If your brand has been hesitant to dip its toes into the metaverse, the time is here to prepare to take the virtual plunge, according to new survey data from digital CX firm TELUS International and research partner Pollfish, which reveals nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of respondents saying they believe that brand interactions in the metaverse will one day replace those in the real-world or that brands will use a hybrid approach of both metaverse and in-person interactions.
Discussions about the metaverse have gained traction over the past few years and consumers appear to be ready to explore the metaverse’s virtual worlds. In fact, 65 percent of respondents believe the metaverse will be considered mainstream in the next five years. Half of respondents said they would choose one brand over another if it offered a superior experience in the metaverse. Additionally, more than a quarter (27 percent) of respondents indicated they would pay a 5 percent premium for a product or service that was supported by a quality metaverse experience, and 22 percent would pay up to 10 percent more.
Consumers look to do more and do it better in the metaverse
Respondents indicated they expect interactions with brands in the metaverse to be more engaging (53 percent and better customized to their interests (49 percent). Consumers also said they expect to be able to discover new products/services (47 percent) in the metaverse and that brands will resolve their issues more efficiently in these virtual worlds (29 percent). When asked what would encourage respondents to interact with brands in the metaverse, the top response was the ability to realistically try out or try on products and services (41 percent).
There is, however, a limit to what surveyed consumers feel comfortable doing and purchasing in the metaverse even with these enhanced experiences. Only 35 percent would buy a house or rent an apartment in the real world through the metaverse. Similarly, only 36 percent said they would feel comfortable purchasing a vehicle in this way. This is in stark contrast to survey respondents saying they would feel comfortable gaming (79 percent) or engaging with a brand’s customer service (68 percent) in the metaverse.
“Just as the internet and mobile apps revolutionized the way we interact with brands and consume information, goods and services, the metaverse offers brands exciting opportunities to interact with consumers in entirely new ways,” said Michael Ringman, chief information officer at TELUS International, in a news release. “Unlike physical environments which are limited by geographic and other barriers, these immersive digital 3D worlds open up a window of opportunity for brands—it offers them a space that’s accessible, allowing them to connect with consumers globally in unique and interactive ways, providing consumers with an enriched customer experience.”
Safety concerns remain top of mind
While respondents expressed enthusiasm about brand interactions in the metaverse, concerns remain. For example, 60 percent said they believe it will be easier for individuals to get away with inappropriate behavior in the metaverse, and just 45 percent think brands are prepared to moderate content in order to keep users safe.
Businesses need to take notice as 67 percent of consumers surveyed think the reputational impacts to a brand will be worse if they aren’t able to provide a safe space in the metaverse vs. the fallout for failing to do so on their websites, online communities and social platforms. Respondents indicated they believe it is very important or somewhat important (96 percent) to have humans monitoring content in the metaverse rather than AI alone, with many (60 percent) saying they would like to see content reviewers in the form of avatars in the metaverse.
“Like we’ve seen with digital environments that have come before it, the metaverse is unfortunately not going to be immune to users who abuse these spaces, putting brand reputation and their customers at risk,” said Ringman. “As brands begin to explore this new platform, content moderation must be incorporated during the initial planning phase to ensure users experience a safe and inclusive environment. This will mean employing a mix of AI and human moderators to ensure a timely, accurate and inclusive review of content and behaviors.”
As they are on social media platforms, content moderators will be on the front lines of these virtual worlds as well, and brands must incorporate robust, proactive support and preventative wellness practices to protect their well-being.
The survey findings are based on a Pollfish survey that was conducted on Oct. 17, 2022, and included responses from 1,500 Americans familiar with the metaverse.