Digital Transformation

Mythbusting the metaverse for marketers: what’s real and what’s next

By Jake Moskowitz | Vice-president of data strategy

September 9, 2022 | 8 min read

The metaverse isn’t a far-off fantasy – in fact, much of the technology is readily available today, and brands risk falling behind if they don’t tap into it now, writes Emodo’s Jake Moskowitz​.

Guy wearing AR headset

/ Adobe Stock

It’s the buzzword du jour – we’ve all heard it again and again: the digital industry is busy building the ‘metaverse.’ And while it’s apparent that this next-gen internet will tap into an entire ecosystem of companies to catalyze the next wave of digital disruption, it’s still ill-defined. 10 different people will give you 10 different answers about what the ‘metaverse’ means.

Buzzwords get a bad rap. They can render a term meaningless. But there’s often a concept of substance in there that gave the term legs in the first place. Buzzwords are simply a sign of confusion, and mythbusting is a smart way to clear up confusion.

Let’s dig into five common myths that marketers are hearing about the metaverse:

Myth 1: the metaverse is five to 10 years away

A lot of people envision the metaverse being something like Ready Player One, where people are more focused on a fully interoperable virtual world than they are on the real physical world.

Well, that’s just one version of the metaverse, but the real metaverse experiences we have today don’t look anything like that. The important thing for marketers to know is that there are plenty of other versions of the metaverse that are already in use right now, and from which they can draw takeaways for their own businesses.

If you want to thrive as a marketer today, focus on the already-mature building blocks of the metaverse. There are fully immersive, highly-engaging, popular universes like Fortnight. There are advanced VR headsets like the Meta Quest 2, and augmented reality (AR) experiences that blend the real and digital worlds. And then of course, there’s blockchain technology – the backbone of the decentralized internet, web3, that’s propelling us toward the long-term metaverse vision. These real, practical elements of the metaverse are where marketers need to focus – not on the fantasy version.

Myth 2: the metaverse requires a mass scale of purpose-built devices

I’m not here to say devices like this won’t play an important part in realizing the metaverse in the long term. Indeed, 5G and edge cloud computing are leading to the next generation of lighter, simpler, more accessible devices. But, once again – it’s not happening in the next five years.

Marketers instead need to focus on the world’s already unimaginable number of fully capable, advanced sensor-filled metaverse devices in use today. Luckily, you probably have one nearby right now: your smartphone, which offers a sleeker, smoother user experience than a VR headset. There are over 300m smartphones in use in the US alone. The number of 5G devices in use around the world is projected to top 1bn this year, per recent data from CCS Insight.

Your typical 5G user today is not necessarily an early adopter, and 5G users cover all demographic groups. Meanwhile, the mobile ad industry is still fixated on dated ad formats that have been in use for at least a decade.

Marketers need to push the boundaries of these advanced smartphone devices and wide network bandwidth – or risk getting left behind. Mobile advertising needs to get smarter, more dynamic, and more interactive – and it can, for businesses that leverage currently underutilized capabilities today.

Myth 3: walled gardens will dominate the metaverse

Let’s revisit history to envision the future: in paradigm shifts, established leaders often lose. In 1997, General Motors had the visionary EV-1 electric car – but did it win the electric car race? Did Sony, which brought us the Walkman, win the portable music player race? Did Yahoo’s once-dominant digital portal win search?

Now, Meta is getting a lot of attention, but we’ve all seen Mark Zuckerberg’s Horizon Worlds avatar posing with the Eiffel Tower and La Sagrada Familia. And the internet found that image … shall we say, anticlimactic. Meanwhile, Microsoft spent nearly $70bn on scandal-ridden Activision Blizzard, Google is still pushing Google Glass – despite unarguably low interest – and Apple is rumored to be eyeing an entry.

And those big-name tech contenders are only the most obvious ones – whatever companies that will dominate the metaverse might not be on everyone’s collective radar yet. There are plenty of successful metaverse-only startups out there, from the established (e.g. Roblox) to the emerging (e.g. Sandbox and Decentraland). Winners in new spaces often emerge from nowhere, too – Google, Facebook and TikTok took off for reasons other than being on the scene first.

Myth 4: AR is niche tech for early adopters

It’s not so – 93 million people in the US used some kind of AR at least once a month last year, according to eMarketer data. They’re using it to try out products virtually before purchasing, play immersive games, view homes and design interiors – and yes, change the look of their photos and videos on social media using filters.

Leading AR platform 8th Wall claims that their tech supports 3.5bn devices globally. Forward-thinking marketers have found AR-enhanced experiences are largely well-received by consumers, and help boost engagement with the brand. In fact, AR is one of the most actionable and scalable entry points into the metaverse today.

Myth 5: compelling AR assets are prohibitively expensive

In reality, AR ad creative development is far less expensive than app development. AR works well with 3D assets, which are available at a reasonable cost in public marketplaces. Even 2D elements can enable a great AR experience – take Image Target Technology, in which a real-world item triggers a phone camera to enhance the experience with a digital add-on. AR creatives can be developed by dozens of agencies on a similar timeline as other digital ad assets.

It’s time to dive in

Don’t let the metaverse’s buzz factor give you pause. As an industry, we’re simply not taking advantage of the powerful capabilities of widely-available technologies today.

Industry leaders need to tap into the immersive mindset native to younger generations. It doesn’t make sense to sit back and wait for that singular virtual world we’re imagining to reach scale. It’s time to start experimenting by tapping into the power of new platforms, AR, blockchain and smartphones today.

Jake Moskowitz​ is head of the Emodo Institute and vice-president of data strategy at Emodo.

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