Marketing

The Metaverse: the new digital future

The Metaverse has arrived, and it’s going to reshape what we know about connection, brands, influencers, experiences, and the overall function of the internet

The long-awaited arrival of the Metaverse is finally here. Recently, Facebook decided it was going all-in on the Metaverse and rebranded itself as Meta. Now, the rest of the world is asking questions: What is the Metaverse? How does it work? How do I get into the Metaverse? The internet has been abuzz with such questions recently.

For marketers and marketing managers, the questions are slightly different: What does the Metaverse mean for the growth of my business? How can I grow my brand in the Metaverse? Will the Metaverse have a positive or negative effect on my business?

These are all excellent questions to be asked, and if you haven’t asked them yet, you should. Facebook took the world by storm and changed how we connect with people. Over 2.89 billion people now use Facebook in one capacity or another. Wouldn’t it be safe to assume that a good percentage of those people are going to jump into the Metaverse when it is widely available?

Facebook/Meta is not the only one working on creating a metaverse. Like the internet, the Metaverse will be available to anyone who wants in. Marketers cannot afford to miss out on this opportunity.

This article will dive into those questions you’ve been asking yourself about the Metaverse and shed some light on what a Metaverse future holds.

Facebook Meta rebranding
Facebook is now Meta

What is the Metaverse?

There are several definitions of the Metaverse and more will continue to emerge as it evolves. The dictionary defines it as “a virtual-reality space in which users can interact with a computer-generated environment and other users.”

The New York Times says the Metaverse, as a buzzword, “refers to a variety of virtual experiences, environments and assets that gained momentum during the online-everything shift of the pandemic.”

Coined in his 1992 science fiction novel “Snow Crash,” author Neal Stevenson is credited with naming the Metaverse, where he envisioned lifelike avatars who met in realistic 3D environments. This vision is the Metaverse as we know it today.

The Metaverse is where you will be in the internet, feeling it and smelling it, not just looking at it from a screen. You’ll be able to do anything you can imagine; see friends and family, work, learn, play, shop, create, and do many other things. It is being hailed as the successor of the internet.

What does the Metaverse mean for businesses?

Now that you have an idea of what the Metaverse is, let's get into how it can help (or hurt) your business.

Facebook/Meta was designed for online social interaction, but advertising, marketing and selling brands and products to literally billions of people on them became a fortunate side effect. Meta’s developers say their goal is to provide a way for as many creators as possible to build businesses in the Metaverse. The Metaverse wants your company in it and for as many people as possible to interact with it. Also, you’ll be able to sell both physical and digital products, possibly opening up a whole new product line and customer base for your business.

Long story short, if your business is ready to jump into the Metaverse, you’ll have a whole new world of customers.

A woman using a virtual reality headset to navigate the Metaverse
Navigating the Metaverse will require a high-tech virtual reality headset like this one

How can brands and influencers create experiences in the Metaverse?

Selling in the Metaverse won’t be precisely the same as marketing on social media. The Metaverse will have more of a focus on experience rather than simply being a marketplace. Influencers and marketers will have to provide an excellent overall experience to engage customers.

A comparison might be like how Michelin gives stars to restaurants based not only on the quality of the food but also the ambiance, service, and overall dining experience. The Metaverse will be about building a loyal customer base through experiences from the moment they arrive, start looking around, who they talk to, what they see and feel, and more. It will be more immersive than a store that simply making signs and providing items to sell.

Metafluence started in 2017 and is one of the pioneers of bridging the gap between the Metaverse and influence marketing. Influence marketing is considered one of the most powerful marketing strategies of this generation. Companies like Metafluence aim to have audiences, influencers and brands seamlessly engage with each other in the Metaverse. They attempt to empower influencers by monetizing their influence, exposing brands to a broader audience, and bringing audiences and influencers closer together.

One idea of the Metaverse for businesses is that audiences and influencers can all come together in one “room,” aka somewhere in the Metaverse, to join real-time conversations, participate in different activities, attend events, and more. The days of placing your product in a store window or using targeted ads are numbered. The Metaverse will have people purchasing as they are experiencing.

Gaming has already created Metaverse experiences

If you are looking for a “real-world” example of how the Metaverse of the future operates right now, look at how it works in the gaming realm. Here, users aren’t shopping per se but instead purchasing items relative to their gaming experience. This concept will be similar to how the Metaverse will operate, but on a much bigger scale and encompassing more products and places.

Companies and products such as Roblox, Epic Games’ Fortnite and Animal Crossing: New Horizons have increased their Metaverse-like elements significantly in the last few years. Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook and the man behind its transformation to Meta, will need to implement some ideas from the gaming community if he wants Meta to take off.

The main idea he should be taking away is that the Metaverse should be fun, like Fortnite, and not necessarily need his Oculus headset to allow the average consumer to interact with it. People want to see a 100-foot tall Travis Scott hold a virtual rap concert on an island with flaming mic stands (which 27 million people attended and generated $20 million for a fifteen-minute show) as he had in Fortnite a while ago. They want big and bold and new and fun.

