What the Heck is the Metaverse and How Will It Change Digital Marketing?

Back in July 2020, Forbes published an article, “The Metaverse is Coming, And It’s A Very Big Deal.”

“Marketing and communications professionals need to pay attention to the metaverse because it’s the next frontier for online interaction. Just like social media revolutionized the online marketing landscape, so too will the metaverse.”

Fast forward to October 2021, when Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that he’s rebranding Facebook. Furthermore, he said that metaverse would be the future of Facebook, so much so that he’s investing $5 billion in the concept and will hire 10,000 European employees to work on it.

After days of suspense, Zuckerberg finally announced on October 28, 2021, that the new name of Facebook would be “Meta.”

What Heck is the Metaverse?

Here’s Wikipedia’s definition:

“The concept of a future Internet iteration made up of persistent, shared, 3D virtual spaces linked into a perceived virtual universe.”

Venture capitalist Matthew Ball gives this definition in his book Metaverse Primer:

“The metaverse is an expansive network of persistent, real-time rendered 3D worlds and simulations that support continuity of identity, objects, history, payments, and entitlements, and can be experienced synchronously by an effectively unlimited number of users, each with an individual sense of presence.”

To simplify it further, Facebook, which will become the biggest investor in the technology, defines it this way:

“The metaverse is a set of virtual spaces where you can create and explore with other people who aren’t in the same physical space as you.”

Okay, So What Will It Look Like?

There are as many answers to this question as to the people you ask.

The name metaverse comes from Neal Stephenson’s novel, Snow Crash. In his book, the metaverse was a 3D world filled with roads, buildings, rooms, and other typical objects, inhabited by avatars of actual people.

So far, almost everyone agrees that the metaverse will not look like the one in Stephenson’s novel. But, what will it look like?

Here are some ideas from a few tech leaders.

“We can expect self-contained virtual social worlds but also service layers and tools that unlock opportunities for creatives and entrepreneurs that the physical world can’t or won’t provide. [It] will be shared, collaborative space, backed by decentralized structure.” (Sam Hamilton, Head of Community and Events for Decentraland Foundation, a blockchain-based metaverse creator)

“Qualcomm views the metaverse as an ever-present spatial internet complete with personalized digital experiences that spans the physical and virtual worlds, where everything and everyone can communicate and interact seamlessly…unlimited users and businesses can explore, create, socialize, and participate in a wide variety of communities, daily experiences and economic activities in 2D and 3D.” (Hugo Swart, VP, and GM of XT, Qualcomm)

Will Metaverse Replace the Internet?

Mark Zuckerberg says the metaverse is “an embodied internet…where people can have different experiences that you couldn’t necessarily do on a 2D app or webpage.” His vision of the metaverse is” an online virtual realm where people would work, play and shop.”

If companies stick to a hybrid or remote-only work environment, Zuckerberg’s vision of a metaverse could gain traction. It would relieve workers from Zoom and other video call grids. Instead of staring at a flat panel, workers would enter a virtual reality world where they can see each other in 3D.

Moreover, this virtual world can be accessed by people using different devices. The metaverse would consist of interconnected virtual communities. People would meet up to work or play using augmented reality glasses, smartphone apps, virtual reality headsets, or other devices.

Facebook has said that it will take between 10-15 years to develop all the aspects and products for the metaverse.

In the meantime, brands should get a head start now by experimenting with virtual reality technologies that are already in the market.

Virtual Platforms

As the metaverse transitions and tech giants vie for dominance, one technology that is already impacting businesses is virtual spaces. Beyond meeting rooms, VR includes malls, factories, showrooms, and stadiums.

Brands that already had VR technology and quickly embraced it maintained a strong connection with their consumers during the pandemic. They hosted virtual sales events, product launches, promos, and social events.

VR has already gained a strong foothold in advertising and experimental marketing. Retailers are selling real and virtual products.

According to Influencer Marketing Hub, approximately 85 million users experienced VR or AR at least once every month in 2021. Millennials and Gen Zers are already enthusiastic users of some version of metaverses, such as games and virtual technologies.

Will Metaverse Change Digital Marketing?

In the short term, the answer is no. The metaverse as a mainstream tool will take time to gain traction. In addition, not everyone has access to the gadgets needed to enjoy the metaverse, such as VR lenses and high-end computers.

But, as Forbes said, the metaverse is coming.

  • The pandemic accelerated digital trends worldwide, including reliance on the internet for information, making purchases, conducting business, and socializing.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, cloud processing, and 5G converged to create a dynamic, seamless, and affordable AR VR experience. Consumers use any connected device they desire to virtually visit some of their favorite brands to try on clothes, makeup, or organize new furniture.
  • Well-known brands including Snap, Disney, Facebook, Nike, and Gucci are creating virtual communities, experiences, fashion, and worlds.
  • BeyondXR is helping brands worldwide launch virtual stores, and this is not in the future, it’s happening now.

At one time, marketing on the internet was optional, yet today it’s imperative. Industry experts predict that the same will occur with the metaverse—brands will have to use it to compete in the new marketplace.

The next frontier is ready to be explored, so there are some things you might want to think about now.

  1. Be sure you’ve identified your target audience. For example, if you’re trying to reach Gen Z and millennials, then you’ll need to meet them where they hang out. This means mobile and social apps, especially Snapchat and TikTok.
  2. Begin thinking about delivering your brand message in a virtual sphere where participants are focused on creating worlds.
  3. Craft blog articles and messaging that incorporate relevant SEO terms such as virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and the metaverse. You’ll get a leg-up on the conversation and signal to your audience that you know where the digital world is heading. Also, you’ll make a fun, hip connection with your consumers.
  4. Add a conversation about the metaverse or virtual reality in your brand community. It’s a great way to gauge interest, concerns, and what they would like to see in a metaverse.
  5. Incorporate AI, virtual reality, and augmented reality into your marketing strategies. For example, take advantage of Google’s AR/VR technologies to add augmented reality overlays on your local listings.
  6. Invite your consumers to visit your virtual store or host an event on Facebook Horizon or AltSpace VR.
  7. Use your social listening tools to follow “metaverse” in the news. Then, pass on the latest to your consumers and start thinking about how you can put your brand message into this emerging reality.
  8. The metaverse will pose new challenges to data privacy and security. Be sure you’re using cutting-edge cybersecurity platforms.

Bottom Line

The metaverse, as envisioned by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, is not going to materialize overnight. It will take time, but not as long as it took for the internet to evolve. There’s tremendous excitement and a rush to be the first to capture the market. And, the future could happen sooner than we think. Now is an excellent time to learn about and experiment with current virtual reality and augmented reality technologies. Be bold and have fun.

Let us know in the comment box what you think. Are you ready for the metaverse? What do you think about Facebook’s new name? How are you using VR/AR and AI technologies in your digital marketing?

Hey, feel free to comment. I love to hear your thoughts.

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