By Vipul Taneja
Metaverse, a parallel universe
Connecting a multitude of different virtual locations and places, the Metaverse is an online three-dimensional universe, in which users can interact, game, meet, work and socialise as their own digital iterations, or 3-D avatars. The Metaverse, in essence, is an intricate network of virtual digital worlds that parallelly coexist with the physical world in which we exist.
Like every new dynamic, Metaverse already has, or will soon have, its share of naysayers, just like with everything that’s new and difficult to fully comprehend at one go. This is akin to how a percentage of people had reacted to social media during its early days. Some called it a fad and some tried to indirectly avoid the platforms. Cut to 2022, social media not only happens to be an indispensable part of the day-to-day lives of billions of people (Facebook, for instance, has more people than the most populous countries in the world), but it also is an essential part of almost every marketing mix today.
The most receptive section of our audiences, Millennials and Gen Z who truly are digital natives of today, are heading to the Metaverse, or whatever iterations are in existence of this virtual space. This is the same demographic that has popularised virtual universes like those of Minecraft, Fortnite, and Roblox; and while the fully functional and impeccably connected Metaverse isn’t here yet, there are individual virtual spaces like Decentraland, Axie Infinity, among others, that are providing a taste of what’s possible in the very near future.
Immersive experience, greater engagement
The greatest reason why a ton of brands across the spectrum, like Vans, Chipotle and Verizon are already heading to the Metaverse is to keep up their engagement with millennials, Gen X and Gen Z, while also keeping products and services in display where the maximum eyeballs are. For instance, Vans, the skateboarding brand, recently launched a gamified virtual skatepark in Roblox in which players can make innovative tricks and earn virtual currency which can be used to upgrade their avatar. As of December 2021, the Vans skatepark had received 48 million visitors.
Luxury brands like Gucci also have been experimenting with the Metaverse. In May 2021, the virtual Gucci Garden, created as a digital replica of the real-world installation in Florence, Italy, called Gucci Garden Archetypes, was launched on Roblox. Users could interact with each other while exploring the space, and at the same time, link their cryptocurrency wallets and buy digital pieces created in collaboration with Roblox. Some brands are also building platforms within the Metaverse to enable users to transact/ trade in fiat currencies, instead of only Crypto, to provide access to people in countries where Crypto tokens cannot be used as currencies.
Way ahead for marketers
In order to provide some value, as a sort of initiation for the audience, brands should consider providing some rewards, or discounts, among others, in the zone they create on Metaverse.
Metaverse can be also used to create deeper engagement, like in the case of the Vans skatepark. Irrespective of whether the user happens to be a skateboarder, the virtual park gamifies the experience, letting the user get a taste of skateboarding, while simultaneously earning rewards on the go.
The overall impact on how marketing functions, will probably be phenomenal. Currently, brands that advertise online, use search engines and social platforms. They use text, graphics, and videos to get their core messages across. With normalisation of VR Technology, these visuals will move to the virtual and 3-dimensional space. Marketers will have to adapt to these changes and create content accordingly.
With the rise of the Metaverse, Search Engine Optimisation too will witness major changes.
Although it is difficult to predict how SEO will change, since it will all depend on how the Metaverse shapes up, experts expect search engine giants like Google to take a more immersive stance, and to offer mixed reality search engines that allow consumers to visit websites using VR technology. Storytellers and Brands must adapt by reworking their stories in 3D media. Marketers will have to stay abreast of rapidly developing technological trends to keep their approaches relevant.
The Metaverse has only begun its journey, but the possibilities are already endless. This is a space where virtual connections can be made, users can attend an event, and visit a brand booth. With no restriction of physical space, the potential growth of audience capacity is truly exponential.
This is the time when marketers need to put their thinking hats on and go for a creative deep-dive. With the Metaverse ascending, engagement with the audience is only bound to get deeper, and with the right amount of creativity, impossible is nothing.
The author is co-founder and CEO, Adsparkx