Move over B2B and B2C, there’s a new kid on the block. And by ‘kid’, we of course mean ‘commercial business model’. Its name? Direct-to-avatar, but you can call it D2A for short.
D2A allows brands to sell products to consumers’ digital identities – avatars – within virtual environments. Forget supply chains, warehousing and complicated logistics, your customers can buy a new pair of virtual sneakers or even a car from within the metaverse.
Will D2A take off? Well, that’s to be seen. The reseller of a Gucci handbag on video-game Roblox would certainly say so. The savvy Roblox user sold the virtual accessory for $4,115 last year, around $800 more than the actual physical bag would cost in actual physical life.
And if all this sounds too strange, too hypetastic, too downright dumb, it might be because the metaverse can be so much more than items, spaces and steep markups on fungible virtual handbags. The value of the metaverse is the relationships, the interactions and the things you can do within these spaces
These are the things that will drive people to have a presence in the metaverse – to communicate, play, interact and connect.
Which got us thinking about digital ‘presences’ more literally. As in, who is actually going to be present in the metaverse? The metaverse will be a vibrant, bustling hub of human and humanlike activity. So how will the it be populated?
Real people will be the center of the metaverse. The question is, are they ready to take this next step into web 3.0? Well, yes. Around three in four adults today say they’ll join the metaverse when ready – representing some 4.4 billion people.
These are the folk who exist behind the metaverse avatars. You, me, your friends and family. They’ll be using the metaverse in real-time to enjoy a whole range of activities, whether it’s shopping through augmented reality, gaming in VR or (ugh) working.
One thing’s for sure: people see the metaverse as a place to connect. More than four out of five (82%) of those familiar with the metaverse expect it to be a place where they can socialize every day, according to Wunderman Thompson figures.
Anything people do via social media may be possible instead in the metaverse. And on a much deeper level, many of us (74%) think an avatar will be able to express our individuality and creativity in ways that aren’t possible in the real world. Ultimately, nearly two-thirds feel the metaverse can bring people together.
But let’s not forget it’ll also be a place to shop! And 60% of users expect brands to be manufacturing and selling their products in the metaverse. In fact, 42% of those who know what the metaverse is already own digital possessions.
There’s clearly a market, and it’s growing. The marketplace won’t just be populated with consumers though… so who else will be there?
Okay, we’re not saying celebrities aren’t real people. You probably won’t bump into LeBron James or Beyonce just strolling around in real life. But you might get a chance to chat with them in the metaverse.
Take rapper Travis Scott, for example. Earlier this year, he motion-captured, choreographed and pre-recorded a series of concerts that took place within the metaverse of the video game Fortnite.
They were a massive success, with more than 27.7 million unique players showing up in-game across five events, with Scott lovingly recreated as a giant digital hip-hop god. It brings a whole new meaning to his song ‘Highest in the Room’.
And it was undoubtedly an impressive experience, but largely a non-interactive one for the crowd. The metaverse promises to go a step beyond that, with star-studded names using their metaverse avatars to directly engage with people one on one.
Powered by innovative conversational AI, these digital celebs will look, speak and interact like the real thing, helping to build their brand and promote the companies they work with. Watching a virtual Travis Scott concert is one thing, but allowing every fan to speak with his AI counterpart in the metaverse, brought to you by a company who endorses him, like McDonald’s, Nike or Mattel – now that’s an experience you couldn’t get anywhere else!
If you want more celebrity metaverse examples, perhaps the weirdest one to date, look no further.
Last year, Snoop Dogg announced that he was developing his own virtual world, ‘Snoopverse’, on the Sandbox platform. Soon after, a fan bought a plot of digital real estate for $450,000 – ‘next door’ to where Snoop plans to build his digital mansion.
Maybe the user is hoping to have friendly catchups with his superstar neighbor over the (digital) garden fence? It’s the interactions that make the metaverse truly special, after all. Let’s just hope those virtual walls are thick enough to drown out all the barking if Snoop decides to add digital versions of his 11 dogs to the Snoopverse!
Virtual ambassadors and mascots
Many brands have a mascot. KFC has the Colonel; GEICO has Martin the Gecko; and The Laughing Cow has, well, the Laughing Cow. They’re celebrities in their own right, of course, but they’re often not real people – many aren’t even human. And yet brand mascots move the needle more than almost anything else in the world of marketing.
Why? Because they’re easily recognized and beloved by millions of consumers worldwide. Their personality, charm and relatability are what make them so effective in advertising. And because brand mascots resonate with us on an emotional level; they make us feel something.
That matters in marketing. USC research has shown that 32% of the best-performing advertisements focus on emotional content, whereas less than one in five appeal to the rational side of our brains.
Why wouldn’t the metaverse include our favorite mascots, doing what they do best – being great ambassadors for their brands. But they can also be a lot more involved and interactive.
For example, Jake from State Farm is an actor. He’s never sat down with a customer, discussed their specific needs and found the right insurance package for them. But Jake – or, more accurately, a digital version of him – could do all of these things in the metaverse. He could drive customer engagement even further, beyond what we see today on the screen, and live up to the promise of the metaverse to bring more immersive, personalized experiences.
We choose Jake as an example because State Farm has already given a flavor of this type of experience: through a digital Jake NPC in the video game NBA 2K22. We can’t be the only ones who want to see those khakis in the metaverse, can we?
A digital workforce
Celebrities, brand ambassadors, mascots – they might be a company’s MVPs, but the metaverse is going to be a busy place, with lots of work to be done. So who’s going to be doing it?
This is where a digital workforce comes in.
Unlike a Travis Scott or a Jake from State Farm, these employees won’t be virtual recreations of real people. Companies will instead design digital humans from the ground up who embody the look, sound and values of their brand.
They’ll be available 24/7, 365 days a year to interact with customers, whether people want to ask questions, buy products or have some sort of fun experience provided by your brand. A digital workforce will provide automation and scale for businesses in the metaverse, allowing them to deliver a consistent, high-quality service across their virtual environments.
How do we know all this? Because digital humans already exist, and they’re doing all these things for brands today – online, through mobile devices and in the real world via physical kiosks.
Digital humans will help brands find their place in the metaverse, too, with immersive, conversational experiences. Whether your digital humans will be brand-embodied avatars, virtual influencers or digitized celebrities – it’s all on the table as we move towards web 3.0.