What could be the playbook for marketing in the metaverse? Sumit Virmani, global chief marketing officer at Infosys, says that while there is so much buzz around advertising on the metaverse, marketers need to first update their asset libraries built to work in a 3D world.
If there was a virtual space where people - still tethered to the physical world - work, play, socialize and spend time by themselves and with others using augmented reality-powered avatars, it stands to reason that this world would be of interest to marketers as well, who’ve made it their business to engage with people. Especially, if those people add up to nearly 3 billion potential consumers. Yes, that’s the number of virtual game players around the world, over a third of the world’s population. And although it might require a stretch of the imagination for some, these people are already starting to do much more than just play games in this virtual world or metaverse - the term used to describe this conceptual future of the internet. And marketers are latching on.
From luxury brands spinning up the millions worth of fashion and accessories for avatars to sports brands upping their virtual game, the metaverse is ready for those willing to take over virtual world markets and virtual economies. At Infosys, we set up the extended reality store for the Australian Open where fans, in the virtual world, shopped for tees, beach towels, caps, and racquets and then carried back the goodies into the real world. Needless to say, the immense opportunity that the metaverse presents, especially with the digital acceleration that the pandemic has catalyzed, has only served to pique the curiosity of marketers.
The new rules of engagement for the meta world
It’s not hard to see how the metaverse can serve to connect and engage with practically any target audience including clients and prospective employees. In fact, in the early days of the pandemic when we saw client visits to our global campuses (for design thinking sessions, technology exploration workshops) dry up, we moved it all to the metaverse to help our clients and prospects stay on the path to transformation.
We created a carefully engineered virtual space where almost any kind of otherwise physical interaction could be substituted with virtual, equally engaging experiences. Solutions demos, lectures, whiteboarding, co-creation – all of it is now reality made virtual there and no less compelling. This ‘meet in the metaverse’ construct can well be extended to help prospective and new employees explore workplaces, and it can be quite a game-changer in a remote onboarding environment that we have been dealing with through this pandemic. And, in theory, perhaps also serve as a second office, in a hybrid work scenario, in a more digital future.
But we’ll need to smooth out some significant rough edges first that include security and virtual personal safety validations and counter the potential to get ‘lost behind a headset’ – when metaverse avatars’ arm gestures don’t match up with speech patterns, limit our non-verbal communication or make real-time understanding of each other more than a little hard.
The metaverse can help brands be always-on
Brands can be always on - much like a chatbot that’s always there ready to help, only much better, more data-rich, and potent. For example, avatar-manned stores with guidance from experts in fashion that is always open to shoppers. But perhaps more significantly, the immersive, always accessible, and open nature of the metaverse makes it perfect for recreating purposeful human interactions even when they can’t always be together in the same space and time.
Companies across industries are already using extended reality and metaverse concepts to bring specialists or customers and their employees together in a hybrid environment to co-create and make things together. It could be a great place to learn on-demand or offer 24x7 service support facilities for employees or customers, especially where 3D objects are involved. For example, training retail shop floor personnel, across time zones and stores in product demos or even guiding batches of medical interns in surgical nuances when it is impractical for them all to be physically in the same space.
Making marketing more effective and targeted
Having embraced performance marketing, integrating data and insights across touchpoints to drive marketing decisions is emerging as a big focus area. Many companies have foundational integrated technology across marketing, sales, and operations that captures data to generate intelligence from both internal and external systems offering a single source of truth. What if we could complement this with virtualized cohorts of the target audience (cohorts of carefully targeted game players, or store visitors, or even sports fans and concert audience in the metaverse) and preserve our messaging and campaigns in the virtual world to these ‘digital twins’ before actually running our campaigns in the real world? For example, test recruitment messaging in the metaverse by smartly integrating it in the game environment to target gamers (of the right profile) virtually before rolling out a recruitment campaign on college campuses.
The plans are still nascent and evolving, but then again, that’s exactly the state of the metaverse and marketing on metaverse today. Building out entire virtual worlds is cost- and time-intensive. And not having benchmarks for ROI makes the first move hard - much like in the old days when we were starting to cut our teeth on social media.
There’s so much buzz around advertising on the metaverse, but many of us must first update our asset libraries built for the 2D world to work in a 3D world! Some brands, like Adidas, launched ‘into the Metaverse’ with NFTs. 30,000 NFTs to be precise, in the case of Adidas, that sold out in minutes late last year. Others are wondering if this might not be the right time to pilot in the metaverse more sustainable approaches to serving customers. But the majority are yet to find their groove. Being agile in experimenting, failing fast but learning faster both from one’s own and other's moves, while having a long-term strategy at play is what will pay off for brands ready to bet on the metaverse.
Sumit Virmani is the global chief marketing officer of Infosys.