Evolving from a niche term used by aspirational tech enthusiasts into a key business priority across industries, the metaverse has conquered high-level discussions in every market. In the span of a few months, brands began to break out of Zoom fatigue in favor of more immersive experiences, leaving those who have yet to claim their space in the metaverse with major FOMO.
In this frenzy, it’s easy to feel like one’s lagging behind in comparison to the big tech companies dominating the scene. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned about the metaverse it’s that no one company can build it, as it relies on the joint development of millions of people and communities under one interoperable ecosystem. And so, the fundamental questions remain: What is the metaverse? How can my brand enter it? Should I enter it?
Mike Proulx, VP and Research Director at Forrester, joined our SVP Web3, Metaverse & Innovation Strategy Catherine D. Henry and Chief Innovation Officer Henry Cowling in an episode of Meet Me in the Metaverse to discuss these questions and more. Sharing insights from his recently-launched report “Ready Player Brand: Marketing In The Metaverse,” published on May 25, 2022, by Forrester Research, Proulx discusses with our team why the metaverse is still finding its feet and what success looks like in this space.
Creating Value is a Two-Way Street
In the last few months, there’s been no lack of investments and experiments around the metaverse—but we’ve only just scratched the surface of what it may grow to be. Today, the biggest challenge is bridging the gap between marketer intent and user behavior, a disconnect whose solution relies on consumer value—and time. As Proulx explains in the episode, maturation is “predicated on the accessibility of devices, making them less intrusive, demonstrating to the everyday consumer the value that they get from immersive media.”
As marketers, it’s our job to follow people’s interests and find them where they are. But so is creating experiences they can extract value from, especially in a space that’s still in its infancy. When it comes to the metaverse, it’s about showing people why these experiences are meaningful and why they would want to join. “If you can’t create reasons for people to come back, then it will be a flash in the pan at best,” says Cowling. “The smarter brands will be investing in and fostering community over the long term.”
In other words, fostering community calls for a long-term commitment, which is why delineating one’s goals is a critical first step in every metaverse venture. According to Proulx, “The first question all brands need to ask themselves is: what is my business objective? If it’s because everyone is doing it, that’s not a good enough objective.” Rather, making necessary strategic investments today will help you succeed in the metaverse as it matures, because the best way to learn is by doing. Start by gaining an understanding of how your target audience is experiencing XR and how it can be optimized and scaled over time.
Good Metaverse Investments Start with a Purpose
Once you’ve decided to venture into the metaverse, creating value for your consumers also hinges on what aspects you’re factoring in when choosing the right space to interact with them. As Catherine D. Henry explains, it may be tempting to pick the most popular platforms with the highest numbers of active users, but that alone does not equal good results. “Look at what communities are doing, who they are, before commuting to a platform-first strategy.”
The culture and rituals on each platform should hint at whether that’s a good match for your brand. Once you’ve found the right space, it all comes down to experimenting with an open mind and being ready to apply one’s learnings along the way. “I think a near-term opportunity that brands have to activate in this space is simply to create moments of surprise and delight in the customer journey,” says Cowling. “If you consider every digital touchpoint in the customer journey, the metaverse is a new canvas that brands can go in and imagine new experiences, new ways of creating loyalty, and ultimately conversion.”
That said, the main ROI brands can get from tapping into the metaverse today are the learnings that come with it. “I’m all for, and support and encourage, brands to test and learn right now because I don’t want them to become flat-footed as this technology and these opportunities develop,” concludes Proulx. “Don’t let yourself fall behind, but temper your expectations and temper your investments right now.”
Now is the time to test and learn. While there’s still a long way to go until the metaverse delivers on its full promise, brands can start getting acquainted with the community behaviors that will shape the future of digital and learn how to express their brand identity in ways that feel relevant and authentic. Tune in to the latest episode of Meet Me in the Metaverse to explore key considerations as you begin to build a metaverse strategy that suits your unique business objectives.
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