5 Tips for Brands Wishing to Enter the Metaverse

The pandemic brought us the titillating potential of immersive digital spaces, or the metaverse. Some marketers have been early adopters of the concept and are already forging ahead. But many brands are still grappling with what the metaverse is and whether there is a place for them in it. In her HBR article “How Brands Can Enter the Metaverse,” Janet Balis provides five tips for brands venturing into the metaverse.

What Is the Metaverse?

Balis defines the metaverse as any digital experience on the Internet that is persistent, immersive, three-dimensional (3D), and virtual. But, she says referring to it as a single, connected monolith is deceiving. Each metaverse experience created provides us with an opportunity to work, play, connect, or buy, but each has its own rules and formats with vastly different business and technical specifications. The term metaverse is more a concept that runs across these virtual worlds and acknowledges that we are entering a substantively immersive landscape.

Gaming companies are leading the way to a fully decentralized metaverse. First, console and PC gaming titles, such as Fortnite, provide an online space where players can gather and construct online identities. By allowing players to compete against each other, they normalized virtual socializing. Then, newer platforms allowed users to monetize their virtual worlds using blockchain technology. Decentraland, for example, allows users to create entire 3D virtual worlds and charge users to visit them, all powered by Ethereum blockchain technology.

Nike is one of the brands forging ahead with the metaverse and is already filing for patents for virtual goods and selling spaces. And Sotheby’s recently launched its metaverse gallery in Decentraland. So new business models have arisen for digital influencers and virtual goods like non-fungible tokens (NFTs), one-of-a-kind digital creations traded and secured on a blockchain. But, as Balis points out, the metaverse isn’t only for consumer-facing organizations. It has many business applications, such as providing simulated training environments and prototype testing. And Microsoft, for example, is using its Mesh platform to bring avatars and immersive spaces into collaboration tools like Teams, to improve on remote working experiences.

Preparing for Social Commerce

A shift from traditional Internet commerce to “social commerce” is increasingly evident in US e-commerce activity, estimated to have reached $36 billion last year. And if markets like China are anything to go by, it can potentially quickly switch from a fringe experiment to mass adoption. So sitting on the sidelines may not be an option much longer for brands. Instead, Balis suggests marketers adopt a test-and-learn approach and provides five tips for what brands wanting to enter the metaverse can do right now:

Select Your Targets

Allow your target audience to calibrate your entry into the metaverse. For example, brands that target younger demographics will need to move swiftly. So, consider your target audience and how much time they spend in the metaverse. What are behaviors trending within your audience demographics that indicate their readiness for social commerce?

Watch Your Competitors

Keep an eye on peer activities in the metaverse. Balis suggests appointing a metaverse champion whose job is to showcase examples of competitors’ movements at a leadership level. She points out that the virtual world can be intimidating — concepts like non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and blockchain technology will require conversation at an executive level to make them more tangible and approachable.

Search for Applications

The metaverse is an opportunity to try out new ideas. Balis suggests looking at how it can be used to accelerate your organizational purpose. Sustainability, for example, is ideally suited to many metaverse applications. Public commitments to sustainability are going to be tested in the future. Does the metaverse present opportunities for you to serve your customers in a more sustainable manner?

Plan Your Entry

Open the conversation with your agency team about how and when your brand should enter the metaverse. They will have a good handle on mass media activity and emerging trends. Ask what they’re seeing across their client portfolio and how they can test your brand’s metaverse exposure to ensure the most comfortable entry.

Maintain Your Balance

Lastly, Balis advises brands to prepare for failure and respond with agility. She warns that the metaverse will be unpredictable and lacking in standards New spaces present opportunities, but also risk. Some experiments will fail, but brands’ risk needn’t be significant or long-lasting if engagements are balanced.

The metaverse presents an exciting opportunity for brands to extend their storytelling and unleash their creativity at all touchpoints of the client journey. As such, it offers an opportunity for greater brand “stickiness.” And brands that hesitate too long may miss the “meta moment” and find themselves permanently losing ground to their braver peers, warns Balis.

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