Marketing in the metaverse offers as many opportunities as it does challenges. But with the risk of being left behind, it's important to take advantage of this new space. So, how can you avoid the downsides?
Imagine you had the chance to get in on the early days of the internet. You might've gotten the chance to snag a domain that's just your name. Imagine how much Dave.com is going for nowadays.
But just like the early caveman artists didn't grind all their rocks into stick figure paint, or how Shakespeare didn't spend all his money on quills before his first play was performed, it's important not to chuck a bunch of resources at a project and hope it sticks.
The metaverse is still highly experimental in nature and isn't guaranteed to fit your industry or yield financial success. But it has great potential for brands to offer a better, richer, and more immersive experience.
So, understanding the challenges means you can weigh up them against the positives. In such a new space, the unknown can be scary, but it can also allow brands to get ahead of the game. Timing is everything, and with not many companies participating, forward-thinking brands can have the luxury of the first-mover advantages. On top of this, because marketing and advertising in the metaverse is so new, the prices to run a campaign are still pretty affordable.
Plus, it's important for brands to be available on all the channels relevant to your audience. If your customers expect to find you somewhere, and can't, they might desert you for a competitor across multiple channels. This is vital for brand recognition and overall accessibility.
This is particularly relevant if your target audience is Gen Z. The younger the generation is, the likelier they are to be present in the gaming space. In fact, around 81% of Gen Z gamers reported playing in the past six months, spending an average of 7 hours and 20 mins on the pastime per week.
So, let's take a look at the challenges. What are the biggest, and baddest, challenges marketers will face in the metaverse?
Ownership of Technology
Currently, not that many people own the hardware to even access the metaverse.
Even though the opportunity for fantastic events and experiences is immense and much bigger in the 'verse, the total of consumers who own the infrastructure (VR headsets, AR compatible phones, a strong internet connection) is still quite low. In order for the metaverse to be effective, and enable some breakthrough changes, the scale of global users must reach pretty high numbers.
This is not something that is unfathomable, with the number of mobile users increasing intensely and quickly over the last few decades at an unprecedented rate. So, the number of headset owners must be at a similar level to smartphones in order to be profitable.
Currently, there are around 26M VR headsets owned by private consumers, and experts believe this demand will increase almost 8x within the next five years. Although, this number still pales in comparison to the total number of smartphones, which userbase globally is 6.648B or 83.89% of the population. So, if the metaverse wants to enable breakthrough changes, the scale of global users needs to reach a similar rate.
The increase in 5G accessibility is aiding this, and similar, advances in technology, offering users a glimpse into the future. It's a real door-opener.
In the past, technological limitations, including slow networks and unreliable connections, have made smooth digital experiences difficult. Buffering media and advertising content doesn't do any good for communicating swift messages to busy customers.
This ultrafast internet connection is essential for the metaverse. It'll allow the pace at which information can travel to increase, and will also mean consumers can experience the virtual world in real time.
The New Privacy Framework
Currently, there are not that many safety regulations for the metaverse. This is because the space is so new and so different to platforms that have come before it.
But as the platform has the potential to reach billions of people, it's time to start considering how data and personal privacy will look in the metaverse.
Christ Wylie, author of
“With the metaverse, you’re going to have an explosion of devices. You’re going to have an explosion of infrastructure. You’re going to have an explosion of apps and data.
And so it’s just increased your attack surface by an order of magnitude.”
If the metaverse starts off on a bad foot, by ignoring security and privacy, there might be issues with widespread adoption. But this also means that there's an opportunity for platforms which comply with security and privacy to get ahead of the game, thanks to a consumer desire for clarity and trust.
“It has a lot to do with brand and with trust,” said Caroline Wong, chief strategy officer at cyber firm Cobalt.
“If a consumer has a choice of Platform A — which they believe to be secure and private and doing all the right things — and Platform B, which they think will probably lead to getting hacked if they join, then the choice is clear.”
Microsoft, which is really going in on the metaverse as a platform, has become bullish on the issue of privacy in the space. Their vision for the 'verse includes leveraging their current technologies, including their security technologies. This includes cloud security capabilities, threat protection, and access management. These foundational blocks will be vital for the success of security in the space.
"To me, trust is going to be a bigger part of the metaverse than anything else,” says Vasu.
“Because if you don’t get that right, then we are going to have so many challenges down the line—and no one’s going to use the metaverse. I would not feel safe using the metaverse if [it lacked] the principles of trust.”
Challenges With Customer and User Experience
With this new space, comes the need for marketers to develop new skills. These might include designing new assets and interactions in 3D, which can be complex and unfamiliar.
But with these challenges comes the ability to provide your customers with an unparalleled customer experience. This could look like being able to take your product for a virtual test run, being able to try out a bunch of options or even chat with the support team instantly.
This will offer an immersive experience which will engage your customer fully. In fact, a study has shown that the amount of information stored in the memory is 70% higher when using AR. A potentially big impact.
