When Facebook changed its name to Meta, attention shifted quickly to the metaverse and how it will transform the internet. With brands like Meta spending $10 billion per year on metaverse development and Microsoft purchasing a leading gaming platform for $70 billion, it’s clear that technology giants see a big future in the metaverse. But what is the metaverse, and what do brands really need to know about this new realm of interaction?
When we talk about the metaverse, the concept is still just that – a concept. It’s not a specific game or website, but rather a set of technologies that together shift how we interact with technology. Emerging technologies and online behaviours like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), cryptocurrency, Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT), gamification, social commerce and more are all transforming how we relate to the digital and physical worlds. Some people compare discussing the metaverse today with how the public discussed “cyberspace” before the internet. The term and its meaning will likely change several times over the coming decades.
Many consumer brands have already adopted AR and VR, gamification and other metaverse technologies to provide more engaging and personalised customer experiences. Charlotte Tilbury, for example, offers a virtual store where consumers can shop with friends and play games without leaving home. According to a survey, 70% of customers who have visited a virtual store have made a purchase, and nearly 75% of Gen Z consumers have purchased a digital product within a video game. The upcoming generation of shoppers is enthusiastic about new types of shopping experiences.
But the metaverse doesn’t only present opportunities for consumer brands. A few business-to-business (B2B) brands are already exploring how metaverse technologies can improve the buyer experience. The B2B sector has always involved a focus on community and interaction. Whether through virtual trade shows, product demonstrations or client meetings, metaverse technologies show potential for expanding these interactions.
Consider these examples of B2B brands using metaverse technologies to reach their target audiences with engaging experiences.
VERYX, a provider of food processing equipment, created a 360 interactive video experience to give customers a look inside its product. Hosted on YouTube, viewers can move around the video as it plays using their cursers and see the product demonstration from all angles, including inside the equipment. The technology enables customers and prospects to learn about the equipment at any time without needing to visit a facility. Additionally, the interactive element gives the viewer more control than a regular video that can’t be manipulated.
GumGum embraced gaming technology to help its customers and prospects understand Google’s upcoming ban of third-party cookies and how they can adapt. The brand launched the “Cookie Crumbling Ski Mountain,” an interactive game where users ski down a mountain and click on hot spots that contain information on the changing third-party cookie landscape. The hot spots explain how GumGum’s technology can meet their needs. At the end of the hill, users can download a GumGum-themed recipe book and submit their information.
HP Inc. took gaming technology in another direction to enhance the employee experience. In its GEM Club online platform, HP sales representatives submit sales claims and complete product trainings to collect virtual GEMS that count toward monthly prizes. The platform also includes a leaderboard to drive competition.
After the pandemic hit, businesses had to quickly adapt a key B2B sales tool, the trade show, to a virtual environment. Trade shows across industries accelerated their digital strategies to create events that resembled in-person shows as closely as possible. ISSA Show North America, for example, shifted to a virtual experience featuring digital booths, live streaming events, networking opportunities and live chat functions.
Although virtual trade shows were created to address a critical need during the pandemic, hosting hybrid events has remained popular. Moving forward, trade shows can attract a larger audience without geographical boundaries with a combination of virtual and in-person activities.
We’re not hanging out in a virtual reality interface every day – yet. Until we do, there are several existing and emerging metaverse technologies that can enhance the B2B buyer experience and help brands reach across geographical boundaries to make sales. Like many new technologies, the first adapters will be the leaders in shaping the space and gain a leg up on the competition.
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Theresa Colston is a Senior Account Executive at Mulberry Marketing Communications, an award-winning full-service B2B communications agency based in Chicago, London and Australia. She enjoys developing creative marketing ideas and building connections to drive results for clients.