The metaverse represents the next logical step in an immersion into the Internet and is one of the hotly discussed trend topics of today. We explain the opportunities and challenges of the metaverse and the associated future prospects of influencer marketing.
This is the metaverse: an otherworldly universe
The metaverse is seen as a development from the gamer industry and as an advance of the Internet (Web 3.0). It is a collective term for digital, multidimensional worlds of experience. Here, virtual presence and the multidimensional Internet experience are intensified. With the use of virtual and augmented reality (technologies for the partial or holistic construction of virtual realities), parallel worlds can be experienced in the metaverse that are independent of time and space, as they are known from games and creations such as Minecraft, Fortnite, Second Life or Roblox. Due to the considerable computing power involved, experts do not expect a fully developed metaverse until 20 years from now.
The race has begun
The metaverse runs continuously and exists in real time. Communication and networking are particularly important here. Avatars are used to work, play, shop and socialize together. Tech companies like Meta, Microsoft and Nvidia, but also gaming companies like Tencent and Epic Games, are investing heavily in building and expanding their own worlds. These are called “Horizon World,” “Mesh,” “Omniverse,” or “Decentraland,” for example. The crypto information platform 10×10 currently assumes that there are around 15 public metaverses with a total of 1.5 million active users per month. The focus of the worlds varies: platforms are being worked on that focus on digital ways of working, social networking, creation and construction, or the virtualization of objects. The financial service Bloomberg Intelligence estimates the market potential of the Metaverse for 2024 at 800 billion US dollars.
Who has access?
In the near future, there should be a continuous cost reduction in favor of the democratization of the Metaverse. For example, the Meta Group has been able to open its virtual reality platform “Horizon World” free of charge for average adult users from the USA and Canada since December 2021. However, you can only really immerse yourself with the company’s own Oculus Quest 2 VR goggles, and such goggles and other specific hardware items are part of participating in the Metaverse. It is speculated that in the future it will be part of daily business and mainstream to own a second, virtual identity and to move around in cyberspace. Here, people from all over the world can come together in huge numbers of participants.
The metaverse as a hub of unlimited possibilities
Various mixed reality experiences such as interactive concerts, movie premieres with an audience of millions, shopping experiences, scavenger hunts or conferences are already part of the metaverse. Companies buy properties, build product prototypes or show their wares in virtual showrooms as well as on avatars. In the process, users can interact with the physical or virtual objects and buy them with real money or a cryptocurrency. Other processes, such as the monetization of user content, are currently being worked out and have only recently become possible in isolated worlds.
Authentic influencer marketing in an artificial world
The metaverse holds seemingly endless potential – also with regard to influencer marketing, as networking and collaboration processes can be revolutionized. In the future, the metaverse will primarily reach younger, tech-oriented people from Gen Z and millennials, as GWI’s Zeitgeist Study showed. To them, it is particularly important that companies in the Metaverse be inventive in order to avoid boredom.
Obviously, the Metaverse is a suitable platform for virtual influencer avatars because they can be easily integrated. This refers to computer-generated, cartoon-like personas designed by brands themselves. High-end fashion brands in particular are already taking advantage of this, as these avatars can be controlled as well as appear in multiple places at once. One such example is Maya from the sportswear brand Puma. However, the constructed digital persons are no substitute for real influencers, as they are idealized. They lack credibility and authenticity, which is why people can only identify with them to a limited extent. In addition, maintaining an artificial person is time-consuming.
But the metaverse also offers new forms of engagement for real-world content creators. They can be close to their community without leaving their four walls. By collaborating with influencers who move in the metaverse, companies have the opportunity to foster animated and emotional relationships with their customers. The first stars and starlets have already shown interest in the opportunities offered by the digital universe. Parties are being held and personal spaces created (e.g. Snoop Dogg’s “Snoopverse”). Especially on the gaming platform Roblox, influencers are considered in the further development. Characters and mini-games there emulate content creators and their interests.
Hurdles and unanswered questions
Protecting privacy and data and creating a safe environment with appropriate standards and rules are top issues that developer companies have to deal with. Cases of racism and sexism in the metaverse have already caused a media stir. Many technical, socio-economic, environmental, ethical and legal issues remain unresolved. In addition, emotions are heightened in immersive worlds, as a study by the University of Manitoba in Canada showed, and there is an increased risk of addiction. Another challenge is ensuring seamlessness. Because different models coexist and interfaces are exposed even within worlds, it is not always possible to ensure that objects can be transported around. Uniform structures and collaborations between companies could improve this.
Cover Credits: Martin Sanchez