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The Metaverse and What it Can Do For Your Brand

Don’t underestimate the Metaverse. It is already here, and it is a huge opportunity for brands today and tomorrow.

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Author: Benoit Soucaret

November 23, 2021

The Metaverse, or Internet 3.0, isn’t just immersive, it is changing the way we buy, trade, and even how we relate to each other. The reason why people are calling it Internet 3.0 is that it is not something completely new. It is a further evolution of the way internet already works today. But instead of it being 2D, it is 3D and immersive. It is also multi-sensorial – it’s listening, watching, walking around, knowing when your friends and family are there too, sharing opinions about things you are virtually trying out. 

 

What is the Metaverse?

 Mark Zuckerberg, Founder and CEO of Facebook, said in an interview with The Verge, “The Metaverse isn’t just virtual reality” and would be accessible across various computing platforms like virtual and augmented reality, and also on personal computers, mobile devices and gaming consoles. Talking about what he sees as the future of the internet, Zuckerberg also said: “You can think of the Metaverse as an embodied internet where, instead of just viewing content, you are in it and feel present with other people as if you are present in other places having different experiences that you couldn’t really do on a 2D App or page. My hope, if we do this right, is that over the next 5 years or so, we will transition from people seeing us as primarily being a social media company to being a Metaverse company.”

While Metaverse is a buzz word that has been circulating franticly across Silicon Valley for a couple of years, it does not mean much to most of us. In short, the Metaverse is a world where you can play games, buy and sell virtual products using virtual currency with real life implications. It is a shared virtual space where people are represented as avatars. And like most trends, fashion has jumped on the Metaverse wagon. At the Met Gala in September 2021, organizers deliberately avoided using traditional party pictures and instead rendered many of the celebrity guests as 3D avatars. The Metaverse is more than a game, a website, an application or a platform. It becomes instead the interface through which we experience a new type of reality, with its own rules and its own economy.

There is now over 400 million people per day who participate in high fidelity, dynamic, socially oriented virtual worlds, and tens of billions of dollars spent every day across the various crypto currency platforms where people trade purely virtual currency or virtual goods. This transition has already begun, and while it has not reached most of us, it is beginning to feel like the future of digital. It is not just Facebook who are interested in this either – other tech firms like Microsoft and Alibaba are among those getting in on it.

 

Which brands are using the Metaverse?

Elements of the Metaverse are already here, for example within online games like Fortnite or the Roblox platform. These are huge hits in the gaming world where millions of players are now at the forefront of the latest in Metaverse technology. Multi-award winning artist, Lil Nas X performed on the Roblox platform (46M+ people per day) to a crowd of avatars. This shows how the Metaverse is expanding beyond just multi-player games, and into something far richer. Roblox is a platform where people can come together to become immersed in 3D experiences; learning, working, playing, creating, and socializing with friends and family. It allows people to form connections through participating in concerts, games, fashion shows, and millions of virtual experiences that feel real. It has become far more than gaming. People are celebrating their birthday parties, holiday events, etc., all within online spaces. Recently, even older, established brands like Vans and Gucci have joined Roblox to showcase experiences where people can interact with their products.

A few months ago, Gucci launched an experience called the Gucci Gardens. Not everyone can get on a plane, and travel to the Gucci Headquarters in Florence, and actually enjoy the physical experience. So, Gucci created a version of that experience on Roblox where people can dress up their avatar and walk through the virtual space. Gucci also released digital products, including digital handbags, that people can use in the virtual world. As many of these items were released in limited edition, they ended up getting traded for hundreds of dollars.

The crypto brand RTFKT Studios dominated the NFT fashion space by dropping a new sneaker collaboration with Atari. They have allowed the sneaker enthusiasts who collect sneakers in the real world to do it in the virtual world. By advertising the collection on their avatar, friends and connections will see when they enter the Metaverse that they have expensive collectible sneakers just like they would in the real world. 

 

Why is the Metaverse here?

Some might find the thought of an entirely virtual world scary. But the Metaverse isn’t necessarily here to replace the real world. Some see it as a way to augment the things that we can already do. It enables people to be immersed in experiences they would not have otherwise been able to enjoy. For example, it gives someone living in a small town the opportunity to see their favorite band, or lets you look at locations around the world throughout history. Currently, we learn about Ancient Rome in books, looking at pictures, seeing videos explaining what happened at the time. Now imagine that you can take your entire class and virtually visit Ancient Rome and see what is happening in an immersive way.

 

Monetizing the Metaverse

For those of us struggling to get on the property ladder in the real world, you can now do that virtually. If you are playing a role-playing game or a first-person shooter game, as your avatar moves around that game, the space inside that game is digital real estate, which can be developed. This means brands can sell advertising space on it, and they can create store fronts in the environment where players can find out about new products. This has become a possibility across many of the newly launched Metaverses. Republic Realm, a leader in metaverse innovation, investment, and NFTs (non-fungible tokens), is also a virtual real estate firm specializes in  buying those digital real estates and developing them.

A new Metaverse recently launched, The Sandbox, a virtual world where players can build, own, and monetize their gaming experiences in the Ethereum blockchain. You can buy virtual land in the Sandbox. Republic Realm are one of the largest land holders in the Sandbox, and they are developing it just like a real estate developer would in the real world. They add value to those properties by developing them, and then sell them. Not only that, but they also hire real world architects to design buildings that will then be built by 3D developers and those virtual real estate agency end up selling them to buyers.

Some people are buying and selling plots of this virtual land in the hopes that the space will gain value and become more competitive. You could compare this to domain names a few years ago. There was a moment in time where people started buying domain names and speculating on them. A lot of people at the time, thought it was a crazy idea because nobody foresaw that every business around the world would need a website. Yet, here we are years later, and every business needs a website as a minimum.

 

From direct-to-consumer to direct-to-avatars 

R/GA London is launching a “direct to avatar” capability that will create virtual stores for brands within Metaverse platforms, marking an evolution in direct-to-consumer selling. They are introducing this new capability with a concept store for the high-tech clothing brand Vollebak within Decentraland, the blockchain-based Metaverse platform. Vollebak will use the store, which recreates the landscape of the planet Mars, to launch its Mars Jacket. Users who visit the store can then try on the jacket via their avatar and buy it as a non-fungible token using Mana, the blockchain-based currency of Decentraland. Owners of the NFT can then wear the jacket anywhere within Decentraland. And with this, users who own the virtual jacket can “turn” it into a real, physical jacket through Vollebak’s website.

 

The future of digital

While it’s still in its speculative stages today, people are beginning to sit up and pay attention to the Metaverse. The way people interact with the internet has fundamentally changed over the last several years and people expect a more immersive environment. Scrolling through a 2D website to find new products is how the older generation interact with the internet. Just as the huge technological and social changes over the last 25 years have been enabled by the interface change brought about by the World Wide Web, so the next phase of interface changes will enable another wave of innovation. 

Companies that have the foresight understand what is happening and are already betting on the value of this digital real estate, because they see how valuable those interactions are. Brands that are the most exciting to work with today are the ones who are literate in the Metaverse. The next wave will be an influx of the more traditional bricks and mortar retailers looking into the Metaverse.

Analysts anticipate that the industry will surpass $300B in value over the next few years, and will keep rising. It is easy to see why  – Facebook, Microsoft, and others are so interested. Jensen Huang, Founder and CEO of Nvidia believes that the economy of the Metaverse will exceed that of the real world.

It is going to be the way that the next generation interacts with technology. The Metaverse is all about creating a much more seamless experience than what brands are doing today. Fashion, beauty, people, this is what everyone will be talking about next. If your brand isn’t looking into it, you might be left behind.

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