Zuckerberg could make Meta the next big thing by using what works from the gaming industry’s aspects of their little Metaverse.

Metaverses have already started to take shape with gaming platforms like Fortnite and Roblox. Here is Travis Scott in a Fortnite virtual concert.
Travis Scott streaming a concert in the Metaverse. Courtesy of YouTube.

The power of the Metaverse today

There are already examples of the Metaverse emerging in our world today. Take the Gucci exhibition, for example. The ever-popular clothing brand Gucci decided to throw its 100th birthday bash on Roblox. Roblox is “a global platform where millions of people gather together every day to imagine, create and share 3D experiences in immersive, user-generated worlds.” Sound familiar? Roblox is basically an early iteration of the Metaverse.

The virtual Roblox-hosted party was hailed as the “Gucci Garden” and widely praised by marketers. Multiple themed rooms paid homage to past Gucci campaigns, and guests entered the virtual lobby where they could view, try on and purchase digital Gucci items.

The event was a wild success. Over 20 million people visited the exhibition in two weeks. To put into perspective the gravity of the event and how much value there is in the digital world; Gucci’s website averages less than 10 million visitors per month, and one guest paid $4,000 for the digital version of a Gucci Dionysus GG Supreme Canvas Embroidered Queen Bee bag when the physical bag only sells for $3,400 at Neiman Marcus.

Other luxury fashion brands are also cashing in on the Metaverse. Not only can brands market their products in a new way, they can market new products that can’t be bought in the “real world.” Online gamers have been buying online clothes to establish their identity and dress up their avatars for years, and the fashion industry has taken notice.

Companies such as Burberry, Ralph Lauren and Balenciaga are creating their own digital fashion, validating it on blockchain, and are then able to use it on multiple gaming platforms such as Roblox and Fortnite. Right now, you can clothing shop for your avatars at stores like Fabricant and The Dematerialized, which co-founder Karinna Nobbs calls “the digital department store of your dreams.” These digital shops sell nothing but virtual luxuries — clothing and accessories that will only exist online.

With the smashing success of Roblox’s Gucci Garden and the expansion of online fashion, it’s safe to say that Metaverses and all their iterations are here to stay.

Cool Metaverse projects

With the Metaverse gaining in popularity every day, some exciting new technologies are coming out to make it easier for people to get more engaged.

The first is called Project Cambria, which is a high-end VR (virtual reality) headset designed for Facebook/Meta’s Metaverse. They are still testing it and have plans for release next year. Cambria will have new capabilities that its predecessor, Quest 2, does not have, such as sensors that allow your avatar to maintain eye contact, which will help people get a better sense of how the user is feeling. Cambria will also feature optics to increase visual fidelity and will have the capability to represent objects in the physical world with a sense of depth and perspective.

The Metaverse is coming and new tech like the Cambria headset will make it more immersive.
Project Cambria - Source

The other project coming from Facebook/Meta is full-fledged AR (augmented reality) glasses called Project Nazare. Augmented reality is where objects that reside in the real world (like the table in your kitchen) are enhanced by computer-generated perceptual information (like the avatars of your friends sitting at the table playing virtual poker). They can also add other immersive sensory features like smells and sounds.

Since Facebook/Meta has to fit so much technology (hologram displays, projectors, batteries, chips, cameras, sensors, and speakers) into glasses only 5mm thick, they still have a ways to go. The glasses are in production but should be available soon, just like the Cambria headset.

Meta is also working on advanced hepatic gloves that facilitate enhanced connection in the Metaverse. These gloves will give you a more realistic physical feel to the objects you touch in the virtual world. It took Meta about seven years to get to this point, and these gloves are still a long way from affordable, commercial use. For example, Meta has had to develop new actuators for these gloves, which not only adds technical complications, but increases cost. For comparison, car door actuators cost about $200 each and these hepatic gloves need hundreds of them. But the technology is ready and available; it just needs to be scaled for size and price, much like the Nazare glasses.

Meta has been working furiously on projects such as these for the past decade. They believe the Metaverse is going to be the next big thing on the internet and around the world. The future of the Metaverse is upon us.

Final thoughts

The most common idea about the Metaverse is that it will be much like the internet. It will be a decentralized, interoperable platform where many companies will be present. The idea for a Metaverse has been slowly taking shape for years and is now almost at a place where it can come together. For example, the Metaverse requires that goods and services are convertible between all the platforms, which NFT and blockchain systems can do.

Things are lining up for businesses to take the Metaverse by storm, and digital marketing will be taken to a whole new level. Advertising in the Metaverse is about to evolve the same way a targeted Facebook ad is more evolved than an Instagram story, which is more evolved than a television commercial.

Marketing influencers are going to play a more significant and important role for their businesses in the near future. They will be the bridge between getting people from searching the vastness of the Metaverse for products and services and bringing them to your store. This process will be more intricate than Facebook and Instagram ads, requiring the building of communities.

While the full version of the Metaverse might be a ways off yet, it is coming, and you should be preparing to start marketing your business in the Metaverse today.

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