The word “metaverse” first entered our reality in the early nineties, but according to recent data, only 40% of consumers actually know and understand what it is. About one-third think it is the future of tech and feel more brands should leverage it.

As a growing trend in digital marketing strategy, the metaverse is still fairly nascent. In other words, it’s evolving quickly, still being built, and some might say it’s too early in the game to define what it is with absolute accuracy. Take the internet, for example. It’s been around since the 1970s, but people at the time couldn’t possibly conceive of what it became.

What Exactly is the Metaverse?

Ultimately, the term “metaverse” doesn’t refer to any specific technology. More to the point, it describes how we interact with technology online.

The metaverse includes virtual reality and the worlds it contains, augmented reality, and online platforms we access through our computers, mobile devices, and gaming consoles. Virtual experiences, digital goods, social happenings, learning, gaming, concerts, and even crypto trading on the blockchain; it’s all there.

Before we dive into the rest, I think it’s critical—especially today—to make the point that the metaverse is not all about Meta (Facebook). Meta is not the only company building out worlds and marketing in the metaverse, any more than Google is the internet. So, while some might equate Meta with the metaverse (and for sure, it’s a significant player), it’s not the only game in play.

As for how the metaverse plays into consumers’ lives, you may have already been there. Attending virtual concerts, shopping at digital stores, and playing online games are three top ways people interact with the metaverse.

Clearly, there is a lot of opportunity for brands in this space. Still, it’s essential to understand how customers interact with the metaverse and know what’s working for others before you invest.

Who Uses the Metaverse?

Current data from HubSpot reveals that metaverse users are primarily Gen Z (16%) and Millennials (15%).

Of those demographics, 40% engage in online gaming, 28% have a VR headset, and 22% have purchased digital assets besides cryptocurrency. 18% have attended a virtual concert, or an event hosted in VR. 23% have purchased cryptocurrency.

In other scenarios, users may visit a metaverse to hang out with online friends, meet with coworkers, or attend a virtual industry trade event. A surprising number even work at virtual jobs and earn money in the metaverse. As brands continue to build out their virtual presences and consumers gravitate to the best of them, we will undoubtedly see more ideas and use cases emerge.

Is the Metaverse a Passing Phase?

Despite the growing popularity of the metaverse, we are still many years away from realizing its full potential. But we spend so much time on our devices, and the idea of virtual worlds is becoming quite mainstream. Like the universe itself, the metaverse is expanding exponentially, has its own economy, and is already bridging digital and physical worlds.

A recent JP Morgan Chase (JPM) study averred that the metaverse represents a market opportunity that exceeds $1 trillion in annual revenue and will almost certainly infiltrate every industry sector in the coming years. In their opinion, the success of the metaverse will hinge on having a robust and secure financial ecosystem that bridges physical and virtual worlds. JPM recently launched its own virtual world; an Onyx Lounge called Metajuku in Decentraland, a virtual version of Tokyo’s Harajuku shopping district. JPM, in particular, has positioned itself as a digital currency champion, helping to bring crypto markets into the mainstream and develop more robust and secure trading platforms.

All that is to say, the robust growth and innovation happening in the metaverse speaks to both its popularity and potential. Marketers tend to use every available tool to penetrate the noise and get their message across. But it would not be a thing if people were not buying it. And clearly, it is. Done right, you have an eager audience that’s willing to spend top dollar for a quality experience. From where I sit, we’re only just in the foothills of the metaverse range. As the potential grows, the summit might be even higher than we think.

What About Data Privacy?

Data privacy is top-of-mind with consumers today. Governments and brands alike are actively developing protections to ensure consumers have more control over what information they share and who they share it with.

Of course, in marketing, data is the currency that fuels the digital economy. Encouraging people to share their data and spend more time on your platform is the key to the success of future initiatives. However, consumers who say they “trust” how their data is used in the metaverse still don’t understand exactly what that means.

The overwhelming majority (80%) feel that data privacy is a human right. About the same number have some concerns about how companies use their data, and 51% distrust how they use it. Many think brands should pay for the privilege, which is an interesting statistic. How many brands would pay? How can you place a dollar value on one’s personal data? These are questions yet to be answered, but they are worth considering.

Since the metaverse spans the globe and beyond, it doesn’t limit itself to a single privacy policy or regime. It needs to protect users wherever they are located. In many cases, multiple privacy laws will apply to a single user, depending on where they reside, where the business is headquartered, and where the servers are located. Suffice it to say; active brands in the metaverse need to consider the global consumer.

The GDPR, for example, applies to any person of European citizenship. That person can be at a virtual event with a user from Africa and another from the United States, each accessing the platform from their homes in their respective countries. Each region’s data privacy laws must be upheld. Therefore, it is on the onus of the brand to consider those needs.

No standard regulation exists yet, and we are likely many years away from that day. In the meantime, brands must have good counsel when building out their metaverse presence to avoid non-compliance. The penalties are steep and can be catastrophic to business continuity.

I’m not at all a supporter or subscriber to these laws – a lot of them are idiotic and irrational. A portent of more such inane regulations to come…

What Does the Future Hold for the Metaverse?

Nobody’s wildest imaginings conceived of the internet’s potential back in the 1970s. In the same spirit, the future of the metaverse is unknown. If we lost access to the internet and the world became an anarchistic landscape, a la Mad Max, it would be a moot point. But hey, if you ever wanted to experience that, you could probably do so in the metaverse right now. All things considered, it might be a good training ground should the grid go down. Just keep in mind that the weapons and armor you purchase now won’t be available IRL. At least, not yet.

As consumers embrace the possibilities of virtual worlds, brands have an opportunity to meet them where they congregate. From virtual nightclubs to places of worship, virtual travel, wealth building, one-of-a-kind music, art, and experiential events, the potential is (virtually) limitless.

Still wondering about the metaverse and how it can benefit your brand? Let’s talk about it! Post your comments below, and do feel free to subscribe and share.

Aniket Warty

Aniket Warty

Adventure Capitalist. The creation of wealth is merely an extension of my innate freedom to produce.

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