Companies that don’t want to be left behind need to better understand consumer attitudes toward fully immersive digital experiences and the implications for brands, writes Sebastien Houdusse, Chief Strategy Officer of BETC Fullsix
We recently conducted a Prosumer study where we surveyed 14,594 men and women aged 18 and older in 30 markets to gauge their understanding of immersive digital experiences and help brands prepare themselves to enter this new territory.
Prosumers are primed for meta-life
In recent months, the metaverse has been everywhere: in the news, on financial agendas, and on consumers’ minds. And just six months after Facebook was rebranded as Meta, we uncovered that the metaverse already has infiltrated the public consciousness, with 89% of global Prosumers and 73% of the mainstream having heard of the buzzword of the moment. That awareness is not evenly distributed, however. Emerging markets and countries with younger populations are more attuned to this new tech frontier and its potential.
A generational divide
The reality is that metaverse is primarily a term used by older generations. For digital youth, it is simply a part of everyday life, with no need for labels.Furthermore, there happens to be a genuine concern for around half of our respondents that bringing metaverses to life will worsen the divide between digital haves and have-nots.
The Believers vs The Doubters
Looking at six key countries, we see that respondents in emerging markets (Brazil, China, India) are considerably more likely than those in the most developed nations (France, the United Kingdom, the United States) to believe the metaverse represents the future of the internet. Meet the Believers (Brazil, China, and India) and the Doubters (France, the UK and the US).
Whereas near majorities of Prosumers in the Believers countries expect to engage in simulated experiences online before they are available in the real world, only around a third of Prosumers in the Doubter countries agree.
Perhaps the most significant distinction between the two groups lies in their willingness to immerse themselves fully in these new worlds. For the Doubters, the metaverse is a great place to visit; for Believers, it’s a new place to live. Around eight in ten Prosumers in the Believer countries would be willing to wear a headset for several hours a day to enjoy the full possibilities of the metaverse.
A place to socialise and play with identities
Half of respondents in our study said they love spending time on gaming platforms because it allows them to socialise with their “real life” friends. It’s also a place to meet new people.
Also, the metaverse can be a place to experiment with one’s identity via avatars and other means, but it is also a place where people can feel freer to express themselves.
Nearly two-thirds of Prosumers—including 98% of Prosumers in China—consider metaverses more inclusive of race, gender, and other identities than real-life spaces. Recently, we have seen a push for even greater inclusion; for example, Wheel Card’s 10,000-piece ‘Rollie’ digital card NFT collection featuring avatars in wheelchairs.
Should the metaverse be centralised and regulated?
A large number of people who answered the survey stated that metaverses should be commonly owned public property, while 32% believe they should be privately owned. Just a quarter of Prosumers think metaverses should be regulated by governmental bodies.
Digital lives but real currencies
We also explored what people are willing to spend money on in the virtual realm. Live entertainment (digital concert, live event) was the big winner followed by digital apparel and virtual properties. However, our respondents appeared to be cautious regarding NFTs with nine out of ten people indicating that they would not pay more than $1,000, if anything at all, for digital art.
Takeaways for brands
1) Add value to the experience: Brands need to recognize that they are guests within most communities and will only be a welcome presence as long as they bring something to the table. Around half of Prosumers would like to see brands share exclusive content for instance.
2) Reinvent relationships with your customers: Beyond enriching the online experience, brands can add value by creating stronger relationships with their consumers. Prosumers, especially, are mindful of their worth—as buyers, ambassadors, and influencers—and expect to be rewarded for their engagement and achievements, including with cash, free merchandise, and NFTs.