The pandemic has caused a surge in online gaming, shopping, and social media, further blending our digital and physical realities. The gravitation to online media and content consumption has led many brands to rethink their digital footprint and has inspired technologists to innovate in the space.
From Balenciaga's digital fashion line in Fortnite to Samsung's flagship space in Decentraland, we see brands begin to harness the power of the metaverse to deliver immersive brand experiences to their consumers.
However, virtual experiences might not be suitable for every brand right now. Even if the metaverse may be on every marketer's lips, consumers are not yet convinced.
"Brands need to begin by understanding their target audience," Conrad Tallariti, regional vice president of sales at DoubleVerify, tells Campaign Asia-Pacific. "Understanding whether their target audience includes early adopters of metaverse platforms is key to understanding whether the brands should be investing in marketing on those channels."
For instance, if a brand's target audience includes younger adults, especially those interested in gaming, creative outlets, emerging technologies, or new investment opportunities, it is safe to assume that they are likely to spend some of their time exploring these virtual worlds. If that is the case, the metaverse represents a unique opportunity to cultivate lasting engagement with these consumers."
Agreeing with Tallariti is Bharat Khatri, the chief digital officer for APAC at Omnicom Media Group. He says brands should be authentic, focusing on the culture and what they want to integrate. They can then start their metaverse journey by combining and taking full advantage of gaming. This is because gaming as a concept and vertical is already mature and gives brands a real immersive experience.
"We have seen Nike partnering on Roblox, creating Nike land or Wendy's in Horizon World. There were two things quite common in these activations. First, the brands realised that they wanted to connect, engage, and empower this Gen Z and millennial audience when interacting within this metaverse environment, Horizon or Roblox. The second is the brands used organic and paid media push to educate the users."
—Bharat Khatri, Omnicom Media Group
Khatri adds that one part of this education is to connect with the influencer community who are already talking about things like the metaverse, gaming and NFTs. In addition, they can help the brand educate people about the opportunity that the brand is offering through loyalty programmes or activations. Plus, the brand can use a paid push to educate people on the aspects of Web3.
Measuring success in the metaverse
According to Bloomberg, the metaverse will capture $800 billion in market share by 2024 as it taps into the intersection of ecommerce, social commerce, gaming, Web3, the creator economy, and new digital communities.
However, as we are still in the early days of the metaverse, there is still a significant upfront cost of development to create unique experiences in a virtual world. Because of this, brands will want to create success metrics to measure their impact on their audience.
The good news, says Natrian Maxwell, the general manager of emerging markets for gaming, audio, digital out-of-home, retail media, and social at The Trade Desk, is that most of the gaming environments are integrated with third-party data partners that help tie those efforts to measurement KPIs they are already tracking across alternative channels.
Examples of that may be time in view, viewability, brand recognition, and brand lift. Brands must decide on the success metrics that matter most for a particular campaign and work backwards when designing content to maximise those efforts.
"There are many ways brands can achieve a shoppable outcome in the metaverse, like in-game purchases. Depending on the brand, gamers can purchase unique skins, merch, or other add-ons to differentiate their gaming experience," Maxwell explains.
"Brands can create real-life products that become the connective tissue between the physical and digital worlds in which gamers can purchase physical goods related to their virtual experiences."
He adds that another area gaining much traction is the branded NFT or digital collectable. Brands have been creating unique limited collectables in the form of NFTs that accompany a physical good and can be showcased within the virtual environment.
Achieving ROI in the metaverse
Zoe Chen, strategy director for APAC at Virtue, explains that brands' return on investment in the metaverse ultimately depends on the outcome. For example, when a brand joins Web3 and wants to auction NFTs to release them on certain days for sale, the ultimate output is the same as any event or campaign.
In this case, the brand can measure ROI through the number of people who sign up to be on the waiting list, dwell time on the website, views, engagement, and ultimately, sales. Brands will need to work backwards to find out the output.
"On the other hand, a brand like Coca-Cola has created an experience in Fortnite where people can play, collect and discover hidden treasures, collections of pixels and mini-games on Coca‑Cola Zero Sugar Byte Pixel Point Island," she says.
"The brand will see how many people have scanned the QR code or the dwell time in the virtual world. You can measure anything digital, like what actions their avatars are taking, how long they are spending in the virtual world, and if they come back again if they use the same account. It opens more ways of measurement in addition to measuring the engagement, clicks and views of the paid media."
While there are many definitions of the metaverse, the most common one is that Web3 is the undercurrent and the metaverse is the experiential layer. As technology evolves, we will get more and more of the experiential layer opening up.
That means brands should no longer discuss metaverse as mixed reality, virtual and real-life types of cross experiences. Instead, they should focus on a long-term strategy to retain their customers, build lifetime value and get the most out of their investment in the metaverse.
"Brands that figure out how they can creatively play in the metaverse will build strong muscle memory in their marketers," says Stan Lim, chief creative officer, Singapore Creative Group at Dentsu International.
"The next time a new experiential layer opens up, whether I fly people to Mars on a spaceship or we create a virtual environment inside a spaceship; it does not matter because you will learn that no matter what we do, these are the ways to connect back to ROI and work with creative technologies to bring across the experience quite well."