The future of the metaverse – featuring Forrester’s Mike Proulx
The following interview was conducted at the Meta Festival on June 28th, 2022.
During this live interview, Sam Huston (CSO at 3Q/DEPT) spoke with guest speaker Mike Proulx, (VP, research director) from Forrester on the future of the metaverse. It has been edited for clarity.
There’s a lot of hype around the metaverse. What’s your take on hype vs reality?
All research points to the fact that hype vs reality is not in sync. FOMO supersedes feasibility. Nearly ¾ of B2C marketing executives in the US have made (or plan to make) investments in the metaverse, but only about ⅓ of consumers are excited about the metaverse or think it will be “good for society.”
There is a big onus on companies to prove its value. The metaverse is an intangible concept right now. They need to provide and demonstrate to the average everyday person how the metaverse will enhance their day-to-day lives.
XR by itself is not the metaverse. Roblox by itself is not the metaverse.
XR and Roblox are activations being touted in the press as the “metaverse,” but we don’t believe the true metaverse exists today. To be truly actualized, it requires interoperability so that you can bring assets, belongings, and identities from one platform to another.
Realistically, we think the metaverse will develop in stages over the next decade and beyond.
Should brands wait to invest in the metaverse?
We believe brands should use this time to test and learn–as long as investments and expectations are tempered.
It certainly makes sense to understand how a consumer base is engaging with immersive tech. It also is an ideal time to innovate future use cases for when the metaverse becomes actualized.
Once we’ve solved interoperability, what kind of experiences do you see emerging?
We should view the metaverse as a 3D experience layer of the internet. Eventually, we will live in a physical/digital hybrid reality as elements of the metaverse enter the physical world too.
As society starts to value digital goods and services en masse, then there is a much bigger opportunity for brands to activate in immersive worlds. Today we see strong economies in gaming environments, but if the metaverse ends up being what we think it’ll be, then there is a greater opportunity to create branded experiences.
Brands need to approach all of this through the mindset of innovation and ask the important question, ‘How can I enhance the user experience within a given platform?’
RE: interoperability What are the conditions where this will occur?
It’s anyone’s guess. Some of the major companies currently building out their slice of metaverse (Meta, Epic Games, and Microsoft for example) are starting to collaborate. Given their level of investment, this action gives us reason to be bullish about whether interoperability can be a reality.
Brands are sort of doing this today–take Under Armour. For one of Steph Curry’s sneakers, they launched an NFT where holders received virtual sneakers that could be worn across three different immersive platforms (Gala Games, The Sandbox, and Decentraland).
Can you walk us through Forrester’s MVP model of adoption for the metaverse?
We used cluster analysis using survey data from Forrester. We created and scored a readiness factor for early metaverse adoption. Our findings were that there will be two initial waves of metaverse adopters.
Wave one is what we’re calling “digital immersives.” This represents about 22% of online adults who will be the earliest of adopters. These are your VR headset and gaming enthusiasts.
Wave two we’re calling “digital socialites.” They love using AR filters and social media creator tools and take time to personalize their social media presence.
What questions should brands ask themselves before jumping into the metaverse?
There are four questions all brands should answer before investing in the metaverse.
1. Do I have a clearly-defined metaverse business objective?
Brands’ FOMO is rushing them to jump on the metaverse bandwagon and they’re cutting corners in the process. This is resulting in lots of lackluster activations. Be clear on WHY you’re looking to activate in the metaverse first and foremost and set your strategy accordingly.
2. Is my target audience engaging with XR at all today?
Whether it is through AR, VR, or Mixed-Reality, how is your audience currently engaging with these 3D experiences? Are they expected to adopt more XR tech? If they are not using it, could they likely see value in the future? If not, it would be a waste of resources to activate today.
3. Have I selected a platform partner with growth and scale?
Remember, outside of platforms like Roblox and Fortnite, most “metaverse” platforms today have a low user base. To put it in perspective, Decentraland reported just under 500k monthly active users while Roblox has about 55 million daily users. The partners you work with depend on the kinds of audiences you are looking to reach as a brand.
4. Does my brand activation add value to the core experience?
People don’t like advertising. And they also don’t like to be interrupted online. Your brand activation must be relevant to the audience, respect the community, and be additive to the experience. That’s a tough hurdle to overcome because it requires breakthrough creativity and innovation.
Creativity is the thing that differentiates your brand. If your experience isn’t unique (and valuable of course), it’s a waste of time for everyone involved.
What about B2B? Or internal initiatives in the metaverse?
Enterprises and workforce collaboration might be the surprise onramp to metaverse adoption.
So many companies are committed to “anywhere work,” but team collaboration is still a problem. If they can improve the workforce collaboration experience using XR and metaverse-like experiences, they might attract workers and improve productivity.
As workers get comfortable with metaverse experiences, they will start to use them in their personal lives.
What’s your point of view on regulation?
Privacy, harassment, scams – we already see this. Humans are flawed. Even with the best intentions to build a utopian world, there will be issues.
That’s why standards are necessary. There has to be an acceptable decorum that we agree on. Any stakeholder in the metaverse plays a role. All brands have a role to play in making experiences responsible and ethical.
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What are you most excited about?
I’m excited about getting to a point where the bridge between virtual and physical becomes so intertwined, that our reality has a digital component to it.
Didn’t get to attend Meta Fest? You can re-watch all the live panels here on YouTube.
Or reach out to talk to our metaverse agency experts.
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