Recent news about the new direction of Facebook’s evolution — the Metaverse — has made leading brands stop and contemplate omnichannel engagement in a completely new way.
The world of virtual and augmented reality is shaping to be the next step of immersive experiences, or in other words – exceptional customer experiences. And, Metaverse promises to facilitate them.
While Metaverse is not yet a full-blown and functional ecosystem, many will agree – it has got enormous potential to become one.
The digital disruption of 2020 has accelerated digital-first habits such as using virtual screens for meeting spaces during the lockdown. The next evolutionary step forward from the video is the immersive virtual reality experience. Zoom’s CEO has started talking about metaverse-ifying video conferencing in the upcoming years, while Microsoft Teams is launching in VR and AR next year.
The Metaverse and Marketing
Is Metaverse innovation possible right away with the technological level we are at now? Not really. Does this mean we can ignore Metaverse as a valid channel of interaction? Again, not really.
In the words of Mark Zuckerberg: “Some of the basic building blocks are here, and others emerge as we speak.” At the moment, we are just starting to get a sense of what Metaverse might be.
There are almost infinite numbers of different kinds of experiences that we will be able to build. For now, we can imagine bringing digital assets into the Metaverse like photos, videos, music or games. However, the expectation is to have the ability to take items from the virtual world and project them in the physical world using holograms.
Therefore, leading marketers will recognise that our current approach to omnichannel engagement is about to evolve. And the next step in the omnichannel expansion is all about embracing VR and AR as valuable channels of interaction, which will stay for the long run.
The Metaverse and Omnichannel Experience
Several companies have started their Metaverse journey. Nike has recently acquired a virtual sneaker company called RTFKT as an avenue to walk into the Metaverse space. While retailers are one prominent industry that will be interested in the potential of VR and AR for omnichannel engagement, many other industries can benefit too.
The manufacturing industry has already been prone to using VR and AR as a channel that elevates customers’ experiences. Mercedes has used augmented reality to help the new car owners use different features by allowing customers to point their mobile devices to the dashboard’s panels to find out how to use them.
For the next wave of Metaverse-like car experiences, we will expect car dealers to provide a more immersive experience, such as taking test drives in their chosen car model.
Start planning for VR and AR now
The human attention span stands at an 8-second mark, based on a study conducted less than a decade ago.
The fascination with the digital world that started since the birth of the internet has taken on a new dimension. Now, we rely on digital channels for work, socialisation and entertainment. While not all of us expect every aspect of our lives to be tied to a digital world, the general expectation is that we will tend to experience the current screen-based events in a more intense environment. And virtual reality holds a new promise – to hold our attention in a new way.
So, instead of ‘video calls’, we will have ‘virtual hangouts’, and instead of jogging on a location-restrained treadmill, we will take our runs on a make-belief planet in a virtual world.
To gain a foothold in the Metaverse market, brands should seek the best routes for them. For many, augmented reality will be an excellent option to start. Augmented reality is closer to the physical world, with its ability to overlap a computer-generated image into the real world (e.g. Pokemon GO).
With great success, brands have already been improvising with this type of omnichannel engagement. IKEA, for example, has launched an app to enable its customers to place furniture virtually in the room before buying it. Augmented reality helps speed up the consideration stage of the long sales cycle by providing a channel for consumers to interact with the product in a more life-like manner.
In some industries, virtual reality holds more value than augmented reality, such as real estate. Here, consumers will probably lean towards wanting to take virtual tours of the building or neighbourhood before making a purchase decision.
Lastly, it’s not only essential to consider new ways of interacting with customers (or soon to be virtual avatars), but also to improve on the old ways of interaction. Can your website, newsletter or video tutorial become more immersive? It’s up to you to design the experience.
The Metaverse revolution is coming, and while it doesn’t feel real right now, many ambitious brands are brainstorming ideas on how to enrich customers’ experiences through AR and VR technologies.
Because, if there is a new channel out there that is not yet saturated with endless notifications and brands competing for customers’ attention, it’s – Metaverse.
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