Over the past year, the metaverse has grown from buzzword du jour to buzzword de l’année. Tech companies, game developers and brands alike are racing to claim a corner of the virtual world to come.
But though the metaverse hype continues to rise — in marketing departments, at least — brands interested in activating virtually should take precautions not to overwhelm potential customers. Multiple sectors such as gaming, social media and blockchain tech are currently competing to become the builders of the metaverse, leaving consumers scrambling to stay up-to-date with the latest jargon and technological developments. If brands put the virtual cart before the horse, they could risk burning their audiences out on the metaverse before it is able to fully take shape.
To get a better sense of how regular consumers are approaching the metaverse, Digiday has pulled key insights from five data reports and surveys regarding consumer sentiments and activity in the space.
Most people still don’t know what the metaverse is
A January survey by market research firm Ipsos revealed that 38 percent of Americans state that they are very or somewhat familiar with the metaverse — though this figure varies drastically depending on consumers’ age and the presence of children in their households. Over 50 percent of respondents from households containing children were familiar with the metaverse, while only 20 percent of respondents aged 55 or older said they knew the term.
As shown by the chart above, the respondents who claimed to know about the metaverse differed greatly in their explanations of what exactly it was, with some associating the term with social media and others with virtual worlds. As brands continue to activate within metaverse platforms, it could be wise for them to use these activations to educate consumers rather than assuming they have prior knowledge of the metaverse.
Most brands don’t know about the metaverse, either
If consumers are still unsure about the metaverse, some brands might be even more cautious about dipping their toes into the virtual water. A December survey by social analytics company ListenFirst revealed that only 18 percent of brand marketing and analytics executives stated that they understood the metaverse and how it would impact their brand, as reported by MediaPost. That said, this figure could increase as metaverse activations become more mainstream, as 49.5 percent of survey respondents said they “somewhat” understood the metaverse.
Regardless, this data shows that, despite the presence of flashy activations such as the VR-powered AT&T Station, not all brands are ready to follow these big names into the metaverse, given the relatively untested nature of metaverse platforms and the lack of clarity about exactly what a more fully realized metaverse might look like.
People are willing to spend money in the metaverse
While only some consumers are familiar with the metaverse, those who are comfortable operating in virtual spaces find virtual commerce to be an appealing prospect. A quarter of consumers have shopped online in a three-dimensional virtual store, per a January study by the experiential e-commerce platform Obsess. Among that cohort, virtual commerce activity was highest among millennials, with 77 percent of millennial respondents saying they had made a purchase in a virtual store.
It’s worth noting that the language around virtual commerce has not caught up with the metaverse concept. Though commerce in a three-dimensional virtual environment certainly fits into most definitions of the metaverse, only 38 percent of respondents said they would like to be able to shop in the metaverse.
Gamers are the first residents of the metaverse
Using data from its November 2021 Consumer Energy Index and Retail Pulse Survey, research company Forrester divided online adult consumers in the United States and United Kingdom into four segments: digital immersives, digital socialites, digital commoners and the digitally disconnected.
The first two groups, comprising 47 percent of all online adult consumers, are the ones best accustomed to immersive experiences and multiplayer online games, per Forrester’s recent State of the Metaverse report — and it’s the 22 percent that is digitally immersed that is most likely to adapt to the metaverse early on. 49 percent of this cohort — 11 percent of respondents overall — uses a virtual reality headset often, one indicator that Meta’s VR-focused vision for the metaverse could line up with future consumption habits.
Gamers are accustomed to virtual spaces, but still wary of web3 technologies
Companies from the Web3 and gaming sectors are vying to become the builders of the metaverse, with some game developers combining the two to create play-to-earn games that hinge on blockchain and NFT technologies. But the majority of gamers are uncomfortable with the presence of NFTs in games — 69 percent, according to a March survey by online community platform FandomSpot. Of the 69 percent of respondents who stated they hated NFTs, only 12 percent said they fully knew what NFTs were, so sentiments are likely to change as knowledge of these technologies becomes more widespread.
At the moment, though, it is undeniable that many gamers have reacted with vehement negativity whenever large game developers such as Ubisoft have indicated an interest in NFTs. Given the wrathful sentiment surrounding NFTs in the gaming space, brands interested in getting involved in virtual space might be able to avoid bad press by leaning into the gaming origins of the metaverse rather than its web3 potential.
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