So, VR is offering businesses the ability to offer customer experiences that they could never offer in the real world. And these experiences are highly effective.
Studies have shown that VR and AR have the ability to impact a company's bottom line significantly. Cosmetic brand We Make-Up saw a 53% higher click-through rate when they ran AR ads that let customers try on different lipstick shades. Another study found that 71% of customers would shop more often if they could use AR.
The potential of this field in the metaverse makes the challenges all the more frustrating. The user experience of most metaverse platforms, still in their infancy, is often clunky and difficult to navigate.
This becomes an issue in convincing mainstream users to try the technology. A lot of individuals see the metaverse as for developers, niche audiences, gamers, or Web 3.0 investors. Without the attraction of this wider audience, the metaverse can't reach the numbers it needs to become profitable, as we've mentioned above. Many potential users can't see a use case for the metaverse in their day to day lives, and some might not even know how to access relevant platforms.
So, to address these issues, there needs to be an effort to promote metaverse services more widely, in order to attract these mainstream users.
Another issue which arises with mainstream users is the first impression of the tech. The first use of metaverse platforms is an extremely important time, if users dace a lot of frustrations in the 'set up' and 'exploration' phases, they may quickly lose any enthusiasm.
Many well-used technologies which have become everyday necessities have been through years of user experience optimisation, leading to people being almost innately familiar with them due to years of use. In comparison, metaverse user experience can be unfamiliar and frustrating. Decentraland, for example, requires users to set up their account on top of a cryptocurrency wallet, as well as configure their browsers or operating systems. If a casual user gets frustrated with this, they may quit and never come back.
The metaverse aims, and has the potential to, solve a key CX issue the current internet faces, which is a lack of interactive, engaging, and immersive experiences. This is where data comes in.
Compared to traditional social media, metaverse platforms can gather much more intimate details on the users, due to the immersive nature of the tech, and the length of time it'll be used. No case of just popping onto Twitter to fire off a couple of angry posts in two minutes, then logging off and escaping the wrath of your followers.
This depth of info will be extremely valuable for brands. It'll help them gain a deeper understanding of user behaviour, which can be used to tailor advertising campaigns in a targeted way. Think what the Internet of Things is doing currently - mapping your customer's behaviour in a 3D way.
Plus, at the corporate level, CIOs are coming around to the idea of the Metaverse. However, most are still adopting a wait-and-see approach, and are instead focusing on more deployments of AI to aid in their innovation and digitisation efforts. But, with the increasing security of data, and a way to utilise it safely and effectively, they'll be pushed further towards the Metaverse as a genuine concept.
So, brands can use this wealth of data to create innovative and personal experiences for their customers within the metaverse, and outside it.
This means the metaverse presents brands with an opportunity to rethink their strategy and adapt to changing conventions that come with a rapid shift in technological trends and advancements.
Many mistakes were made in Web 2.0, with the explosion of portable tech, mobile, and social media. Basically, data privacy was thrown out the window. It eventually led to the revelations of scandals such as Cambridge Analytica. All this meant any tryst in Big Tech was lost, and the shine of the technological revolution wore off sharpish.
The Data Protection Act of 1998 was only followed by GDPR in 2018. This meant it took 20 years to upgrade a more comprehensive set of regulations. If this neglectful approach is kept, web 3.0 is likely to repeat the same mistakes as Web 2.0.
But another way to consider the challenges that come with the adoption of virtual CX, companies should look into the current state of chatbots, says Daniel Rodriguez, CMO of Simplr.
“Many brands think that chatbots alone can solve every customer interaction—but current technology can’t meet customers’ complicated needs alone,” said Daniel.
He suggests that brands shouldn't adopt CX if it's not right for them. This could lead to half-done or poor user experience in the metaverse.
“Poor customer experiences will reverberate more loudly in unified metaverse communities,” Daniel continued.
“As the metaverse becomes adopted by more people, brands that fail to cultivate loyalty through their CX will instead see larger customer migrations to their competitors.”
A Brand Doing The Metaverse Right
Gaming platform Roblox and Gucci teamed up last year to develop an innovative user experience. The brands hosted the 'Gucci Garden' on the Roblox platform, a two-week art installation aimed at building brand awareness among younger users.
Ahead of its centenary, Gucci developed the event to be a virtual recreation of a real-world installation in Florence. The Garden offered various themed rooms paying homage to the brand's campaigns, with metaverse benefits including the ability to transcend the laws of physics.
When visiting the area, visitors could try on and purchase digital Gucci products, and then go on to explore the themed rooms. As they explored the virtual world, the avatars absorb elements of each area.
To ensure the partnership was fair and collaborative, both the platform and the brand received value from any sale of the virtual clothing, with the items being sold via a revenue share model.
So, as we enter further and further into a digital reality and society, it's important for marketers to be ready for the change, and the challenge. But it's also vital that marketers don't get struck down with 'shiny new toy syndrome' and are aware of the issues, on top of the opportunities, that the metaverse offers, especially before the metaverse starts infiltrating our daily lives.