By Oliver Corrin, global head of interior design, Latitude Agency
It was predicted in a recent McKinsey report that the economic potential of the metaverse and the opportunity for brands could be up to five trillion dollars (US) by 2030. Many global brands such as Nike, Meta/Facebook, Disney, H&M and Lego have invested heavily in creating immersive, digital worlds for fans to explore. Due to this, more brands are looking to create digital ecosystems that include mixed reality, digital products and web3 (nonfungible tokens and blockchain) to provide customers with unified and holistic immersive experiences. Below, we explore five key opportunities in which brands can harness the full power of the metaverse for their businesses.
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Manning the metaverse: in-experience service
Many businesses from various market sectors are now looking to supplement having physical locations with virtual ones. Banks, such as HSBC and JPMorgan, are now moving into browser-based blockchain platforms, such as The Sandbox or Decentraland which provides them with new data integration possibilities and allows for various new tools to be utilised, such as enhanced customer services and peer connections within virtual spaces. It allows banks, who are seen by many Gen Z (born between 1997 – 2012) as archaic institutions, to become more accessible and appeal to these younger generations and create new loyal customers.
Another opportunity for brands is to harness the power and demand for exclusive NFT’s. Dutch hotel brand CitizenM is releasing 2000 NFT’s to fund its virtual hotel within The Sandbox. These NFT’s will give holders access to both perks in real-world properties, such as free drinks, exclusive room discounts, and one-of-a-kind metaverse hotel experiences.
Virtually exclusivity: NFT token-gating
Of all global metaverse participants, 20 per cent say they would buy products that allow access to communities in various digital worlds. One of these product strategies includes what is known as token-gating; this involves issuing NFT’s and other tokens, which unlock multiple products, such as access to VIP experiences and spaces and specific avatar traits.
One digital collectable that is rising in popularity for both consumers and brands is POAP’s which are essentially ‘crypto badges of honour’ – Fans collect these digital collectables to receive confirmation of their attendance at specific virtual events. The whole premise of the POAP platform is that it cements communities by showcasing loyal consumers and fandom for these events and experiences. When brands issue POAP’s it not only hugely contributes to building communities but also allows brands to airdrop additional products to the holders, such as new NFT’s, tickets, new collections and access to exclusive experiences.
The sensational multisensory: new meta-languages.
To help further fully immerse metaverse users, brands are now looking at how to utilise the so-called ‘confinements’ of these digital environments to be able to create and provide more specialised and intense sensory experiences that are not possible in the real world. This will allow brands to carefully craft bespoke and elevated remote experiences that can and will define the languages of the metaverse. This area is full of innovation potential within various market sectors, from fashion to food.
With consumers wanting more in depth and immersive experiences, the metaverse provides a pioneering opportunity for brands to blur the lines between the physical and digital. One great example of this is British multisensory marketing agency ‘Full Fathom’ and it’s metaverse-focused sister company ‘Metasense’. Their working with a global drinks brand to create a multi-tier worldwide project. This project will include immersive, hybrid, theatre-style experiences where VR headsets will allow visitors to access physical rooms and also gain access to digital spaces. When in these spaces, expertly articulated visuals and sounds will be able to alter the perceived flavour of the drink the user is drinking in real life.
Placemaking in the metaverse
Apt brands looking to successfully create and drive large amounts of traffic without the real-world hassles of physical locations are creating digital communities that encourage and nurture the sense of belonging for consumers. These permanent digital spaces are ever-evolving, providing offers such as NFT (Non-fungible-token-led) notifications tool that notify new ‘happenings’ and offers collaborators virtual tenancies and inclusive spaces.
More and more brands are now creating virtual in-house community spaces or ‘digital campus’s’ One popular metaverse specializing in this is Spatial, a digital ecosystem dubbed the ‘metaverse for culture.’ It is currently the home of Hublot’s 90,000-seat virtual stadium, with them being the official timekeepers for the world cup and is accessible via VR for outdoor and indoor areas.
With more and more new digital worlds being created at a drastic rate, this does present some issues, One in particular being the policing and safety of its users. In April this year, US-based Epic Games announced the start of a long-term partnership with the beloved building block brand Lego. The two brands are collaborating to create a family-friendly digital experience that nurtures and encourages kids to become ‘confident creators’ within a safe, positive space. This derives from the consumer’s desire to engage and prosper within digital worlds that provide safe and fair opportunities.
Beyond gaming: proprietary spaces for meta-commerce
Interest in the metaverse is at an all-time high; regardless of the recent news that Meta is downsizing, consumers and brands are investing heavily in these digital worlds. With many Gen-Alpha /Gen-Z gaming-backed concepts, we now see Whitelabel solutions emerging. Even though this potentially comes with a higher cost than partnering with existing games, it provides more compelling visual spaces and environments. It also allows brands to integrate consumer relationship management systems, brand data and transactions. What some label as ‘brandiverses’ these spaces ease gaming enthusiasts and companies into virtual engagement.
Earlier this year, Journee, a German metaverse company, created a virtual showroom for H&M. These showrooms allowed collections to be showcased to the press and influencers as photorealistic, 3D-rendered cloth simulations. Journee also curated the Yahoo & Vogue Business Metaverse Experience, a visually stunning virtual island summit where delegates created avatar’s to network and learned from experts.
Even more traditional brands are looking to enter the metaverse to both gain new customers as well as introduce their existing, and possibly more digitally hesitant customers, to the concept of the Metaverse. One brand dipping their ‘digital’ toes in this concept is John Lewis, a 93 year old British household brand, They’ve created a Meta-Lite digital world for its customers known as the ‘Brandiverse’. This world helps ease their crypto-cautious consumers into exploring non-communal virtual environments. While these spaces are not metaverses, they are the gateway to enhanced experiential marketing and e-commerce experiences.
Most brands are embracing the promise of the metaverse, with these virtual worlds being focused on social connection and immersive experiences. These metaverse’s are being accessed by VR headsets or web browsers through digital worlds such as Decentraland and The Sandbox, or online gaming platforms like Fortnite or Roblox. Consumers are already warming to spending on goods and experiences in these worlds as well as the real world goods and experiences that can also be bought.
The metaverse is set to transcend its gaming roots, with audiences beyond the youth sector excited about engaging virtually. More proprietary virtual brand spaces will also emerge, which, via a host of powerful new extended reality technologies (AR/VR/XR), create smoother links between different ‘reality channels’: physical, digital and virtual.
Whether brands will be early adopters and believers or look to the future for more evidence and adoption by the masses, There’s no doubt that the possibilities are looking to be ever growing with the only limitations being the technology available to us today. From what we’re seeing, we’ve only scratched the surface of all that the metaverse has to offer both consumers and brands alike.