Creating Loyalty in the Metaverse: the Future of Virtual Reality Customer Experiences
The Metaverse Customer Experience is beginning to take shape
For the time being, the virtual world is decentralized - meaning nobody owns it. As a result, everyone defines virtual reality differently. There is little explanation on how brands can (or should) take part. This may make the ‘metaverse’ seem intangible. But the fact that there is no single definition is fascinating (and a little unsettling). It means that those who pioneer integrations into the virtual will become the ones who shape it.
The Metaverse provides opportunities to create customer experiences unaffected by physical barriers. Brands can be more innovative in creating buying journeys that are accessible, memorable, engaging, and social. Some businesses are already dipping their toes into virtual reality customer experiences. Let’s take a look at the brands that have become the first to go virtual…
Luxury brands are creating imaginative and immersive experiences
Gucci created an interactive ‘garden’ in the Metaverse using the global gaming platform Roblox. The ‘Gucci garden’ has multiple rooms, each themed with an element of the brand’s design. The platform allows users to explore the virtual space whilst picking up bespoke art along the way. At the end of the experience, the user’s avatar merges all of the designs gathered throughout the journey, creating a final bespoke digital artwork. The virtual garden reflects the idea that whilst people “begin journeys through life as a blank canvas”, experiences shape each person into a unique expression of art. The Garden also offers users the opportunity to purchase exclusive avatar items inspired by the brand.
Warner Bros. Studios is using the metaverse to promote movies
In 2021, Warner Bros created a virtual gathering on the Roblox platform to promote the premiere of their latest film “In The Heights”. Visitors were able to access behind-the-scenes videos and interviews, dance tutorials, virtual items, interactive games, and treasure hunts. This campaign serves as an example of how interactive experiences can become the marketing tools of the future.
Even the banking sector is getting involved
HSBC has become one of the first financial institutions to enter the metaverse through a partnership with The Sandbox. This partnership enables virtual communities to engage with financial services providers and sports communities within The Sandbox metaverse: “the collaboration will see the global financial services provider acquire a plot of land (virtual real estate in The Sandbox metaverse) which will be developed to engage and connect with sports, esports and gaming enthusiasts”.
Metaverse Challenges and Opportunities
How can brands make the most of the opportunities awaiting in the Metaverse?
- Get creative
The virtual world has few restrictions. Brands can create environments where customers can walk through fantastical lands (like the Gucci Garden), create customized avatars, and interact with other users in ways that are not possible in real life. It’s tempting for businesses to simply duplicate their website into the metaverse, but customers aren’t just looking for another place to shop. They want an interactive and engaging experience, so use the virtual world to unleash creativity.
- No more physical barriers
The Metaverse makes it possible to create virtual events that are difficult to facilitate in real life. Take music concerts, for example. The highest concert attendance ever recorded was held in Moscow with over 3.5 million attendees. In July 2020, Travis Scott held a concert on the digital gaming platform Fortnite, with over 45 million people watching…
- Appeal to a growing audience of gamers
The virtual world can reach a growing segment of customers interested in gaming and technology. Gaming will be a gateway into the Metaverse for many customers. Combining shopping with interactive games creates a hybrid experience that will appeal to customers who love all things entertainment, competition, and high-tech.
Challenges in the Metaverse
- Not all customers will participate in a virtual world
Remember that not all customers will be willing to venture into the metaverse. Don't make the mistake of alienating anyone by assuming that everybody will take part. The majority of customers who will “browse and shop virtually” are likely to be younger, but there’s potential that even younger generations won’t show interest.
Collecting data to understand your audience today will set you up for future strategies. Brands can experiment with gamified campaigns to understand which customer segments are already interested in gaming and technology, and thus will be more likely to get involved in the virtual future. For inspiration on how to introduce game mechanics into marketing campaigns, read our blog post about boosting customer engagement with game marketing.
- Metaverse social and ethical issues
Companies that launch into the Metaverse will face social challenges. Brands will need to determine how to be accessible and inclusive in the Metaverse. Virtual reality customer experiences must be adaptable to meet the needs of all kinds of people.
There is also the growing issue that virtual reality can worsen mental health issues by offering an escape from reality. Brands must be proactive in how they address these risks. Some customers may experience addiction, depression, and anxiety due to overusing digital technology.
- There’s still a long way to go before the Metaverse overtakes traditional shopping
For the Metaverse to become the place where people spend time playing, exploring, and shopping, there will need to be a significant change in consumer behaviour. Whilst most customers are now fully engaged with shopping online and via mobile devices, there is still a long way to go before they move into the world of VR headsets. The number of people who currently own headsets pales in comparison with the number of smartphone users we have today.
How brands can build loyalty in the metaverse
Loyalty in the metaverse will be created by brands that deliver a 360 experience. Don’t just focus on how you will get customers to buy your products - focus on how you will get customers to engage with your brand in the first place. Whilst a transaction signals the beginning of a customer’s experience with you, it’s the whole journey that you offer that leads to lifelong loyalty.
Remember that in the metaverse, customers will be able to interact with each other. Referral is a great opportunity to initiate customer loyalty. Virtual communities can essentially market your brand for you - but only if you have created an experience that is worth talking about. Consider how you can encourage customers to talk about their experiences, recommend products and interact with each other to build more interest around your brand.
It’s also important to consider how you will gather customer feedback. Without this data, you won’t know exactly what is working. Collecting data will help you build an experience that your customers want to see. Listening to customers' desires and expectations is key to building virtual loyalty; when customers feel heard, they support your brand and the innovations you make in the future. It’s easy to get lost in the fast transformation of new technology, so don’t forget to make all your decisions based on solid data.
Virtual reality, loyalty programs, and NFTs
Virtual reality will also unlock the rewards schemes of the future. Loyalty programs have already quickly moved from physical cards into digital apps, and the next phase of loyalty schemes will see digital consumers rewarded with digital goods.
Digital assets can play a significant role in increasing customer engagement, and many brands are already offering NFTs to build a loyal customer base. What could a metaverse loyalty program look like? Check out our dedicated article all about loyalty programs and NFTs here.
The metaverse presents different challenges and opportunities. With gaming at the centre of virtual reality, it’s likely that the entertainment industry will be the first to saturate activity in the metaverse. But brands from all sectors should now start to define how metaverse customer experiences will work.
It is also necessary to consider the technological requirements of bridging the gap between physical and virtual worlds. Brands will need to work with flexible technologies, such as event-based systems, which allow you to set up custom reactors for any actions that your virtual customer takes. This level of flexibility will help you create a platform that evolves alongside your strategy and any future technology innovations.
The virtual world will continue to develop and change with each year. But eventually, the metaverse could replace today’s customer experiences. An immersive environment will open up opportunities for consumers to engage with brands in a way that has never been possible before. Brands can capitalize on this by creating experiences that are creative, memorable, engaging, interactive, and social. The future of technology will enable brands to create a new type of metaverse customer journey where the only real limit is imagination (and technical integrations…).
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Creative & Content Marketing Executive
Helen is our Creative & Content Marketing Executive. She shares valuable information about the Future of Loyalty and will keep you up to date on the latest industry insights...