Technology is constantly evolving, and with all the fuss about the metaverse, you do not want your company to be left behind as other big brands are engaging their online communities over the metaverse every day. What is the metaverse anyway, and how is it different from how we experience the internet today?
A metaverse can be described as a multiuser platform that houses a social network of networked immersive worlds which enable fluid, real-time user-embodied communication as well as dynamic interactions with digital artifacts.
More simply put, it is the fusing of digital virtuality with physical reality, which by itself is not a foreign concept as we are already experiencing the metaverse in different forms such as virtual reality and augmented reality.
The new social media ?
Think of social media, for instance. As of 2021, 4.26 billion people used social media and as it is at the moment, interaction on social media platforms uses two-dimensional aspects hence the user and the internet are two separate entities.
With the metaverse, people will get to experience the same effect of social media in that they can still interact virtually, but in a more heightened and immersive way that involves more of their sensory features in a three-dimensional platform.
Imagine a collection of virtual worlds that you can hop between with ease. In e-commerce for instance, instead of interacting with a company’s products on a two-dimensional platform, as we currently do, augmented reality has made it possible for companies such as Dulux to use a visualizer to offer their customers the ability to try out certain shades of paint before purchase by virtually painting it on the customer’s wall. Ikea Place application also enables its customers to virtually experience how furniture would look inside the customers’ exact room, allowing them to make better purchase decisions.
Should brands and companies care about the metaverse?
As the internet evolved from web 1.0 to web 2.0, companies changed how they interacted with online communities from using static websites to simply relay information, to more dynamic and engaging platforms such as social media and e-commerce.
With the increased internet penetration and social media usage, brands and companies found more ways to advertise their offerings to a wider and more dynamic audience online. It is, therefore, not surprising that the industry for social media advertising as a whole was estimated to be worth 181.2 billion dollars in 2021 and is anticipated to reach 358 billion dollars by 2026.
However, in the same way that the market transitioned from traditional marketing to online marketing, will it experience similar changes with the shift from web 2.0 to web 3.0 and transition to the metaverse? Big technology companies such as Meta and Microsoft are already investing heavily in metaverse technology, so the question of whether or not metaverse is the future of the internet already has an indisputable answer.
If so, how can brands and companies engage with their online communities over this soon-to-be new reality?
To experience the metaverse, people will need digital representations of their physical beings (avatars), enabled by artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Avatars are currently being used with web 2.0, especially in the entertainment industry where they give synthetic videos a more human touch.
In the metaverse, avatars have created a different marketing avenue for companies to interact with their online communities through the co-creation of avatars. Gucci, for instance, partners with companies such as Zepeto to develop virtual items that are available for purchase through non-fungible tokens (NFT) and are being used to dress avatars (Tondu, n.d.).
Valuable collectibles such as sneakers, which arguably give their owners bragging rights similar to those of the physical product, are also making advances in the metaverse.
In April this year, Nike released its Cryptokicks collection of virtual sneakers. Adidas also has a collection of virtual streetwear that it released in 2021 and made NFT sales worth over $22 million on the release day.
Using this strategy, companies can drive up both physical and virtual sales of items by creating 3D versions of their offerings to allow customers to experience them virtually and hopefully increase their desire to purchase the tangible product.
Influencer Marketing in the Metaverse
Influencer marketing has gained popularity in recent years with the increased valuation of social networks and fandom. Influencers in the metaverse could have a similar effect on customer purchase decisions as brands could as well works with influencers to promote their products in the extended reality.
For instance, if an NFT sneaker has a similar perceived value as the actual tangible product, then influencer avatars could be used to grow their popularity in a metaverse.
Therefore, brands can still effectively engage online communities using influencers over the metaverse.
Online Communities in the Metaverse
Need for immersive content
Brands have been coming up with new ways to engage their online communities by creating strategies to simulate physical experiences on digital platforms. Live retail has been reverberating in the Chinese market since 2016 and more global brands have been adopting this strategy as it allows companies to have live broadcasts, showing physical products while simultaneously giving the audience an opportunity to purchase the products using e-commerce.
The success of live retail can be mainly attributed to how immersive it is and its ability to engage the audience. Given that metaverse aims to create an immersive digital world with real-world features, then brands can connect with their customers by interacting with them in the metaverse.
In the same way that Philipp Plein- a German fashion designer- purchased land in a metaverse called Decentraland, and aims to have virtual luxury stores in it, companies could invest in having their own virtual stores for their customers’ avatars to experience their offerings and purchase them virtually.
Ideally, brands would have to engineer 3D virtual stores that simulate the functions of a physical store to effectively immerse their customers in the experience.
The virtual storefronts for L’Oreal Luxe for Armani Beauty and YSL Beauty Thailand have been launched on an immersive commerce platform facilitated by ByondXR. ByondXR is an expert in XR technology for e-commerce and builds 3D showrooms and stores for companies, brands, and merchants.
The concept of virtual stores is not entirely new as customers have already experienced e-commerce and live retail hence its implementation might be faster than other aspects of the metaverse.
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