Updated: Feb 23, 2022
The word, when we first heard it, seemed vague and somewhat ostentatious – Metaverse. Reminiscent to concepts presented in films such as The Matrix and Ready Player One, it seemed far-fetched and gimmicky.
The metaverse is an amalgamation of the physical world, the augmented, and the virtual. The concept, and the reality of it is gaining momentum fast. This catch-all term combines subsets of technology, merging them into a single entity.
The pandemic presented us with the new reality of limited in-person interactions. Add to that, as technology improved enough for us to be able to connect in real time on the online sphere, access to this digital space has really spiked. Whether you’re invested in virtual dressing rooms, digital meet-ups, or AR-driven filters and features across social media channels, it’s become increasingly clear that VR and the metaverse are here to stay.
Across industries and markets, advertisers have realized the unique potential of the metaverse and what VR can offer. If carried out correctly, companies can connect with their audience on an even deeper level. In 2022, we will see an increased interest and value in brands investing in the "phygital" space.
Phygital, you say?
A combination of the terms physical and digital, ad people have been using the term for years. However, during the pandemic, as people continued to stay close while apart, in a digital space, the term gained momentum.
The term itself is quite a mouthful, and whether it comes into large mainstream use or not is debatable, but the concept is going to remain, nonetheless.
Analyzing the growth
Gamers, before most other tribes, crave increasingly immersive experiences. Which explains why virtual words, such as those from Fortnite or Animal Crossing, have performed so well. Additionally, games like Roblox and Minecraft have also amassed mass consumers online, and all of these offer a completely virtual experience during gameplay.
The inclusion of virtual reality as a growing trend is being spearheaded by the younger generations. This emerging trend is proof that offline and online experiences are slowly merging, creating even more opportunities for brands. A lot of the brands Gen Z players are invested in serve as social spaces as well as gaming communities. These environments allow for creativity, collaboration, and competition, which is keeping it at the forefront of the digital age.
A consumer driven trend
Virtual reality is a trend that will continue to be driven by consumers. Some are creating magical islands with their own rules, others are trying on clothes without entering a store, and some are benefiting from a more personalized digital customer service. The things consumers want and need will be varied and sometimes entirely different.
The fantastic opportunity that lies in virtual reality and AR features is that it reduces the potential issues and barriers brands may have when trying to reach a customer. This is a huge asset to the retail industry, as shown when the iconic Brazilian flip flop brand Havaianas collaborated with the online battle royale game Fortnite featuring both physical footwear and digital in-game content. With VR, consumers can see products at their real size without leaving their home.
It’s no secret that we are collectively spending more time online. However, no matter how much technology progresses, humans will always be social animals, and we navigate life orienting ourselves around interactions and relationships. The metaverse is a solution for how people will interact in the future, and brands that are properly equipped to understand consumer insights will succeed in this new reality.
Did you hear about the Gucci Garden experience?
The Gucci Garden experience was an event that combined both art, culture, and the virtual world. It showcases how the metaverse can make certain things more accessible for people worldwide, expanding Gucci’s goal of empowerment and self-expression.
The collaboration between Roblox and Gucci was a stunning example of both inclusivity and ingenuity. The Roblox platform offered a visual feast for the eyes featuring detailed environments with dynamic, personalized textures and patterns for each individual visitor’s mannequin. Similar to the physical exhibition in Florence, the Roblox version of the Gucci Garden has multiple themed rooms where visitors can be immersed in Michele’s creativity, inspirations, and captivating vision.
The experience in Roblox was launched in May and generated 40K conversations around that time. Consumers reacted to the presence of this brand in the virtual world by mentioning how it’s a good example of merging the physical into the digital realm. It was also a way to reach a younger crowd, one that might not interact as often with Gucci in the physical world.
What's in store next?
Whether you’re engaging with your audience on social media or stepping into a constructed world on Fortnite, as a brand, you need to be constantly aware of what the consumer is saying and thinking.
People won’t be interested in your brand, platform, or space you build if it does not suit their needs and their interests. Take the time to reflect, gather consumer insights before diving into the metaverse and the endless possibilities it brings.
As the metaverse and what it consists of expands, so do the potential problems that come with it. In order to reach as many communities as possible, safety and inclusivity is a must, as exemplified by the Gucci Garden experience. In order to be successful in creating a metaverse that is creative, vibrant, and beneficial, you have to consider everyone from the very start.
There are a lot of unknowns that come with the metaverse and having an open mind is half the battle. Even as the metaverse gains traction, it will take time before it’s fully accepted. Whether one single metaverse emerges or multiple brands and platforms will create their own, it’s clear that experimentation is vital to test and see what works in this period. Image 1 credit: The Conversation
Image 2 credit: Roblox