The word “metaverse” has found itself in the vernacular of marketers and consumers around the world.
While most are familiar with Facebook’s rebrand to Meta, the term metaverse was actually coined 30 years ago by author Neal Stephenson in his 1992 science-fiction novel “Snow Crash.” Some elements of Stephenson’s metaverse already exist–like virtual reality (VR) headsets and virtual avatars that allow people to interact with the virtual world in a way that mimics real life. But just how blurry the line between reality and fantasy will become is yet to be determined.
The metaverse is still in an infantile stage, but as they say: “Blink, and those babies will be all grown up.” This is the perfect time for marketers to learn all they can and begin to develop strategies and tactics to represent their brands in this brave new–virtual–world.
Metaverse: The Future of the Internet
Twenty-six percent of Americans–Mark Zuckerberg included–believe the metaverse to be the future of the internet, allowing people to interact with one another, browse the web, play games, watch films, and eventually make purchases–both virtual and physical.
Brands like Chipotle, McDonalds, and Wendy’s are already experimenting in the metaverse. An early adopter, Chipotle launched a virtual restaurant in the metaverse for Halloween 2021. Visitors could deck out their avatar in Chipotle-themed costumes, navigate the Boorito Maze, and receive codes for free burritos to be redeemed in physical restaurants.
Similarly, the skate-shoe company Vans launched a virtual skatepark where players can show off their virtual tricks and earn points to redeem in the virtual store to customize their avatar. According to Forbes, Vans reported 48 million user visits as of December 2021, which is a huge opportunity to build brand awareness and loyalty.
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But games and freebies aren’t all the metaverse has to offer. Virtual conferences could allow users to visit booths, workshops, and lectures without ever leaving their desks. Virtual concerts can help artists reach more people than ever, and concerns—like those during the COVID-19 pandemic—won’t affect attendance. There is even opportunity for players to collect virtual items and display them, which could eventually lend itself to the kind of influencer marketing we now see on social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok.
Gucci used the human urge to be included in something exclusive in May 2021 by launching The Gucci Garden Experience to celebrate its 100th anniversary. The virtual exhibition was only open for two weeks, but it engaged metaverse inhabitants in a new way: stripping their avatars as they entered the exhibit. Each avatar became a blank slate, which then picked up different elements from each of the rooms they visited. In the end, every user would have an avatar completely unique to them. Gucci also offered opportunities for users to buy exclusive Gucci items for their avatars during the event. For users inclined to show their status through the brands they are loyal to, this kind of highly-personalized and interactive engagement is key.
It’s important to note that the experiences created by Chipotle, Vans, Gucci, and more are separate and apart from one another. The word “metaverse” may imply one connected, interwoven universe, but each entity actually owns the access, membership, and monetization rights to the virtual world it creates. This means that business and technical specifications will vary widely as the metaverse continues to evolve into a more immersive landscape than we’ve experienced before.
How the Metaverse Changes Digital Marketing
While social media marketing has often been thought of as the leading way for a brand to have engaging interactions with its followers because of the built-in feedback loop (comments,, reactions, DMs, etc.), the metaverse takes engaging interactions to a whole new level.
The metaverse allows consumers to take control of their experience—a process of discovery not often found in traditional marketing. But that level of engagement requires brands to know quite a bit about their consumer. It will no longer suffice to have data that’s representative of the many; consumers in the metaverse will expect individualized attention, so brands need to know each individual consumer’s preferences. With that said, it’s a good thing that the metaverse will provide more data than ever before about user experience and preferences.
The data mined in the metaverse can also support traditional marketing efforts. For example, you can track the behavior of an avatar interacting in the metaverse and connect it to the same person on traditional marketing channels. Because the metaverse is constantly analyzed, marketers can define and collect KPIs at various touchpoints of the avatar/consumer’s journey. Monitoring data from clickstream and journey analytics will allow marketers to identify users exhibiting predictive behaviors. If there is a pattern emerging, marketers can be prepared to guide consumers through their journey in a personal way while still collecting data to understand that individual’s personal habits and preferences.
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While this may seem like an awful lot of work for a business without the power of Google or Facebook, investing in relationships with marketing professionals and agencies who can help you master your metaverse marketing may be the perfect way to gain the benefits of the data-heavy metaverse without drowning in behavior analysis.
While industry giants like Google and Facebook thrive in centralized virtual spaces, smaller brands have a hard time competing. But the metaverse may create unique opportunities for smaller brands to stand out since the aim is to keep the metaverse decentralized. In a decentralized space, ideally, consumers have the ability to move fluidly from one experience to the next—mimicking real life. This might make the metaverse an ideal place for smaller brands to thrive and develop user communities that tie to their niche without being overshadowed by bigger companies dominating a limited space. In fact, the metaverse offers a unique opportunity to foster deeper connections with Gen Z and Millennial audiences.
Gen Z, specifically, has an affinity for the metaverse, as research shows that 65 percent of the generation has spent money on in-game virtual gadgets; and Fortnite reported more than $9 billion in revenue in its first two years, which is derived primarily from in-game purchases like skins and accessories that don’t affect gameplay at all. Users spent money on virtual accessories just for the aesthetic. Engagement is the primary KPI here.
Using comprehensive analytics, developing and listening to your brand’s user community, and engaging with users on an individual level will be the keys to the kingdom of the metaverse.
Begin Your Metaverse Marketing Now
Digital marketing is constantly evolving. So much so, that it would be easy to dismiss the metaverse as something to worry about later. But as we’ve seen with social media platforms, early adopters benefit from increased audience size and engagement. And the same will be true for the metaverse. Establishing a long-term connection with your audience is key in the digital world—sometimes even more so than the physical one.
So how can you begin your journey into metaverse marketing now? First and foremost, understand if it fits your audience. If you’re aiming for a young demographic, then a virtual world may be for you. Understanding the preferences of your audience—how they think and feel about virtual connection—will be imperative in making the decision to dive into the metaverse or not.
Similar to B2B social media marketing, marketers will need to study the brand’s competitors and determine where their brand can enter the relevant conversations happening in the metaverse. Think of it like scanning hashtags for what is trending.
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“Entering the conversation” can mean a variety of things depending on the brand and its goals. Perhaps sponsoring events—like a virtual concert or gaming tournament—would excite fans of the brand. Or maybe the target audience is employees, and employers can build virtual offices for remote employees to work together.
Can you imagine walking through your favorite theme park or exploring that amazing shop you visited in Europe once—all virtually? Your consumers may not be imagining it yet, but as the metaverse grows and more brands join the virtual world, they will expect that thrilling experience and gravitate towards brands giving it to them.
With the challenges and opportunities in metaverse marketing, it should be a no-brainer for marketers to dive in and learn all they can while the metaverse is still developing. But what if this all flops and never comes to fruition?
At worst, you know your consumers better than you did before and can increase revenue by engaging them in other ways. At best, you’re prepared for the massive shift in digital marketing by adopting the virtual world early and connecting with your audience by exploring this new space together.
Need help navigating the metaverse? Let’s talk.