THE METAVERSE: WHAT REALLY MATTERS TO CONSUMERS?

By: Jonathan Smetherham, Research Director, 2CV Research

2022 has been a challenging year for many brands in Asia, with revenues falling as consumers tighten their belts in response to uncertainty and a constrained economic environment. 

At the same time, 2022 was also a year in which emergent technologies like NFTs, blockchain, extended reality (XR), and Web3 continued their rise in prominence from being fringe curiosities to headline-grabbing, mainstream news. Of these, arguably none was talked about more than the idea of the ‘Metaverse’. 

Given 2CV’s 30-year heritage at the forefront of changing consumer attitudes and behaviours towards the latest tech, we noticed that although discussions about the Metaverse now reach far beyond the hardware, gaming, and entertainment sectors, the dialogue is often vague, abstract, and missing the consumer voice. To remedy this, we conducted a study of more than 4,000 consumers across eight markets to find out what really matters to them. The key findings are outlined below.

1. In 2022, the Metaverse entered mainstream consciousness globally (with 72% of those surveyed being aware of the term). This is notably higher in East Asian markets, like China, South Korea, and Indonesia, than in some of the key Western markets we surveyed. While the Metaverse is less prominent than innovations like 5G, cryptocurrency, and virtual reality, more people are aware of the Metaverse than they are of NFTs, autonomous driving, augmented reality, and blockchain.

2. Gamers are most familiar with the Metaverse

Despite there being relatively high awareness of the Metaverse, less than half of those surveyed were familiar with it (41%). This is hardly surprising given that the technology is still at a very nascent stage and that there are few agreed-upon definitions of it, even among experts. Interestingly, though, given the deep roots that virtual worlds, avatars, and immersive experiences have within video games, we find that across all markets, gamers are far more likely to be familiar with the Metaverse. This may partly be due to the fact that the most common way of accessing Metaverse-type experiences available today is through gaming platforms like Roblox. 

3. Misattribution to Facebook

A curious feature of the high awareness of the Metaverse in the last year is that it coincides with Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement on 28th October 2021 that Facebook was rebranding to Meta, that he planned to build a ‘metaverse’, and that this would better encompass what the company does as it broadens its reach beyond social media into virtual reality. Among our respondents who said they are familiar with the Metaverse, we do find a sizeable minority who equate the Metaverse with Meta, as these comments show:

“Metaverse is a virtual reality experience developed by Facebook and facilitated through headsets.”

“It is a technology developed by Facebook or Meta company; in this we can see people in virtual reality.”

“Metaverse is the next big thing. Even Facebook have changed their name to Meta.” 

4. Asians are the most excited and least sceptical

There are some interesting regional differences in our data. Overall, East Asian consumers are more optimistic and more likely to see the Metaverse as ‘the future’, while British and American consumers are more likely to be sceptical about it and see it as ‘just a fad’. While there are always some caveats when making data comparisons across markets, we have often seen high and early uptake of various technological innovations across Asian markets. This study suggests that this heritage may have nurtured Asian consumers to be more prepared to lead the way in deepening their consumer engagement in virtual worlds compared to some of their counterparts elsewhere.

5. Make memories, not love! 

As you might expect from a study that includes diverse peoples and markets, there is a lot of variation in terms of what people want, expect, and need from Metaverse-type experiences. To help control for this variety, we conducted a TURF analysis to identify which needs will have the highest appeal to the most consumers. Our analysis found that helping consumers to discover, relax, feel confident, and make memories will have the broadest appeal and should be prioritised by any brands who are considering entering this space. However, generating shareable social media content is an important need for many consumers: even though this aspect ranks 14th in terms of importance, it ranks 6th in unduplicated reach. 

Conclusion

Overall, the jury is still out on what the Metaverse will become. Proponents of the idea, such as Matthew Ball and Dr Mark van Rijmenam, suggest that the Metaverse has the potential to usher in a new age that may eventually require a reconfiguration of various kinds of economic, legal, and even political structures. While some of this may not come to fruition – and some of it may still be decades away – in 2023 we can expect to see an increasing number of XR experiments that will ignite both public interest and the imaginations of tech enthusiasts. Understanding how consumer attitudes are evolving and the kinds of immersive experiences that will appeal to them will be key to keeping your brand relevant and staying ahead of the curve.

For more information about the study or for more in-depth findings, please email Jonathan.smetherham@2cv.com or visit https://bit.ly/3BSSPSl. •

This article was first published in the Q4 2022 edition of Asia Research Media

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