The Metaverse may appear to offer infinite opportunities, but it’s still widely unknown and unexplored by marketers.
Loyalty Technology

Should We Believe the Hype? Understanding the Metaverse and Where Marketers Fit In

Photo by julien Tromeur on Unsplash

It seems we can’t escape the Metaverse these days. Whether it’s another NFT debut or a new store opening its doors in the virtual world, everyone (and every brand) has something to say about the Metaverse. For marketers, this raises an important question: where exactly do we fit into that conversation?

By: Raj De Datta, Bloomreach

A recent survey from CommX, a community of leading technology providers across the commerce industry, set out to answer just that. Conducted in partnership with CommerceNext, the 2022 Consumer Trends: Metaverse & Social Commerce report gauged consumer awareness and adoption of the Metaverse, uncovering key insights into the future of commerce and the ways consumers will interact with this virtual world. As marketers consider their role in this new arena, here are the insights they should take note of:

The Metaverse is still a mystery to most

The Metaverse may appear to offer infinite opportunities, but it’s still widely unknown and unexplored. Although we do spend much of our time in digital spaces, consumer adoption of the Metaverse has proven to be slightly different. Almost half of the consumers polled in the survey hadn’t heard of the Metaverse, while 47% were only vaguely familiar with the term, but had no idea how to use it. With a small portion of consumers excited about the Metaverse, it’s on business owners to educate themselves and understand what the Metaverse has to offer their consumers and how to maximize its potential for their advantage.

Further, businesses need to consider what it has to offer their consumers on a more granular level. The study found that Millennials are the most familiar with the Metaverse and have used virtual reality in some form. Consumers 40-49 year olds have little excitement for the Metaverse but are the most likely to livestream shop, which the report highlighted would probably be their entry point into the Metaverse. As with any marketing channel, different consumers will engage with the Metaverse in vastly different ways, meaning segmentation will be critical in marketing via this channel effectively. In understanding how different consumers interact with virtual worlds and adjusting marketing efforts accordingly, marketers can ensure they’re targeting the right consumers with the right messaging in the right channel.

Metaverse shopping will be about more than the products themselves

Between Roblox, Fortnite and Second Life, it’s clear that virtual worlds are largely known for gaming at the moment. The CommX survey found that 76% of Metaverse users were gamers while only 30% of respondents used the Metaverse to shop. This discrepancy points to an important insight: consumers are entering the Metaverse for more than just a transaction — they want an experience. But for brands and retailers to truly tap into that audience, it’ll be important to provide a holistic experience for customers, rather than just another virtual marketplace or storefront to purchase clothing.

If they can succeed in building that experience, consumers will follow. In fact, the survey found that most respondents are open to buying real-world products in a virtual world. And more than that, many consumers surveyed expressed interest beyond purchasing, including being a part of a virtual mall, shopping with friends, and trying on clothing and accessories with their proper sizes. We’re seeing emphasis put on the entire commerce experience — highly personalized, seamless journeys that make online shopping an exciting endeavor, rather than a virtual chore. Marketers can enable this experience in a myriad of ways, from email campaigns that build customer communities to SMS promotions that connect to in-store events. Customers are engaging with digital channels for more than just a transaction, and in building an experience that establishes a brand as more than just a storefront, marketers have the ability to both satisfy customers in the near-term and build more lasting relationships with them in the long-term.

Don’t let social commerce get lost in the Metaverse hype

Social commerce has evolved from consumers buying products through their favorite influencers on social media to entire customer journeys now taking place in seconds on any social platform. The CommX survey found that 43% of respondents purchase items promoted on social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. More recently, social commerce has also grown to encompass live streaming, a channel of shopping that the survey found resonates with Gen Z shoppers (though it hasn’t exactly broken through with other demographics yet). Conversational tools like chat apps, video chat, voice assistants, and video-focused social platforms also have a strong hold within the social commerce landscape and are offering new opportunities for marketers to engage consumers in creative ways.

Social commerce can provide businesses with an easier foothold into building the kind of cross-channel, differentiated commerce experiences they would otherwise hope to achieve in the Metaverse. It’s a marketer’s most immediate opportunity to obtain consistent and better visibility, increased ROI, and more trackability, so don’t let it get lost in the Metaverse hype.

Marketers are tasked with continuously adapting to new technologies, and the Metaverse is no different. While the 2022 Consumer Trends report highlighted that this channel is still low in awareness and adoption, it also put into perspective how consumer engagement with digital channels is evolving and how marketers need to adapt accordingly.

For the most part, consumers are no longer engaging with brands through a single channel, nor are they satisfied with static experiences. They may not be expecting an entirely new virtual world right now, but expectations are certainly growing. Marketers should consider the benefits the Metaverse could ultimately offer — community, cross-channel engagement, personalization, brand immersion — and start incorporating them into their existing marketing channels today.

Raj De Datta is CEO and co-founder of Bloomreach.

Should We Believe the Hype? Understanding the Metaverse and Where Marketers Fit In
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