Virtue’s Caroline Colinson-Jones discusses a study in attitudes towards Web 3 technologies, digital goods and the emerging metaverse. 

In the last few months the word ‘metaverse’ might have even beaten the word ‘purpose’ to the top spot as the most frequently used word in marketing. It’s easy to get lost in the hype cycle – the interminable questioning as to whether the shiny new thing is the answer to everything or complete nonsense.

At Virtue, we do a lot of work in Web 3 spaces and technologies, and our attitude to the metaverse is optimistic. This is the next frontier of culture; a vast, collective, experiment that we must take an active and enthusiastic role in if we’re to continue building brands from inside culture.

But towards the end of 2021 we decided it was time to stand back and look at where everyone else is on that journey. Are people adopting Web 3 technologies? Are people buying digital goods? Are people optimistic about the emerging metaverse?

We conducted a study with VICE Insights and THE DEMATERIALISED that set out to answer all those questions. What we found was that meta-acceleration was happening much faster than even we had predicted.

A few highlights from our survey of 3,000 respondents:

  • 83% have a positive perception of the metaverse.
  • 76% expect to engage with a metaverse-related brand or platform in the next 12 months.
  • 65% actively use virtual reality, 59% augmented reality, 46% digital currency, and 39% use avatars and skins.
  • 82% have already purchased a virtual good of some kind (and only half of those are crypto users).
  • ⅓ have purchased digital fashion already and many will pay the same or more for a digital fashion item than its physical counterpart.
  • Just 5% reject the idea of buying virtual goods in future.

The adoption of metaverse technologies and the buying of digital goods is already much broader than we thought. This was a mainstream audience we were talking to, not just gamers or crypto nuts.

We believe this marks a shift: people are excited about digital technology again. Out of our disillusionment with Web 2 – its misinformation, isolation, division and addictiveness – has sprung this hope for Web 3 and its potential to connect us and build a better world.

It also looks like an early signal of a change in the way young people own things. The owning of physical property may seem unreachable, and the world of traditional investment unfathomable, but digital goods give them an opportunity to own and invest in something they know about, care about and are interested in.

So why should it matter to marketers? 

  1. Digital goods currently sit at the intersection of marketing and product 

Not quite a new product line, and not quite marketing, but they give you the opportunity to sell new things, reach new audiences, and drive brand visibility and affinity in new ways.

Innovation will come from collaboration between marketing, tech, experience, licensing, agencies, partners, communities and so on. That will potentially redefine the role of each of those disciplines within the organisation, so marketers need to be driving the agenda.

  1. Web3 is the next frontier of culture and it’s happening with or without us

For more than a decade the media landscape has been fragmenting into new formats, many of which exclude brands. This is the next phase of that story, and brands that don’t participate now will find themselves playing a very arduous game of catch-up.

To avoid being left out, we need to keep asking ourselves: How do we make more things people seek out and reduce the reliance on things people can now pay to avoid? How do we enrich people's experiences rather than interrupt them? How do we move away from the Web 2 trap of being the price of admission people pay before they get to what they actually want?

  1.  It’s a huge creative opportunity

Early use of Web 3 technologies from brands focused a lot on recreating physical things in new digital worlds, but thankfully that’s already changing.

Digital fashion and beauty can defy the laws of physics. Their only limit: our imagination.

Augmented reality will become more accessible and immersive with The Magic Leap 2 and Apple’s promised AR glasses.

Creative communities are finding new ways to create and organise.

AI can create and recreate detailed experiences beyond human imagination.

After the initial hype and backlash cycle around NFTs, the next phase is about to begin: utility focused NFTs that add value and respect culture.

  1.  It’s a commercial opportunity

Web 2 created new products, new sales channels, new ways to engage audiences, new experiences, new ways to build communities, new power-brands and so on. Web 3 will do the same, and we are seeing evidence of that already with the sales of digital goods and a willingness to spend.

In short: meta-acceleration is happening faster than we think. Of course, no brand should be moving wholesale into new spaces, platforms and technologies and dumping the existing marketing plan, but there’s value in being part of the exploration.

Enter with the intention to contribute, to experiment and to be part of the world we’re all building together. And, of course, test, learn and evolve as you do.