Facebook’s rebrand to Meta launched an entire debate around the Metaverse and what impact this could have on the way that brands interact with customers. At the heart of this is the fact that the Metaverse remains only loosely defined, which leaves plenty of space for exploration but also little clarity to move forward with. But move forward we will, as the Metaversea becomes more broadly integrated into business and society. So what is that likely to mean for those in the customer research field?
Exploring the definition of the Metaverse
Meta’s vision for the Metaverse is one of Virtual Reality (VR), a space in which people can connect, find communities and grow businesses. However, while Meta’s version of this is immersive VR, this is not the only option being explored. Developer of Pokémon Go, Niantic CEO John Hanke, for example, has a vision that is more about enhanced, as opposed to immersive experiences. Here, the Metaverse is a digital layer that sits on top of real world human experiences – it’s not about recreating the world entirely in VR but using augmentation to solve problems and enhance and integrate VR in small doses for entertainment and more.
What does this mean for market research?
We have already seen household name brands starting to engage with the Metaverse, looking at how they will be represented in a virtual environment and integrating AR and VR into omnichannel strategies. And there is a lot to think about – for example, if shoppers are buying in a virtual world what does that mean for manufacturing R&D, insight and marketing and would Meta market research simply mean passively observing customer behaviours in the Metaverse or using tools like embodied chat bots (meta human interviewers) to obtain feedback.
The packaging question
Early stage packaging and product development can benefit from a shift into Augmented Reality (AR). Many brands are already using AR to test designs before bringing them to life in the real world and this approach has the potential to save time and resources when it comes to prototyping. It could also provide options for more sustainable workflows and improving eco credentials.
Humans are sensory beings
This is something that the Metaverse will need to engage with. On a visual and auditory level it’s already possible to engage consumers through VR and AR but that still leaves other key senses untouched. Not for long though, as many brands are already starting to fill this gap with innovative solutions that can create new opportunities for sensory engagement with consumers at every level. Haptic gloves, for example, will become more available in the near future and allow touch to be amplified. Looking at the product experience and translating this into functionality and emotional benefits provides a clear pathway forward. For example, this could then be used as the basis for a sensory charged video designed to trigger product desire in an immersive shopping environment.
The Metaverse is going to change the way that brands interact with customers, ultimately changing the way that customer research is structured. Whilst there is little historic research on the Metaverse, a research agency can ask the questions directly to the people most involved and interested. By getting inside the heads of early adopters of the Metaverse any brand can jump ahead of its competitors by investing time to understand the Metaverse and the people who use it.