Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have slowly but surely been gaining momentum. In 2016, eBay and Myer launched the world’s first VR department store, uniting the best of online and in-store experiences. Fast forward five years, and Mark Zuckerberg has put harnessing VR’s full potential at the top of his to-do list. Changing the name of Facebook to Meta, Zuckerberg has set his sights on founding the metaverse.
What is the metaverse? It’s a shared virtual environment that he hopes will reach one billion users in the next 10 years.
But a mixed reality social ‘world’ still feels a few steps away for the brands that will likely fund its existence. In the coming digital landscape, what might brand marketers’ roles look like and what steps can they take to ready themselves?
What can we expect from the metaverse?
Viewed as the next phase of the internet, the metaverse will be an open 3D virtual space where users can socialise, shop and even work. Zuckerberg has said it will be accessible not only through VR headsets, but also through mobile devices, desktops, and games consoles. In other words, his ambition is to make it an extension of the internet as we know it.
As media and advertising are integral to today’s digital landscape, it’s reasonable to expect they will be within the metaverse too. New content, ecosystems and brand interactions will be made possible through the metaverse. But how can marketers prepare for the unknown?
Looking back at previous digital trends may be a good start. Moreover, we’re already seeing effective virtual experiences being implemented in several sectors. This could also give us a glimpse of what’s coming next.
In online gaming – one of the first industries where VR gained traction – users are familiar with the mix of real and virtual elements. Take for instance Animal Talking, the talk show hosted on live video streaming platform, Twitch, and set within Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The show’s guests, which have included names such as Selena Gomez, appear and perform as Animal Crossing avatars.
Brands will have the opportunity to connect with highly-engaged audiences if they can adapt to these new environments. Similar to when the mass adoption of smartphones reshaped the digital landscape, marketers will need to carefully consider the optimal ad formats, content and creatives for the metaverse.
Zuckerberg’s vision of the metaverse is that it will be an open and interoperable platform. As it will operate around feeds, companies will be able to put forward their resources in an aggregation layer, which will be accessible to consumers in an ordered approach – similarly to Amazon or other e-commerce platforms. Recommendations will then be provided to the user through artificial intelligence (AI).
Three campaign elements marketers can bank on
Not everything will be unfamiliar in the metaverse. Current aspects of marketing campaigns are likely to become even more important, such as:
Cross-channel strategies: consumers are switching seamlessly between online and offline channels, leading many marketers to prioritise building a consistent brand experience across them all. By uniting marketing operations and cross-channel campaign management, brands can achieve greater performance and agility.
With continuing uncertainty around the pandemic, and the rise of new variants, brands will have to adjust to changing behaviour patterns and consumer preferences. To prepare for the metaverse, marketers must enhance their approaches to cross-channel campaigns, because the media landscape will only get more complex.
Creative flexibility: as a social platform evolves, so do the ad formats used within it, making adaptable creative an asset to marketers. Technologies that enable dynamic creative optimisation are advantageous for brands wanting to engage users across devices and platforms. By automating creative decisioning, marketers can streamline the delivery of tailored ads wherever and however audiences interact with brands.
Deeper personalisation: digital has shifted one-to-many marketing towards a one-to-one approach, with ads being personalised for individual users. The metaverse will increase the diversification of audience behaviours as mobile once did. Marketers must improve their personalisation tools to deliver hyper-relevant and engaging ads. A test-and-learn approach is essential for identifying what makes audiences tick and what misses the mark, so brands can deploy informed campaign strategies.
Three strategic challenges marketers should anticipate
The ability to harmonise cross-channel campaigns, optimise creative and tailor ads for each consumer relies on data, which brings us to the first potential concern for marketing in the metaverse:
Campaign measurement: when banner ads entered the scene, click-through rates became all the rage. Once digital video emerged, new metrics followed such as view-through rates, bounce rates and more. Metaverse campaigns will likely have the same impact, but marketers can prepare by building a holistic view of outcomes for their current campaigns. Combining isolated data sets from across channels and platforms gives brands a clearer picture of how these metrics feed overall performance, offering them a head start in the metaverse.
Consumer adoption: bringing the metaverse into being will take new technologies; some may be embedded in familiar devices, for instance mobile, while others may not. Hardware such as VR headsets or AR-enabled glasses will need to be perfected so that they are intuitive and affordable for consumers. This evolution won’t happen overnight. The most accessible technologies will be the ones fuelling consumers’ uptake of the metaverse. This will leave an opening for the biggest opportunities in brand interaction.
Bad actors in the ecosystem: unfortunately, new infrastructures and media trading methods will attract those wanting to exploit them. The programmatic ecosystem of Connected TV, for example, recently witnessed a counterfeit operation seize US$10 million in monthly revenue by exploiting vulnerabilities in the trading process. This incident highlighted the importance of independent third-party verification to ensure ad investment generates desired results in any evolving platform.
AR is set to boom, according to a recent study from Snapchat that revealed its adoption is mirroring that of mobile. In 2025, it estimates that almost 65 percent of Australians and almost all social media users will frequently engage with AR. Whether this translates into adoption of the metaverse may be difficult to predict, but concentrating on the perennial elements of campaigns and resolving current marketing challenges will help brands prepare for what’s ahead.
By Georgia Brammer, Regional Director JAPAC
Originally published by Marketing Magazine