Actionable Metaverse Insights
What matters in the metaverse is what matters in any ‘verse.’ Brands must have metrics in place to measure performance. Organizations must have signals in place to capture customer feedback. There must be a promise and understanding in place regarding the engagement experience– something of course with unique opportunities in this new space. And of course, the potential business impact must be understood and quantified. This panel outlines how to act now within each of these areas of interest.
First, our expert panelists were in agreement that the metaverse is still not a reality but more an idea that may or may not come to fruition in a decade’s time. Still, it’s important that brands and companies be upfront in looking at developments of the future.
Jonathan Stringfield, VP, Global Business Research & Mkg., Activision Blizzard, noted that the metaverse is, “A generalized vision of the Internet in a decade’s time. There will be a focus on interconnected worlds, avatars and gaming. But Web 3.0, meanwhile, is an interrelated vision of the future that has to do with infrastructure and decentraliziation, built on blockchain. Maybe one will succeed or both. Or neither.”
Evan Shapiro, Adjunct Professor, Fordham & NYU, noted the metaverse will encompass a larger universe, with consumers entering the Internet through various portals. “There will be new versions, new technology, new ecosystems. Web 3.0 is in the Beta version. Apple, Microsoft, Amazon have one foot in Web 2.0, 2.5, are straddling the line.” Major brands will have major toeholds such as Apple as a gateway, for example. “Meta doesn’t have a pathway yet. These brands need to become Minecraft. There are global platforms such as Fortnite, Roblox, teen metaverses focused on teen social media. It’s on its way to 3.0.”
Still, there are many challenges to tackle on this road to the metaverse. Vera Chien, Exec. Dir. Corp. Research, Data & Insights, Warner Bros. Discover, sees accessibility as one such challenge. “What will everyday consumers need, and what will they require. A headset, a virtual wallet? Consumers have deep concerns about being left behind. There is the concern of the cost of entry, such as a $1,500 headset. There are privacy concerns— Meta came out and there was pushback already by consumers. Safety is an issue, with harassment a concern, even virtually. There is a realistic feeling in these environments and there will be key challenges for consumers.”
So, how to tackle these challenges on a social and brand level?
Stringfield noted that there is a tendency for industries to concentrate on the technology and get lost in the applications. “We have to make the experience easy and provide value,” he said. “Gaming is winning. There’s an experience— stuff to do. Some platforms are coming out with a high barrier of entry, and nothing to do once you get there. It still needs to provide value. Otherwise, build it and they won’t come.”
Other technology tends to be ignored or downplayed. “Web 3.0 is the generally buzzy part of decentralized Web,” said Stringfield. “But crypto has blockchain issues. Consumer confidence is low. There is a danger, a barrier to having blinders on without thinking of other technology.”
Shapiro agreed that gaming is having a huge influence. “There is a huge constituency. Hanging out with a game for nine hours at a time, and not all of it is gaming. Financial, cultural, what will be 3.0? Music, culture, law, games of the metaverse are existing now. We have to look to children’s behavior.”
Chien noted the difference in generations when it comes to new technology. “Several generations have grown up with second life experiences, virtual worlds. It’s familiar. As for older generations, they are more willing to embrace it without needing to know the tech and education. But we have to communicate the experiences through technology. What is the easiest route to communicate the benefits and increase accessibility?”
Stringfield added, “VR has failed for years with tech pioneers. It’s a big hill to climb. All of these are becoming desktop, living room environments, maybe cloud will help. It needs some other value.”
“There is a fear of the new,” said Shapiro. “We must build through the avid users. There is a challenge on how to expand the audience. The VR machine, no– it has to be more accessible. Rock concerts. Game shows. Imagine a brand like ‘a Disney’ building an online experience. Of course, since this panel, we now know that very concept is now not in the short-term cards. Access points, big events. Take American Idol. The technology has to go through a big moment.”
Invest and Experiment
So what can be done right now as we look ahead to the metaverse and Web 3.0? Our panelists pointed to continued investment and experimentation.
It will be interesting to watch how prognostications age which now seem false. Case in point, Shapiro added, “Brands have to invest. Media companies need to invest. Go big. Microsoft buying Minecraft. Will Disney buy Roblox? Brands have to have a strategy.”
Chien noted, “It’s a nascent space, and there has be a lot of experimenting and learning. Then strategy and revisiting, new platforms and new strategies coming up in the next few years.”
“Virtual worlds have been in gaming for many years,” noted Stringfield. “Gaming has flown under the radar. There is consumer psychology at play here—they don’t want a second screen. Gaming is a huge part of the entertainment sector. Companies have to build a knowledge base and create an immersive interactive experience. But they don’t have to wait ten years, as gaming is already there. If you see this as a moment, what would be a similar type of behavior for 3.0 and the metaverse? There’s got to be an experience or utility that we can tap into that is unavailable elsewhere. It’s not a piece of tech. It’s not a light switch moment. It’s going to be a cascade of technology. When lots of people are talking about it, then it gets interesting.”