see brands implement virtual stores.
The metaverse provides a much more immersive and interactive experience compared to traditional digital marketing channels like websites or social media. In the metaverse, brands can create their own virtual spaces for consumers to explore, and avatars they can interact with. This allows for a much more personal and engaging experience that can help forge a stronger connection with consumers.
The metaverse is still in its early stages of development, but it has the potential to become a very data-rich environment. Every interaction in the metaverse is trackable and this data can be used to gain insights into consumer behaviour.
This can also help to improve the metaverse experience for consumers, as well as to create more targeted and personalised marketing campaigns. In fact, one of the main advantages of the metaverse is that it has the potential to provide marketers with a real-time view of how consumers are interacting with their brand in a virtual space.
The metaverse is still in its early stages of development, and as such, there are a few potential dangers that marketers should be aware of.
The data-rich environment of the metaverse raises several potential privacy concerns. For example, it’s unclear how existing data privacy laws, such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), would apply to the metaverse.
This is because the metaverse is not bound by geographic borders, and so it’s possible for companies to collect and process data from users in different jurisdictions, without their consent. This could lead to a situation where users are unaware of how their data is being used or collected and raises the possibility of companies mishandling or abusing user data.
With such unclear boundaries, it’s an open problem as to how companies can manage user data. Any kind of metaverse-related planning must be accompanied by a well-thought-out data governance strategy.
The metaverse is popular with young people, which raises the potential for companies to market directly to minors. To avoid these pitfalls, it’s important for companies to put in place age-appropriate filters and controls.
For example, companies could mandate that only ID-verified accounts may access their content. This would ensure that minors are not exposed to content or experiences that are inappropriate for their age group.
Another potential danger of the metaverse is that brands could be associated with unsafe or unsavoury content. For example, it could damage a brand’s reputation if its avatar was seen in a virtual world that contains graphic or violent content. To avoid this, brands need to be aware of the type of content that their avatar is connected to.
Regardless of the direction in which the metaverse evolves, one thing is clear: the future of digital marketing lies somewhere in the metaverse. Virtual worlds are more popular than ever, and we can only expect adoption to go up as more young digital natives come of age.
The metaverse provides marketers with a unique opportunity to reach consumers in a new, exciting, and engaging way. With this opportunity comes the responsibility to research and learn about it as much as you can, to avoid the medium’s inevitable pitfalls.
The metaverse is the future of digital marketing, and the sooner companies get on board, the better.