4 Challenges Around the Metaverse We Need to Overcome

There’s still debate on what the metaverse actually is. We’ve got a long way to go toward its practical reality.

In the past year the amount of media attention on “the metaverse” has been intense, and it looks set to continue as we grapple with what for some is either the future of the internet, or a concept that is doomed to fail.

The central question for many marketing and digital teams is whether they need to act now: do they start to plan for a future where the metaverse is a central place where we interact with brands, do they dismiss it all as Zuckerberg-driven nonsense, or do they play a game of “wait and see?”

Cynicism, Hope from Digital Customer Experience Space

Privately many people I speak to in the digital customer experience space are cynical about the prospects of the metaverse, but this is often specifically in relation to the initiative from Meta and possibly fueled by a dislike of Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg. Other typical comments include that there simply isn’t the case or demand for it, or that we have already been through the hype cycle of brands getting excited about Second Life, and then Roblox and Fortnite, and engagement at scale hasn’t really materialized.

Despite the cynicism of many, there is interest in the potential of the metaverse. For example, a new survey from Sitecore asked both marketers and consumers about their perceptions and expectations of the Metaverse, and the results suggest there are opportunities. The results show US marketers strongly believe in there being potential; 90% of marketers believe a future Metaverse could solve business challenges, with groups highlighting brand awareness (68%), customer engagement (59%) and sales and revenue potential (54%) among these. A surprising 31% said that they were already engaging with the Metaverse, and 55% thought it was likely they would engage with it in the future.

Among US consumers, Sitecore’s research suggests that 42% are currently what it dubs “Metaverse enthusiasts” meaning they currently engage with the Metaverse or want to do so in the near future. The aspects they look forward to most are:

  • Experiencing things I wouldn’t normally experience (57%)
  • Escaping reality (51%)
  • Opportunity to test products and services before buying (49%)

Of the consumers who do want to engage with the Metaverse, 88% expect brands to be selling or advertising there.

Despite this optimism, and other surveys which suggest the potential, there are four significant challenges about the metaverse we need to overcome before the metaverse assumes a greater role in our digital lives:

Related Article: Madtech Meets the Metaverse: A Marketer’s Guide

Challenge #1: Defining the Metaverse

One of the main challenges is being able to define the metaverse. Like many terms associated with technology and future opportunities, there is some common understanding of what it generally encompasses conceptually, but actually no consensus at all of what it actually is or will become. That has the potential to contribute to significant confusion about the metaverse, and that’s not conducive to moving forward.

One thing we can categorically state: the metaverse is not just a project from Meta. They may want to create that impression, but the term and concept has been around longer than Mark Zuckerberg’’s “brainwave.” Actually, the metaverse is many things to different people including:

  • The next generation of the internet
  • A single, virtual world experienced with VR and AR
  • A series of virtual worlds that are connected by common standards and an identity where people can move from one to the other as avatars
  • A virtual world or worlds where people can start to create and build within that world
  • All of the above and more

One definite contributor to the confusion is the description of the metaverse in the singular. Arguably, at the moment the metaverse as it stands is a series of virtual worlds. Should that be the metaversi?

Another factor in the confusion over defining the metaverse is that many companies, industry observers and marketers are busy telling us about their vision of what it is, and sometimes stating this is as an absolute truth. We’re arguably no closer to getting that common vision and consensus understanding.

Related Article: Can You Trust Meta’s Metaverse?

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