Guest post by Andrea Vargas.
Slowly but surely, the Metaverse is moving out of the realm of niche games and into the realm of everyday online engagement.
When Mark Zuckerberg announced Facebook was getting rebranded as “Meta”, it catapulted the idea of the Metaverse into popular consciousness. But the Metaverse is not just a gimmick or sci-fi fantasy. It foreshadows the evolution from Web 2.0 to Web 3.0. And as such, it quite possibly represents the future of digital marketing.
B2B marketing professionals would be mistaken to dismiss the Metaverse as only relevant for B2C marketing. It won’t merely be beneficial to take the Metaverse seriously for B2B marketing—it may well be imperative. Across a wide range of industries, the Metaverse is likely to change the face of B2B marketing as we know it.
What Is The Metaverse?
The term “Metaverse” is borrowed from sci-fi and originally referred to a virtual world in which people interact through life like avatars. Today, it represents a projected “new age of the Internet” which will totally change the way we consume content and interact with people and brands online. Rather than simply looking at a screen, Metaverse users will be inside a virtual, immersive online space.
Small elements of the Metaverse exist already through games like Roblox, Fortnite, Minecraft, and Animal Crossing. These virtual worlds represent universes where players interact with others via digital avatars.
However, the full potential of the Metaverse has yet to be realized. But as virtual reality becomes more accessible, this future becomes more and more tangible. And while it won’t be exactly like The Matrix or Ready Player One, it is likely to completely change the way people view the Internet as well as human and brand interaction.
How Will The Metaverse Change Online Marketing?
Many companies are already using interactive games like Animal Crossing and technology like virtual reality to market their products. In addition, the glimmers of a world in which digital assets matter just as much as physical ones are appearing—think cryptocurrency, NFTs, and virtual real estate.
As the Metaverse becomes a part of daily existence, its marketing possibilities will expand exponentially. Consider virtual concerts, special events, and immersive 3D spaces. Virtual reality allows for an interaction with brands and products that goes far beyond seeing it on a screen.
Luxury fashion brands like Gucci are making use of virtual reality to allow consumers to virtually try out their clothing items, and Amazon is working on a similar concept.
Within the Metaverse, companies will also be able to create their own virtual storefronts, venues, and digital worlds. Brands can also partner with existing virtual worlds within them, similar to H&M’s clothing recycling island on Animal Crossing.
The Metaverse And B2B Marketing
For B2B marketers, the Metaverse presents an opportunity to reach audiences much more easily. The Metaverse (along with the pandemic) has shown that conferences and events need not be in-person to be effective. Many virtual reality (VR) companies offer targeted virtual conference spaces so that entrepreneurs can meet in interactive 3D spaces without having to leave their homes, while virtual event platforms are incorporating VR.
Thinking beyond conferences, the Metaverse will also allow B2B vendors to provide remote assistance, immersive training, and augmented involvement in factories. Virtual reality is a way to bridge the gap between remote and in-person interactions. It allows for an embodied experience without any physical presence. The possibilities of where B2B marketing (as well as support and even product development) can go with that are endless.
In the world of B2B marketing, clients typically conduct extensive research about the products they invest in. That makes the Metaverse a fantastic opportunity for B2B marketers. Virtual venues that allow potential customers to have a 360° view of their products, interact with them directly, and even virtually “get inside” products are a boon to B2B companies. Not only does this attract potential clients, but it allows them to feel that they have understood the product and received all the information they need about it.
An interesting consequence of the Metaverse is that it begins to blur the lines between B2B and B2C. The Metaverse is a place for both work and play, where the boundaries between the two are not always clearly defined. This presents an opportunity for companies to expand their traditional customer bases and eschew corporate conventions.
The Metaverse is a playful space and so, it requires new and playful approaches to advertising and marketing. As an immersive space, it lends itself to marketing that shows rather than tells. It’s not just about letting customers know about how good your product is. But rather, it’s about allowing them to experience it for themselves, through virtual stores, virtual classrooms, and virtual events.
It will be some time before the Internet as we know it is entirely replaced by the Metaverse. The value of real-life in-person experiences will never disappear. As we enter the third year of the pandemic, a mix of in-person and online interaction is becoming the norm. Conferences and trade shows can also be mixed reality, including both physical and virtual attendance options.
Rather than considering the Metaverse as a Matrix-like replacement of the real world, we should see it as an expansion of our current reality. It represents an explosion of new opportunities and possibilities for both B2C and B2B marketing.
Today, the vision of a single and all-encompassing Metaverse is still mostly just that—a vision. But, the green shoots of this concept are springing up in various ways. Multiple virtual worlds, spaces, environments, and zones compete for users’ attention, but none yet offer a fully integrated experience.
In the future, this will all change. The Metaverse will become decentralized and democratized. Rather than one or more individual companies owning it (as AOL “owned” the consumer Internet in its infancy), the Metaverse will run on the same principles as decentralized apps and digital currencies like cryptocurrencies and NFTs.
One day, people will likely be able to work, shop, socialize, learn, and be entertained through one seamless virtual world. In such a place, what will B2B marketing look like? Companies that see this as an opportunity to push the boundaries of marketing are the ones that will find their place in the Metaverse.
Covering topics from small businesses, marketing, and management, Andrea Vargas provides entrepreneurs with actionable insights. When she’s not writing, you can find Andrea enjoying milk tea, tinkering with code, or playing with her dog, Rufus.