The Metaverse is a gamechanger of epic proportions. It has opened-up a whole new world of possibilities, establishing new frontiers few could have imagined even two decades ago, when author Neal Stephenson coined the term ‘Metaverse’ in his 1992 novel ‘Snow Crash’, in which he described people interacting in a digital game world using VR headsets. Little did anyone realize how the Metaverse would become a reality, where the lines between the physical, and digital, worlds would become so blurred, and that they would become a part of our daily lives.
This overlapping of the physical and digital worlds, and the impact it has had on people,(especially young people), has served to establish the Metaverse as a platform for reaching communities, connecting people, and growing businesses. Its reach is at a phenomenal global level because it is not limited by physical, or geographical, boundaries – providing the ideal opportunity for marketers to reach their consumers, anywhere, anytime.
India envisages the Metaverse as a prime hunting ground for D2C brands, which eliminates the concept of the middleman. The Indian market today, has seen a spate of D2C brands which span various industries ranging from consumer electronics to beauty and personal care; home décor to food and beverage; and fashion and accessories, to name a few. The roster of D2C brands includes Noise, BoAt, Mama Earth, Wakefit, Pepperfry.com, Country Delight, Sleepy Owl, Bewakoof, Lenskart to name a few.
When the world is your oyster – virtually
Imagine a world in which the physical, digital, and virtual planes co-exist in harmony, working together to offer pathbreaking, interactive experiences to people worldwide, simultaneously, regardless of location. A world in which people are open to experiencing new messages; new worlds; new realities. And this is the world every company seeks to explore, to optimize its ability to build and maintain its relationship with its consumers. Specifically, young, tech-savvy, consumers.
From global to virtual – mixed realities
The potential to build brands on the Metaverse is evident in the enviable roster of luminaries who have already pulled out all the stops to establish their presence in this world of mixed realities – neither exclusively physical, nor digital, nor virtual– but an amalgam of all three. This is a world where the possibilities are endless for companies from different spheres. Motivating them to invest heavily in technology and create new virtual reality experiences to ensure retaining their consumer base, while attracting new consumers.
Some ofthe biggest brands in the business, globally, who have had the foresight to forge ahead in this race for virtual world dominance, include Meta (erstwhile Facebook), Disney, Hyundai, Nike, Warner Bros, Coca-Cola, Louis Vuitton, Balenciaga, Charli Cohen & Selfridges, Wendy’s, Microsoft…to name a few
The Metaverse wears many hats…and gloves
The potential inherent in the Metaverse defies description and definition. While it offers people the opportunity to connect, interact and create their own virtual ‘avatars’, the Metaverses own ‘avatar’ is fluid and everchanging, because it is a seamless amalgam of multiple technologies, including blockchain, gaming, machine learning, virtual reality platforms, sensors, digital currencies, 3-D graphics, and sometimes, VR headsets. Although, the rapidly evolving computer-generated holography is working towards dispensing with the need for headsets, while organizations like Meta’s pioneering work on haptic (touch) gloves enables users to experience sensations such as movement, texture, and pressure while interacting with 3-D virtual objects.
Despite the giant strides made by the Metaverse, it still has a long way to go, and a large part of the journey is going to be quite unpredictable. But it is obvious that brands worldwide have already started trying to carve a niche for themselves in the virtual world.
Identify, invest, and evolve – key branding initiatives
What are the key factors brands need to take into consideration before they can create and implement their marketing strategies in the Metaverse? These include:
- The consumer at a global level – the importance of demographics: age/gender/etc.
- Digital opportunities across virtual planes
- The brand categories more likely to succeed in the Metaverse
- Melding the creatives with technology to arrive at the most effective strategies to connect, interact and achieve top-of-mind recall
- How to consistently improve on the User experience
Identifying the key factors will help brands evolve their strategies to attract and engage users, not just in the short term, but over a considerable period, to make the most of the opportunities that the Metaverse offers. Brands will need to sustain and build on the gains they achieve in the long term, by adapting to a fluid and constantly evolving virtual world.
Some leading brands that have engaged in activities designed to connect with their users, and improve the User experience, include:
- H & M with the launch of its virtual store in the Metaverse, enabling consumers to buy clothes they wish to wear in a digital environment
- A Vans skateboarding playground within a Vans World game, in which players can only participate if they wear digital Vans shoes
- Gucci, who marked their 100th anniversary by launching Gucci Gardens in Roblox, offering users more immersive experiences
Activities such as these, serve to reinforce the avenues offered by the Metaverse to generate more revenues. For instance:
- Launching virtual stores in the Metaverse e.g., H & M and its virtual shopping experience
- Organizing/Sponsoring events in the Metaverse e.g., Vans, who stepped out of its area of expertise/core competence, but used the opportunity to incorporate its brand/product within a new environment
- Creating/owning exclusive digital format versions of collectibles (Real estate, NFT’s, etc) e.g. luxury brands such as Gucci who sold their digital products at prices much higher than the physical versions
- Influencing/owning content
- Creating product categories to cater to users’ avatars
- Releasing virtual versions prior to launch, to influence real world purchases
By leveraging the opportunities offered by the Metaverse, these brands have already started creating the building blocks of their marketing strategies. In time, these will serve to establish, and consolidate, their presence in the Metaverse.
For a multitude of markets in the Metaverse – what next?
Leading brands today, have already been working to identify the challenges to be met, and strategies to be implemented, based on the following:
- The biggest challenge right now: Creating synergy between what brands need and what the Metaverse is capable of offering. And the priority is technology because that is the only way to gain access to the magic of the Metaverse. While the communication aspects – target group, creative strategy, etc. – are important, they cannot be implemented unless the technology evolves to integrate the demands of augmented reality, virtual reality, mixed reality i.e., extended reality. In addition to advanced IoT technology and high-end human-computer interface.
- Critical growth areas: The potential inherent in the engagement opportunities and revenue streams offered.
- The infrastructural ecosystem: In terms of technology (hardware and software) and manpower. Identify the areas to be prioritized and developed.
- Creative parameters: Total flexibility in keeping with the freedom and flexibility the Metaverse offers. In other words, the highly malleable environment the brand gets to make its presence felt in.
- Trial and error: There are no hard and fast rules that apply to the maverick platform that the Metaverse is. Hence, brands need to continuously innovate, analyze, evolve, and put to the test. They will succeed at times and fail at times. Then go back to the drawing board and start from scratch. Continuously learning, ideating, creating, and achieving new milestones.
The Metaverse is here to stay. And every brand needs to understand that and exploit its potential.
Article is authored by Piyush Gupta, President, Kestone.