The metaverse is a global market expected to grow to US$758.6B by the year 2026. As metaverse platforms gain popularity, it’s important to think through the lens of the consumer and how they engage throughout the marketing funnel. So, how can CPG companies engage consumers in the metaverse?
According to a new study from Obsess, a leading experiential eCommerce platform, nearly three out of four Gen Z consumers prefer finding new products through content, and they embrace visual communication through photo and video – making 3D content and highly visual experiences likely to resonate with them. CPG brands have continued to explore advanced technologies such Augmented Reality (AR)/Virtual Reality (VR) and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to create these virtual experiences in the metaverse.
However, CPG companies just getting started with the metaverse should begin with the basics by establishing a brand presence in an authentic way. Brands that will resonate most with consumers in the metaverse in the long-term have a tailored marketing plan in place that connects the metaverse as part of their holistic brand strategy.
Below we outline considerations for brands across each consumer touchpoint to create, maintain, and sustain engagement in the metaverse.
Recently, the metaverse has served as an increasingly popular avenue for CPG brands to raise brand awareness with new and existing consumers. Metaverse marketing expands the way that brands interact with consumers through gamified advertisements, NFT creation and sales, and virtual events. We have seen an increase in brands interacting with the metaverse and shifting their long-term marketing strategy to include the metaverse as an engagement channel. While many consumers are still figuring out how to navigate the metaverse, CPG brands have an opportunity to create virtual platforms, partner with existing virtual spaces, and invest in the latest technology.
P&G took the leap into the metaverse with BeautySPHERE, a standalone virtual world engaging consumers through simulated and gamified content. One can interact with articles, pop-ups, and experiences ranging from learning about the ingredients that make up Herbal Essences hair care products to a scientific explanation of Head and Shoulders from Bill Nye. P&G has made interaction with metaverse experiences more approachable by allowing access through a web browser as opposed to a video game or AR/VR headset, for example. CPG brands, especially those who are early in their exposure in the metaverse can take a similar approach to ease into the space while maintaining a low barrier to entry for consumers.
Through our research of CPG brands experimenting in the metaverse, we uncovered two key tactics used to encourage consumers: promotional giveaways and giving back. Chobani recently used both of these tactics through an event in partnership with Roblox to promote Chobani Oat milk called The Chobani Oat milk Cosmic Race. This was Chobani’s first VR game experience, which ranks winners on a leaderboard and gives consumers the chance to win rewards including brand merchandise. Anyone who plays this game can accrue points that go toward a charity chart. Once Chobani’s point goal is reached, the company has promised to donate $75,000 to Hunger Free America. Both incentives paired with gamification are great ways to promote Chobani’s brand to the younger generation that interacts with Roblox. Brands like Chobani are leveraging the metaverse to make an impact in their communities and also foster a sense of brand loyalty among consumers.
To increase customer acquisition in the metaverse, CPG brands should think about what they want to sell and how – we have seen this range from virtual NFTs to product releases in the physical world. Consumers tend to be convinced to purchase as part of exclusive virtual events or access to members-only communities for future promotions and releases.
For example, Coca-Cola has started engaging with the metaverse through NFTs, with their first release in July, by teaming up with metaverse world, Decentraland. They launched their very first NFT, a collection of four digital assets, including a Coca-Cola branded jacket that the NFT owner could wear on their avatar in Decentraland. Coca-Cola made their first NFT launch a big celebration by launching on National Friendship Day and donating the profits from their NFT auction to Special Olympics International. Here, we see the charitable donation trend in the metaverse, but this time, with a donation to charity from profits made through NFT sales.
Bud Light also launched a NFT campaign in conjunction with the release of a new product Bud Light NEXT, Bud Light’s first-ever zero carb beer. Bud Light chose to incentivize consumers in the metaverse by including rewards with NFT purchases and offering exclusive rights to vote on future branding, rewards, and other future surprises.
Both Coca-Cola and Bud Light are building community with their consumers not only through the sales of NFTs but also through invoking excitement about being part of charitable giving or being an exclusive brand insider. This gives consumers even more of an inventive to be part of the latest digital advancements of their favorite brands.
A missed opportunity that we’re seeing from CPG brands in the metaverse is the available avenues to retain consumers. As brands build more established selling capabilities in the metaverse, we may start to see an extension of Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) channel sales through virtual store experiences. Offerings can be digital, like we see with NFT sales, or even a “Buy in Metaverse, Ship to Consumer,” like we see with makeup brand Charlotte Tilbury.
The Charlotte Tilbury virtual store is an inventive use of omnichannel retail that leverages the metaverse to create a virtual storefront. The game-like experience allows avatars to move about the store in search of different virtual keys that unlock promotional items. Aside from gamification, there is a shop with friends feature, where consumers share links to friends to join a video call and shop together. Similar to P&G’s BeautySPHERE, the Charlotte Tilbury virtual store is a free-standing virtual world where the brand can host live events, post makeup and skincare tutorials, and interact with consumers to provide personalized product recommendations. This approach provides an easily accessible and highly personalized experience to consumers through the virtual community.
As brands establish themselves in the metaverse channel, they should be thinking about the connections between virtual and physical reality to close the engagement loop. One challenge we see with the metaverse today is that there are few opportunities for consumers to share, promote, or continue engaging their experience with the metaverse on other existing brand channels.
Fast food chains are some of the first to explore the concept of bridging the gap between metaverse and physical worlds. Subway has recently filed for two trademarks, for its name and stylized “S” logo, so that it can create a presence in the metaverse. They plan to sell virtual food and beverage, provide a virtual retail experience, and offer a service for consumers to purchase in the metaverse and receive delivery to their home. As more brands follow this “Metaverse Direct-to-Consumer” approach like Subway, the metaverse will only expand to coincide with the physical world as we know it today.
As the metaverse gains popularity, we will continue to see more experimentation with how CPG brands engage with the virtual world. This is an emerging area, so we can expect volatility in the early stages with early adopters testing out the experience. Marketers should be prepared to test and learn new ideas while thinking about the business case for virtual reality technology investment in the long-term. We also expect the role of data foundations and measurement tactics to play a key role in assessing engagement with consumers while tracking this metaverse touchpoint across the broader consumer journey.
Today, CPG leaders can start aligning their strategy to include the metaverse, while trying out some of the lower barrier options to engage such as establishing virtual trademarks and embedding brand advertisements within existing metaverse worlds.
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Contributions by Hannah Sherrill