Facebook created some colossal waves with their recent declaration of intention to own the Metaverse space. At Rehab, we’ve been monitoring the space for some time, and – while still largely hypothetical at the time of writing – we believe it has the potential to be the biggest paradigm shift for brands and the way products are sold since the internet.
So, what is it? (A very fair question).
In theory, it’s an always-on world that runs parallel to our own and can be accessed through technology – like our phones, augmented reality glasses and games consoles. The idea being that it remains consistent, like the ‘real’ world, and you can live there, hang out there, and build things that last.
It’s important to reiterate that it’s entirely hypothetical – both socially and technologically – but we are clearly building there.
For example, Google Glass was a very clear step in this direction, but it failed both socially (due to privacy and design concerns), and technologically (the tech had limited functionality at the time).
Snapchat has tried to pick up where Google left off, with the recent announcement of Spectacles, glasses that integrate real-time overlays into your vision. Now, Facebook (or ‘Meta’) has entered the race and is looking to accelerate the concept.
There are other examples that show the direction we’re heading in, as well as what the potential of the Metaverse could be. Pokemon Go, where the in-game world was projected on top of the real world, is a showcase of the entertainment-driven capabilities, while Ikea’s Place app (which allows the user to project potential purchases into their house) throws a spotlight on the practical applications.
If we assume a consistent rate of improvement in Augmented Reality (AR) and wearables, it seems obvious that the Metaverse idea will be realised. In the near future, you might look out into the street you live on, and see directions, games, parking information – and more – laid directly over it.
So what will this mean for brands?
The primary difference will be an entirely new mechanism to add into the customer journey, one which is already being used by fashion and home interior companies.
Houzz, a platform for home remodeling and design, has introduced the ability to see new homeware products in your space using AR and play around with features. The results have been incredible, with the team reporting users were 11 times more likely to make a purchase.
Separately, Snapchat has reported that interaction with AR products leads to a 94 per cent higher conversion rate. In the future, brands selling physical products may well have no choice but to integrate the ability for users to see it in their own space, or face getting left behind. It could become as second-nature as having images of products.
Another big change will be in advertising. Even in the current day, we’re seeing the industry play on different versions of reality. In the past, newspapers were the primary means of news and had the ability to shape reality.
Then TV made our realities more diverse, with different advertisements being offered to viewers based on the shows they watched. The internet has simply taken that one step further, offering hyper-personalised targeting.
The Metaverse offers an opportunity for adverts to be placed on top of the real world, tied directly into your daily routine, and be aimed directly at each individual user. Facebook’s involvement makes this an inevitable outcome of the concept.
The Metaverse will also offer an entirely new way for users interacting with brands to express themselves, with fashion being an obvious route in. Some fashion brands are already looking into the space, with NFTs being a facilitator of ownership.
For example, Burberry are integrating their products into the online game Blankos Block Party, using NFTs as the purchase mechanism. If you own a Burberry backpack in the game with proven ownership, what if you could transfer the same item over to other games, like Fortnite? And then what about transferring to your daily wardrobe too – through the digital overlay on the real world?
Taking the concept to the extreme, could people arrive to work appearing smart and well-dressed through the digital overlay, before transitioning instantly to a more casual overlay when out with friends at the pub later on?
There are a plethora of other ways in which this could change brands forever, and we’re aware of household names, outside of Facebook, that are planning for it right now. All signs point to the Metaverse becoming very real, and it’s vitally important for brands to embrace that vision and fully consider what it could mean for their future.
Robin Hunter, Creative Technologist at creative technology agency Rehab.