The metaverse is a new frontier for marketers, and the technology is still evolving, but new research from digital experience software firm Sitecore shows consumers are eagerly anticipating brands’ entry into virtual environments—and have a long wish list of opportunities and expectations.
According to the firm’s newly released 2022 Perceptions of the Metaverse report, nearly half of all U.S. consumers (42 percent) say they’re metaverse enthusiasts—when it comes to experiencing these digital environments, they’re most excited about the opportunity to attend virtual events, pursue thrill seeking adventures, tour homes, try on clothes, buy cars and explore places before traveling to them. With a bucket list this extensive, it’s no surprise that four in five consumers (79 percent) polled expect to spend more time in the metaverse than other social media apps like Facebook and Instagram.
As consumer interest in the metaverse continues to grow, they are also eager for brands to join the metaverse. In fact, most consumers in the survey (88 percent) expect to see brands selling and advertising in the metaverse in the next one to two years via direct messages (59 percent), pop-ups (52 percent) and influencer marketing (52 percent).
This consumer expectation, coupled with the fact that most marketers polled (90 percent) believe that the metaverse—if built correctly—can help solve unique business challenges, has captured marketers’ attention with nearly three in four marketers (69 percent) saying they plan to build metaverse experiences in 2023.
“When it comes to consumer interest and the need for marketers to start planning for and building metaverse-like experiences, the moment has arrived. Our 2022 metaverse survey reports that consumers expect marketers and brands to devote significant budget and time to creating metaverse experiences that live up to their expectations, are inclusive, unique and personalized,” said Paige O’Neill, Sitecore CMO, in a news release.
“The metaverse presents a new marketing frontier to engage and connect with consumers. Brands and marketers who understand and are starting to embrace and explore this new frontier are already ahead of the game,” O’Neill added.
For brands looking to understand how they can drive consumer engagement in virtual environments, it all comes down to exclusive access, diverse representation and a sense of community. Half of consumers (47 percent) in the survey say getting access to new products and exclusive releases before their real-world launch would encourage them to engage with a brand in the metaverse.
But for more than one-third of consumers (38 percent), a key driver for engagement is representation as consumers admit that seeing metaverse users or avatars who look like them represented in a brand’s experience would encourage their engagement. This sentiment also holds true for non-virtual experiences with Sitecore’s Brand Authenticity report revealing that 81 percent of consumers want brands’ marketing and communications to be representative of customers.
Additional findings from the report include:
Building and investing in the future
While one in three (31 percent) marketers say the metaverse is already part of their current marketing program, more than half of marketers (56 percent) are already investing in “metaverse-like technologies,” such as augmented reality or virtual reality. For marketers, early investments into mixed reality are a strategic metaverse play with consumers saying they’ll use a virtual reality console (47 percent) or gaming console (33 percent) to access and spend time with brands in the metaverse.
A reprieve from reality
More than half of consumers (51 percent) will use the metaverse to escape the reality of the rising cost of living (60 percent), threat of viruses (46 percent) and risks associated with climate change (41 percent).
Avatar glow ups
In addition to escaping reality, many consumers are looking forward to being what they consider a better version of themselves in the metaverse. While half of consumers (50 percent) want their metaverse avatar to look like them, nearly two in five (38 percent) would create an avatar that looked like them with a few “improved physical features.” Those who plan to enhance their avatar say they’re uncomfortable sharing their true identity (35 percent) and don’t want to be stereotyped in the metaverse (25 percent), making it imperative for brands to create diverse, inclusive experiences that encourage avatars of all walks of the metaverse to engage.
Community and connections
Beyond using the metaverse to shop and test a product or service, the concept of community excites consumers. They’re eager to meet new friends (79 percent), spend time with friends and family (79 percent), learn about new cultures (87 percent) and even make a love connection (54 percent). Nearly two in five consumers (38 percent) say they’d be more encouraged to participate in a brand’s experience if they were able to join and connect with a community of “like-minded people” who were just as passionate about the products, services and brand as they are. Creating a sense of community, connection and belonging is key for brands who are building in the metaverse.