While Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook’s huge pivot to the metaverse in late 2021 (aka Meta) has yet to deliver on, well, anything, the idea of an online universe in which we can all co-exist, through digital avatars was embraced by a variety of brands and marquee advertisers across domains. 2022 could be called the year of the metaverse, though it’s yet to seep into everyday usage.
For Praful Krishna, Chief Product Officer at Jio Haptik, the Metaverse is a continuum from interactive chatbots to a fully immersive, parallel world experience that traverses voice, video, AR and/or VR. “The transition will be a 5-10 year-long journey, and it will be very different for every brand. You need to decide the journey you want to pursue based on the demographics of your users,” he says.
“While there is strategic value in investing in conversations, via text or in immersive contexts, at the end of the day the dollars should speak for themself if we are to justify the $1.3T being invested in digital transformation globally,” notes Krishna.
Indeed, the consensus around metaverse seems to be that while it’s here, it’s not there yet, with the next few years being crucial. That being said, 2022 has been crucial in bringing it to worldwide media attention.
Even though mainstream adoption of the metaverse might take some time, leading brands are already changing marketing norms one project at a time, points out Mitesh Kothari, Co-founder and CCO, White Rivers Media.
“The metaverse elevates virtual experiences and gives businesses new, creative options to connect with customers. As only a few have access to the metaverse, brands can leverage this opportunity to be innovative and distinguish themselves amid the competition faced in traditional marketing, he points out
Krutin Shah, Co-founder and COO, Phyvital Inc, chimes in saying, “We don’t believe Metaverse has moved from ‘buzz’ to ‘mainstream’ yet. But it’s getting there. We are seeing more brands willing to try and create 6-month- 12-month engagement strategies around it. The key to engagement is the ease of use for the audience. Heavy and long load times had been an initial hindrance, but companies like ours have been working on improving these challenges and we are starting to see results with longer engagement times in our experiences. (5-7x longer engagement times compared to traditional Instagram videos).”
Hitarth Dadia – CMO and Partner – NOFILTR.GROUP believes that unconsciously, we are already using a lot of facets of the whole metaverse concept, without even realizing it. “With the rise of education and awareness, more people are going to actively take part in one segment or the other. For the overall concept, a majority of brand work is observed, but it’s still conceptual and due to curiosity, it is in the experimental phase. More iteration is to be observed in the coming couple of months,” he says.
Testament to that is Manish Solanki, COO, and co-founder, TheSmallBigIdea, observing that going by online reports, there are almost 400 million metaverse users, with some platforms having over 1 million active users per day. “But almost all of these are virtual gaming worlds, with some allowing social networking through online avatars. Interesting thing is that almost 80% of them have made some kind of an in-game purchase,” he says.
Slow and Steady
What is undeniable is that the Metaverse has not fully entered the mainstream consciousness of consumers, as brand managers are not sure about the ROI and results that would come out of any Metaverse campaign.
“Many brands do not want to experiment with Metaverse because there is no solid consumer base and the majority of consumers are unsure about functionality.
Considering the target audience is the youth, in general, they have limited buying power,” cautions Danish Malik, Co-Founder, and CEO of Boomlet Media Private Limited, adding, “Also, most of the brand’s objective for reaching the maximum target audience is not successfully met, it would take time for brand managers to be able to do more metaverse campaigns since there is no set consumer base.”
That being said, there is enormous potential. Never forget, just India is expected to grow its online population by 500 million over the next few years.
“The metaverse worlds are also increasing over the internet. So far, only some of the bigger businesses like Apple, Coke and Nike have been the first adopters of this fledgling universe. Analysts are optimistic about this space and have projected increased adoption of this technology resulting in an increased market value, in the next 3-4 years,” says Solanki.
“If that happens, the metaverse will enable virtual infrastructure for advertising, eCommerce and events, enabling newer revenue channels. I would like to define it as the pre-buzz phase, where brands have just started engaging with an evolved audience through virtual avatars and setting their digital footprint in this new arena. With time we can expect a more real and immersive experience,” he adds.
And while it’s still going to take time, it’s going to be worth the wait, given that a virtual world, free of everyday physics and limitations will give the average person online access to a lot more things, from concerts to communication to collaboration, and more. Advertising is naturally going to lead the way.
“So to summarize, the metaverse is expected to be an upgraded feature point that social media or the Internet gives you. I am expecting to make the overall internet as a whole, as a concept, more accessible and more interactive and ironically, a lot more human,” concludes Dadia.
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