As the old saying goes, “If you build it, they will come.”
If we think back to the dawn of the digital age and the infancy of the Internet as we know, “The Information Superhighway” was a household name well, well before the average home had its first dial-up modem.
(Forgive me if you’re under the age of 30 and have no idea what any of those words mean. Ask your grandparents: their answer will shock you!)
In all seriousness, the point I’m making is that the metaverse is already here, even if we don’t know it’s here yet – which is pretty on-brand, come to think of it!
Everyone is talking about it. The publicity that the metaverse as a mere concept already enjoys is enviable from a marketing point of view.
Yes, the future is now. It just hasn’t revealed its true face yet – for the most part.
But two decades of developing in the digital marketing space and seeing it evolve allows me to sketch what I believe is an accurate outline of how the metaverse is going to impact the world and be a goldmine for forward-thinking SMBs.
METAVERSE 1.0: What’s out there now?
Gamers are already plugged into proto-metaverse platforms via popular games like Fortnite and Roblox. Yes, those games the kids in your life have been obsessed with for years now are self-contained metaverses. They have their own communities, cultures, and customs.
And interactions between live players and digital avatars that are part of the game create connections that are as important to the player experience as the fun they have with friends and other online acquaintances.
Imagine you and your gaming pals were friends with Mario and Luigi. That’s the deal.
And speaking of deals – guess what’s already alive and kicking on these gaming platforms?
You guessed it! Digital commerce. And lots of it, considering the relatively small audiences populating these gaming metaverses, as compared to conventional social media channels.
What are players buying in the metaverse, you ask? Aside from game-enhancing content and tools to augment their play experience, people can buy every type of branded accessory for their character, or avatar, as you can imagine. You want your digital player to wear unique designer shades and shoes? No problem.
Brands like Vans have taken it a step further. Vans built a virtual skateboard park within Roblox. Players can win points, redeemable toward physical purchases from their online store. In other words, your score in an online game is incentivized and can influence you to purchase.
The novelty lies in the idea that your accumulated points can be spent outside the game. The PlayStation Store, for example, had long since bet on this potential for rewards to increase in-app, game-specific sales. Tech giants that they are, they still hadn’t figured out how to sell name-brand shoes. But they paved the way.
Metaversization of the material world
As the necessary VR hardware and software technologies evolve and become accessible, people will be increasingly comfortable about the idea of becoming meta, so to speak.
And from a hardware standpoint, we can guess with a fair degree of accuracy that VR tech will become as standard as your smartphone. And these gadgets probably won’t take a decade to go from being luxury items to everyday tools.
Accessibility will be a top priority for developers eager to set trends.
That can begin to help us understand how the metaverse will nearly seamlessly become our regular online meeting spot, and what will be in store for us there.
Picture for example a platform where you can rent a private, encrypted space for you and your friends to connect virtually – something like the Zoom account you use for virtual hangouts, except it imitates physical space with 3D design.
Then imagine you could decorate that interactive 3D space. Or buy your friend a cool, customized virtual shirt for their birthday. Or rent a movie in-app. Or hire a band and host a virtual party. And so on, and so on…
This thinking makes it easy to understand how people will be compelled to spend money in the metaverse. And we’ve only touched on the concept of purchasing digital assets.
Modelling for metaverse marketing
The potential for advertising traditional products and services becomes – and how existing trends need to be adapted – become easier to imagine.
As things stand now, we’re seeing the trend of younger people less interested in conventional online advertising, responding less to the static ads in their newsfeed.
They are, however, more inclined to make purchases through the content they seek out purposefully. Enter the influencer or even just the popular channel with good sponsorship and a strong affiliate program.
“Like this jacket?” a TikTok star or YouTuber asks. “I got it from this site! Enter my special promo code and save on shipping today!”
This is obviously happening in real-time in the conventional social media spaces. We can predict, with a fairly confident amount of accuracy, that these types of exchanges becoming the norm in a metaverse setting.
Remember the customized virtual shirt you bought for your friend’s avatar on their birthday? What if you could have it created to wear in real life, and shipped anywhere in the world?
Or maybe your friend wears it to another metaverse gathering, and someone asks them where they got it. Your friend points them to you. And now you’re the designer, the affiliate, and the expert.
People who aren’t entrepreneurs are going to find themselves in this position inadvertently. So preparing for ways your business can get ahead of these trends makes sense, right?
The “virtual influencer” cometh
In the gaming world, the emergence of the “virtual influencer” is already upon us. Marketing agencies and brands have created AI-driven digital characters that have their own followings that promote every manner of product, digital and physical alike. They’ve modelled and sold Dior and Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein and Puma.
Let’s simplify this idea in more traditional terms: imagine you follow Minnie Mouse on social media, you liked her purse you like, and could order it there and then. Minnie Mouse, in this context, is a virtual influencer. And maybe she always has been, but she’s no longer limited to promoting Disney World.
Purchasing access to these virtual influencers stands to become a common practice for businesses that get on board early, and we haven’t even seen their full potential. Simply put, the world isn’t even ready for this. But it will be.
Leading in the metaverse
The basic principles of conventional marketing logic I’m just speculating about and having some fun with here already start to paint a vivid picture of the potential a new online economy holds for small entrepreneurs.
A new land of opportunity is about to emerge in the metaverse. Let’s get ready to get it on the ground floor.
Small businesses and startup brands with the courage, creativity and guided intelligence to plant their metaverse flag early will find room to compete, succeed, influence and grow.
And take for granted that discussing new revenue stream potential in terms of billions-over-billions is being conservative.
The time to start innovating is now. Empower is here for it.
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