The metaverse is a hot topic. For those not familiar, the concept of a metaverse dates back to 1992, when author Neal Stephenson coined it in his novel “Snow Crash.”
In the novel, avatars coexist in 3D virtual realities, living and interacting in a hyper-real alternative world. The metaverse, simply put, is a network of virtual digital worlds that coexist alongside the physical world of today — where digital avatars or digital representations of humans can work, live and play.
This “next iteration” of the internet is poised to reach a market size of 800 billion by 2024. How will this revolutionize marketing, and what should marketers be doing from a customer experience perspective as they make the move to the metaverse?
The idea of a digital universe that coexists with everyday physical life is going to be hard to conceptualize and comprehend for certain portions of the population. And even among those that do comprehend the metaverse concept, naysayers will exist to claim the metaverse is just another fad.
It reminds me of social media circa 2007-2010, when many marketers didn’t see the value in participating. Yet here we are just 12 short years later with social media being an integral, daily part of life for a large majority of the global tech-enabled population. The metaverse will revolutionize marketing in the same way.
So, what should marketers be thinking about right now?
Gen Z and digital natives won’t think twice about engaging in the metaverse. After all, many of them have been participating in metaverses like Minecraft, Fortnite, Roblox and others since they were children. But how do we engage older consumers (whose closest experience with a metaverse was the Legend of Zelda in the early 1990s)?
What should marketing professionals consider?
- Provide a value exchange to attract hesitant consumers to the metaverse. Offer something of value — special services, rewards, discounts, etc.
- Consider ways to leverage the metaverse to better and further engage consumers, perhaps in a manner that is preferred over today’s methods. This could take the form of a new virtual product or experience launch or program. Epic Games has been very successful in this regard attracting users to their Fortnite metaverse by offering live events that allow for virtual customer engagement and active participation.
- Be prepared to test and learn. Continually experiment, iterate and improve as the greater metaverse develops and expands.
- Create specific teams and roles that focus on metaverse enablement and support. This will include helping usher consumers to your portion of the metaverse and teaching them how to engage and interact, providing a virtual tour guide in avatar form. Companies are already hiring for these jobs today.
- A word of caution here, though, is to NOT treat the metaverse as something separate — such as a separate channel — from a customer engagement perspective, but instead as the immersive, experiential layer to an evolving digital world.
Related Article: For Facebook, It's Metaverse or Bust
Create a Purpose-Driven Customer Journey
As you think about how you want to create and manage the customer journey that exists between your brand and your customer, there are several things that you should keep in mind. It’s easiest to look at these from both a customer and brand benefit perspective.
From the customer POV. As your organization learns more about the metaverse and how to engage customers there, it’s also important to consider what both stand-alone and blended customer journeys that involve the metaverse will look like:
- How will customers traverse from traditional channels (email, web, mobile) into the metaverse and vice-versa?
- How immersive will the experience be and what will be the benefit of one environment over the other?
- If we consider customer experiences today and how they are trending we know that consumers want more self-service options, more on-demand experiences, and more empathic transactions. Customer support and problem resolution is now expected in real-time versus days or weeks. Build these things in for the customer on day one in the metaverse, and your customers won’t be disappointed.
From the brand POV. For brands, entering the metaverse early on will allow you to refine and improve this new blended customer experience while extending customer loyalty and reducing the overall cost to serve:
- Utilizing new and different support and engagement models that focus on minimizing customer effort (the amount of effort a digital avatar must exert to complete a task or get an issue resolved), brands will be able to measure metrics like Customer Effort Score to measure success of their customer experience efforts and customer journey maps.
- From an advertising perspective, the metaverse will be an opportunity to increase advertising revenue. The metaverse will afford an environment for brands to interact with avatars via branded touchpoints.
Related Article: Facebook's Rebranding Embraces the Metaverse, But Not Everyone Is Convinced
Take Time for Data Transparency
As consumers start to become comfortable with the idea of the metaverse, data integration, sharing and security should be top of mind. Consumers will want to know how their data is being stored, shared and secured. With that in mind follow these simple steps:
- Be transparent and upfront, communicating early and often how first party data is being used.
- Let consumers know that data interconnectedness will be required for compelling digital experiences between the metaverse and existing environments in which they interact.
- And on the brand side, certainly be prepared for the high level of data integration between applications, environments and ecosystems that will be needed to support bringing a full metaverse experience to bear.
The metaverse is taking off at a rapid rate in 2022. Soon we will all have digital twins that will exist in a collective, shared virtual space called the metaverse.
Just as social media revolutionized how we communicate and interact, the metaverse will change how brands engage and how customers live. Start thinking now about how you want to embrace this new environment as it becomes prevalent in the next several short years.