A new study from Gartner found that consumer opinions about the metaverse are vague and largely uncertain. Marketers should keep this in mind as they look at new ways to engage consumers in virtual spaces.
Only 6% of consumer respondents told Gartner that they were “very familiar” with the metaverse and that they “understand and can describe it to others.” And only 21% said they were “somewhat familiar.”
That leaves nearly three quarters of consumers who have murkier ideas on the subject. 38% have heard of the metaverse, but aren’t sure what it means. A full 35% percent have never heard of it.
Why we care. Talk of the metaverse came almost out of nowhere last year when Facebook’s parent company changed its name to Meta. Since highs in September 2021, the company’s stock valuation has been cut nearly in half.
But there is more to this meta-talk than just saving an ailing tech giant. Marketers are always looking for new ways to connect with consumers meaningfully and deeply. Here’s a look at where marketing opportunities exist now, or in the near future.
Metaverses and other virtual experiences. Generally speaking, “Metaverse” can mean any number of ways that brands provide VR or interactive 3D-image experiences.
“From the onset of the pandemic, companies have worked to aggressively reshape the digital experience for browsing and discovery, but also virtual try-ons and augmented reality furniture-buying experiences,” said Kyle Rees, senior director analyst in the Gartner for Marketing Leaders practice. “These are the companies that people today expect [to be involved in the Metaverse]. If it’s not Facebook, it’s a big retailer. Virtual shopping is not necessarily surprising, but it’s a signal to marketers – to what level should I pay attention to this?”
Trusting the metaverse. With all these different virtual experiences, and many more on the horizon, the association with Facebook might not help an early adopter brand.
In the Gartner survey, only 18% of respondents said they are “primarily excited” about impacts the metaverse may have, while 21% said they were “primarily concerned” about the metaverse. 60% had no opinion.
If consumers associate the metaverse with Mark Zuckerberg’s company, that opens a lot of negative associations pulled from recent headlines about the toxic effects some social media platforms have on impressionable minds, as well as public discourse and even democracy.
Adding to the distrust are reports of new poorly regulated virtual environments that cast all the evils of the old Internet into stark 3D.
The metaverse, or metaverses, have to define themselves outside of the company Meta, and they also have to demonstrate that they are safe and secure spaces.
“I think Facebook rightly or wrongly made a very deliberate trademark grab [by changing the parent company’s name to Meta],” said Rees.” There are a fair amount of consumers who associate Facebook with the metaverse. And a corollary to that, and they’re open-ended associations, is that ‘I don’t trust Facebook,’ or they think it’s more isolated and that the metaverse is just another way Facebook is trying to make more money off of them.”
He added that the association with Meta is not necessarily a positive one, and that there’s a great need for a massive learning and education initiative to help clear the air and build trust.
Gaming. If in the early stages, most consumers are confused, out-of-the-loop or distrustful, there is a cohort primed for metaverse adoption among the gaming community. Gamers have been interacting in virtual worlds with each other and with brands for years.
“Gamification is already built into the metaverse,” Rees said.
The question for the future metaverse, and for marketers looking to get involved, is can this acceptance scale to an even larger audience of non-gamers?
Rees says a crucial feature that will have to be a part of this growth is interoperability. If a brand in retail, or in any other industry, builds a storefront in the metaverse, consumers will have to be able to access it with a number of devices in a seamless way.
Ads in the metaverse. A busy street in the metaverse won’t resemble the IRL world unless it has billboards and other branded environments.
London-based ad platform AdRunner is looking to help monetize the virtual real estate in the metaverse using a decentralized community-led ad interface built on the Ethereum blockchain.
“We are building a decentralized ad architecture that can best leverage the protocols used by dominating platforms,” said AdRunner’s CMO Chris Rios. “The metaverse landscape will take time to create a cohesive and shared experience across all platforms.”
Tied loosely together with NFTs. “Until then we will see a set of disparate ‘intranets’ that are loosely tied together, similar to the late 1990s when pockets of interaction occurred in chat rooms and one-off websites until companies like Google, Facebook, and YouTube shaped the Internet into a cohesive social space,” Rios explained.
He added, “We see the development of the metaverse happening in a similar way. There is huge value addition in spaces already leveraging internal payment structures, like Roblox’s Robux, as these will likely be tied to NFT marketplaces and provide users with customized experiences or abilities. NFT marketplaces will likely be critical to the adoption of Web3 and will work akin to certificates or “passports” within the metaverse.