3 Ways B2B Marketers Can Leverage the Metaverse for Growth
Thanks to some clever rebranding by Facebook, ‘The Metaverse’ has become one of the hottest topics for businesses and consumers alike. With the birth of a new company name, ‘Meta’, Mark Zuckerberg has signalled the company’s intention to become the guiding force in the next major evolution of the internet.
But what is he talking about – and why should B2B marketers care?
So what is the metaverse?
First it’s important to realise that the metaverse is far larger than the current buzz around Facebook/Meta. Until now, the internet has been quite static. Video and graphics lead the way, but interaction has been limited. You can point and click, tap and swipe, pinch and zoom, offering some degree of control over what you see on your two-dimensional screen (because even 3D models are rendered in 2D).
It's also important to realise that the metaverse already exists – most clearly in the realm of consumer entertainment. Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG) like World of Warcraft and Fortnite exhibit many of the 3D graphics and social-based aspects of the metaverse. These platforms are available to anyone, without the need for any specialist hardware like headsets.
In future, the metaverse promises to break the barrier between users and objects that they see. We will be able to interact with content inside the metaverse in real(ish) 3D for the first time. For business applications, the metaverse revolution is likely to revolve around two key technologies, Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR).
Virtual Reality creates a complete world in which the user can explore and interact with content in three dimensions. They also become a part of the simulation themselves.
Augmented Reality blends computer-generated content with the real world to provide contextual experiences. AR content overlays the surrounding environment, much like the head-up displays found in many modern cars which project driving information on the windscreen so the driver can see important information and the road ahead simultaneously. In the metaverse, AR and VR rely on goggles to create a truly immersive experience of being in a 3D world.
This has all been done before, right? AR and VR have been around for quite a long time (remember Lawnmower Man from 1992?). Even the latest technological advances are really just improvements of concepts that have existed for decades. However, current AR and VR apps tend to exist in isolation. There is very little cross-over between services creating a disjointed user experience that shatters the immersive quality of the technology. You log out of one app and into another, creating and recreating profiles each time.
The metaverse promises to solve this problem by offering a seamless, open platform on which all other digital experiences are built. Users can then create an accurate digital persona that will follow them across all metaverse-attached services. And with the creation of Meta, Facebook has clearly stated its intention to be the owner-operator of one of these platforms.
The return of the avatar
Meta’s vision sees each Facebook profile evolving to become fully-fledged 3D character that exists across the metaverse. People will be able to interact with each other’s avatars in a 3D environment making the experience more personal and ‘real’ – even though it remains fully virtual. And as rumours of Apple’s virtual reality glasses continue to circulate, it is obvious to see how their avatar-like Memoji feature will continue to develop in the near future.
What does the metaverse mean for B2B marketers?
Much of the current hype around the metaverse is what it means for consumers and its entertainment potential. But experience shows that the border between personal and professional continues to blur and many B2C buying habits are eventually adopted in the B2B arena too.
Take social media for instance. Information-savvy individuals are more than happy to use social platforms as part of their research and decision-making process before making a purchase at home. And now they apply those same techniques and tools to their work activities too. As a result, those organisations active on social platforms are more likely to attract attention from potential buyers.
So, what could the metaverse be used for?
Realistic virtual conferences
The pandemic showed it was possible to hold remote conferences built around a series of webinars – but for most attendees, there was a definite lack of personal interaction. With metaverse technologies, it becomes possible to hold meetings in a virtual representation of a conference hall attended by avatars of the delegates. Attendees will also be able to take part in secondary conference activities like viewing exhibitors’ stands and attending virtual networking events – without ever leaving their desk.
Lead prospecting and advertising
The metaverse will open new opportunities for marketers to flex their creative abilities. A virtual world will undoubtedly include virtual advertising space, allowing sponsors to display branded content or promotional videos to a finely targeted audience of potential buyers as they engage in other activities online.
Enhanced pre-sales training
The ability to build and interact with lifelike 3D models takes much of the ‘imagination’ work out of pre-sales activities. Even the best 3D models require some imagination to properly appreciate – but metaverse technologies will allow customers to see and interact with objects in situ, which then allows your pre-sales team to offer real-world training and advice on a hyper-realistic virtual model. This will be invaluable for projects which have long lead times, helping to shorten time-to-productivity because users are ready to go from the moment the equipment arrives.
So what next?
Facebook has effectively gambled the future of their company on the success of the metaverse, underlining their commitment to making the internet more lifelike. For B2B marketers this is a wake-up call. Metaverse technology offers important new ways to connect with a potential audience – even if much of the early attention has been (wrongly) focused on consumer applications.
Instead, B2B marketers should be looking at how they can replicate, extend and enhance many of their real-world activities to create immersive experiences that resonate with potential buyers. By investigating the potential early, marketers will be ready to act as adoption accelerates, scoring an important advantage over their competitors who dismiss these platforms as a passing fad – particularly as the metaverse already exists in several forms.