Entering the Metaverse

What really is the metaverse, and what
opportunities will it present to marketers looking to elevate customer
experience?

Amanda Groth, 

28 March 2022



Brands and their marketing departments have witnessed many transformations of the customer environment over the past few decades. They had to adapt during the move from offline to online, the shift to mobile, or the rise of social media just to name a few. The Metaverse is the latest transition that many marketers are now  bracing themselves for, because as usual, we don’t know what we don’t know, and it is a scary position to be in…

What opportunities exist in the metaverse?

To better understand what the Metaverse could be, we can look to the gaming world. Environments such as Fortnite might turn out to be a kind of embryonic metaverse, and there are a few things we can learn from that experience.

First, it was not the quality of the game itself that made it a success (it initially wasn’t) but an innovative gaming mode that provided a different way to interact with other players. It delivered a different gaming experience. Lesson #1 is that the model is likely to evolve, but that player or customer experience remains paramount.

Secondly, the Battle Royale version of the game, which is free to play, made $1.2B in revenue in its first 10 months by selling virtual goods such as outfits and accessories, despite them providing absolutely no advantage in playing the game. Lesson #2 is that there will be a market for purely virtual goods.

Finally, the Fortnite Creative environment demonstrated that players enjoyed personalising their gaming world to the point of building it up themselves, something we also know from the world of Minecraft. Lesson #3 is that players or consumers want to feel unique in a proactive manner; you could think of it as interactive personalisation.

What does this mean for brands and retailers?

Rewinding back to the transition from offline to online, brands had to go from just having physical addresses or no data at all about their customers to collecting their email address and their mobile phone number. Again, brands might not be starting from scratch, but they will probably be faced with re-acquiring their customers within new and potentially multiple environments (it’s not just going to be Meta).

Yet, at the same time, those individuals will still be accessible outside the Metaverse in the same way that physical shops and direct mail still exist in the wake of the digital shift. Existing channels will become less prevalent and new channels will become available to reach consumers within the new environments. The stronger the relationship is now, the most likely they will carry it into the Metaverse.

It’s important to note that identity in Web 3.0 doesn’t follow the model we are used to. The default for an account is to be pseudonymous, which is neither anonymous nor fully identified. Everyone knows of Satoshi, the creator of Bitcoin, but no one knows who Satoshi is. Similarly, punk6529 is known as one of the most prominent NFT collectors, but his true identity is not publicly known.

In practice, we’re already learning to live without cookies or even knowing a user’s actual email address following Apple’s recent “Hide my address” privacy feature. A blockchain address is only a step further. The identifier might change, but the ways behavioural data can be harnessed and leveraged shouldn’t!

As the Metaverses become available, brands will be faced with experimenting on how they communicate with their customers. Navigating this Terra Incognita will require a trial-and-error approach, and brands that want to prepare for the journey should look at building up their test-and-learn capabilities, as well as agility from both a technical and a cultural perspective.

Whatever shape things take in our digital future, we believe that providing a great customer experience in the Metaverse will require the delivery of engaging and relevant content in a personalised manner. Even if the content evolves to be 3D and the delivery channels are not yet available, being data-driven and agile is the part of the equation that is unlikely to change. So for now, no marketing pundit will bet against a scalable, real-time and first party data centric platform as a sensible way to prepare for what the future holds.

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