If you make it a point to keep up to date with all things technological, then chances are you have heard mention of the metaverse. This is often also in conjunction with virtual reality. One of the many places you might see reference to this is in the loading page for Facebook that is now ‘from Meta’. Not surprising when you remember that Mark Zuckerberg announced plans in January to build a virtual metaverse that would blend the physical and digital world through virtual and augmented reality. So what is the metaverse anyway?
What Is the Metaverse?
The term metaverse originated from a dystopian sci-fi novel published in 1992 named Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson. His depiction of the metaverse was a 3D virtual reality world that existed parallel to the real world. This appears to be pretty much what the metaverse is considered to be today, but with more modern bells and whistles.
The metaverse is indeed a virtual world or space that parallels our real-world lives. It can have its own cities, landscapes, homes clubs, restaurants and so on. It provides an immersive experience whereby a user uses a virtual reality (VR) headset with which to enter into that world. Others however suggest that it may be possible to have a metaverse that overlaps the physical world, allowing a user to incorporate the digital space into their real-world environment using augmented (AR) glasses.
At the heart of it, the metaverse is being designed to provide users with an immersive experience. However, it is not an experience that is alien to some people. If you have spent some time in Second Life or other multiplayer online games, then you will already know about how to create avatars, interact with other players, own virtual property, buy or create virtual items, and trade. These virtual spaces have been termed as protometaverse.
The key difference between protometaverse and the metaverse is that the protometaverse exists in isolation so whatever you create there can only exist in that space. According to Zuckerberg, the metaverse will be something on a higher level that will be even more immersive, allowing users to be in the midst of the experience, rather than just an onlooker.
Terming it an embodied internet, Zuckerberg has said that the experiences being built for the metaverse require enormous computing power to enable new AI models to learn. With all the data that Meta, which is now the parent company owning Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram, has access to, it is likely to develop the most advanced AI modelling for this purpose.
The metaverse is expected to allow virtual reality and augmented reality to overlap our digital and physical lives, allowing for seamless integration of socialising, education, research, gaming, entertainment, shopping, productivity, and commerce.
And it is not just Zuckerberg that is looking to capitalise on what the metaverse can do for the world. Other leading tech companies, including Microsoft and Samsung, are also looking at how they can bridge the gap between what is real and virtual through the development of headsets. Not as they started years ago as a more immersive way to game, but rather as quality-of-life tools.
The metaverse will require much investment to achieve mainstream acceptance. Besides the issue of hardware like headsets, there will also need to be sufficient software tools, cloud infrastructure, apps and much more to facilitate user experiences.
So how will the metaverse affect online marketing?
Impact of Metaverse on Online Marketing
One of the biggest benefits of online marketing is that it is adaptable. Changes are constantly coming up and marketers will simply take things in stride and adapt their strategies and practices to ensure the best outcome for their clients. And, change will come with the metaverse.
This new reality will become a new space or marketplace in which marketers will need to build a presence. It will provide a new opportunity for brands to find and engage with customers. With all the data that VR/AR is granted, marketers will be able to provide customers or leads with a more customized experience with brands that will better encourage them to convert.
The metaverse is to become a space in which unlimited sharing of data can take place. It will provide a safe space for interaction and communication. Users will be able to create whatever identity they want for themselves and adjust privacy settings according to how much information they want to be shared.
Cross channel marketing will be more easily accomplished in the metaverse. By blending virtual and real-world experience, marketers can use both aspects to connect with users. For instance, they can use the physical presence of a user near their outlets to trigger promotional ads in the virtual space. This provides better targeting and potential for conversion.
Consumers are believed to have become more interested in more interactive and immersive experiences. Hence the reason an increased number of people turned to multiplayer gaming during the pandemic for entertainment and socialising. Given the heightened level of engagement in such environments, especially amongst younger consumers, this space makes for the best platform in which to interact and build loyalty with customers.
It is also noteworthy that in as much as the metaverse relies on data to grow, it will also become a new source of data for marketing. With every interaction, transaction and other behaviour in this space, marketers will learn more about consumers and customise their marketing efforts to better appeal to them.
There is much room for development and experimentation with the metaverse. And as said, change is normal in the online marketing world. As we wait to see how the metaverse become a mainstream experience for people, we will likely learn even more ways in which marketers can exploit the VR/AR in better accomplishing their marketing goals.