Launch your business into the metaverse
by Vivienne Neale, MSc Entrepreneurship lecturer
Where do we start with the metaverse? Why is there so much scepticism around it? It doesn’t matter what you think personally, there’s a definite deep rise in interest and business adoption, and a whole generation emerging as consumers who are already comfortable with this technology. Ignorance is not a recommended position to adopt.
So, what is the metaverse? It encompasses immersive environments, often (but not always) using virtual- or augmented-reality technology. It is “always on” and exists in real time. It spans virtual and physical worlds, and multiple platforms and is a fully functioning virtual economy, often (but not always) built on cryptocurrency and digital goods and assets, including nonfungible tokens (NFTs). Finally, there are opportunities for virtual identities, presence, and “agency,” including peer-to-peer interactions, transactions, user-generated content, and “world-building.”
It’s the internet on steroids or if you want something gentler it’s the next internet iteration.
The first stages of the internet saw users as ‘done to’. We passively hoovered up what was offered. Then we started creating content, demanding personalised experiences and now well, here we are. It’s a logical and in one sense (un)natural progression. The main differentiator is that people can be immersed in something, instead of just being part of a passive experience.
Is it like space travel on earth? No, it’s more like time travel where we revisit our five-year old selves where our imagination was elastic, we can create and inhabit almost anything we can think or imagine and it’s ok. It may well fulfil the promise of vast digital worlds to parallel this physical existence. Certainly, we are living in an extraordinarily exciting time, and we shouldn’t be left behind just because we don’t know what we don’t know and can’t imagine what any of it might look like or what we could achieve within it.
The opportunity for marketers and businesses to engage customers differently, work on brand innovation and all internal capabilities is huge. Now is the right time to adopt a test-and-learn mindset, to be open to experiments in the metaverse, and to move on quickly from failure - learn from it while also capitalising on success.
Already we’re moving towards immersive retail, metaverse clubs, sport, educational experiences, entertainment, virtual prototyping and so on.
If you are thinking about ignoring these trends and waiting to see how it goes, reconsider. We need to rewrite the marketing playbook for this new world.
There are the things you need to be considering as you develop your approach:
- define your metaverse marketing goals
- identify the platforms that provide the best opportunity and brand fit
- design experiences appealing to target audiences
- experiment with money-making models
- create, leverage, and partner for new metaverse capabilities
Just as online-to-offline sales conversions are the norm today, we can expect to see more metaverse-to-offline opportunities in the future, too. It’s all about balance, like most things. But remember, consumers tend to see brands in the metaverse as innovative, so the bar for delivering innovative experiences is high. Be warned, your brand’s consumers are there, do you want to increase awareness among new audiences, position your brand and generate favourable sentiment, or promote loyalty? For the near term, the primary goal of brands shouldn’t be driving sales directly, since sales of virtual items are still far smaller than sales of physical ones. What’s more, today’s metaverse audiences, especially on online entertainment platforms like Roblox, often skew younger, which brings both opportunities and risks.
There is a wealth of talent and opportunity in this exciting environment.