Coined by the American Novelist, Neal Stephenson, in 1992 in his hit novel ‘Snow Crash’, the metaverse was portrayed as a virtual world where people would create digital avatars to live, work and play online. ‘Meta’ is from the Greek word ‘Beyond’ and ‘Verse’ derived from Universe.

Fast forward to today, the metaverse provides incredible opportunities for brands and marketers to deliver an immersive and interactive digital experience to their customers. Unlike targeted digital ads of now, marketers will have the opportunity to be closer to the consumer by forming an Interest Based Community Marketing as quoted in my earlier article.

The metaverse is not a video game. 

Until now, the metaverse has been associated with the gaming industry through Roblox and Fortnite being early adopters in the space. However, the metaverse expands far beyond just video games. Over the next couple of years, the transition from our current web to web3 could be several things for several people. 

The gaming companies are paving the way thanks to years of learning and development in their own virtual worlds. Brands can take a page out of their playbook and learn how to build and nurture these communities. While millennials grew up using today’s social media platforms, Gen-Z grew up in the virtual worlds of gaming. 

According to a study by Deloitte in 2021:

  • 87% of Gen Z consider themselves gamers
  • 7:20h is the average game time in a week
  • This group also finds stability and emotional comfort online, with 33% saying they play to build a more idealized version of the world
  • 65% believe their online relationships are just as meaningful as their offline ones
  • Gen Z players will spend a fifth of their “fun budget” on metaverse goodies

Fortnite noted over 350 million registered players, with 62.7% of them in the 18 to 24 age group, while Roblox counted 47.3 million daily active users as of Q3 2021, with a similar demographic. This isn’t a solo experience for the gamers, the demographics are turning their attention to the social aspects and interacting with other players.

These stats give brands the opportunity to build engagement with the virtual and gaming community in ways they probably cannot in the real world.  As our target audiences evolve, so does the need to reach them through the right platforms. Every era has a trendy medium (radios to TVs to social media), and marketers need to be aware that every generation changes the way they consumer their content; it is upon us to figure out how to be there to connect with these audiences. Even if the Gen-Z are not the target audience of today, they will be it eventually and the method of reaching them is vastly different than we are used to now.

Luckily for us, the upcoming audience of the metaverse is already familiar with the platform through e-sports events, virtual concerts, and sites like Twitch, giving B2C brands the opportunity to build a community and engage with these audiences better than the real world.

While it’s not easy for marketers to get a homerun in their first try, there are some success stories by other non-gaming brands which give us great insight on what worked and why. For example:

  • In May 2019, before the Metaverse topic was announced, the brand Jordan had characters in the Fortnite games wear Nike-branded sneakers
  • Nikeland’, Nike’s micro metaverse in Roblox, attracted 7 million people since March where users can try the Nike products virtually. During the NBA All-Star Week, LeBron James visited Nikeland to coach and engage with players and participants were able to unlock virtual products
  • In December 2021, Forever 2021 created customizable virtual stories on Roblox’s gaming platform
  • Wendy’s opened a virtual restaurant in Meta’s Horizon Worlds platform reaching 52 million users
  • Gucci, in celebration of it’s 100th anniversary launched ‘Gucci Garden Archetypes’ on Roblox to celebrate the brand’s creative vision and as a space for visitors to “come together with friends”
  • In July 2021, Ferrari released the 296 GTB and the Fortnite community got to take it for a ride even before the physical debut
  • In September 2021, Hyundai, in partnership with Roblox, targeted the tech community for the Hyundai Mobility Adventure advocating for sustainable transportation
  • Even Barbados has become the first sovereign nation to have an embassy in the metaverse

The metaverse is a great space to not only target the Gen Z but a space to create a sense of community.

How will this result in direct sales?

While brands can argue that a virtual world doesn’t result in physical sales or tangible goods, the Metaverse can act as a virtual replica of their brick-and-mortar stores removing any geographical barriers. Consumers will have the option to virtually try out the items in their 3D world and take opinions from their friends thanks to the social features of the platform.

This gives brands the opportunity to think ahead and plan as direct-to-avatar sales of virtual goods are already a $54 billion market. Just as we measure our digital campaigns based on leads and conversions, we can expect to see a similar trend on the metaverse too.

While the metaverse is still far from fruition, it is the right time to test and learn, grow, and evolve with the metaverse revolution, and learn from failures in the space. Now is the time for brands to build meaningful experiences for their customers and build stronger relationships with them.