A new report by Sitecore provides insights into global marketers’ and consumers’ expectations of the metaverse that brands in the Middle East will be watching carefully as they align with the region’s plans to become a major player in this rapidly evolving environment.
According to Sitecore’s 2022 Perceptions of the Metaverse report, global intentions to invest heavily are bullish, but there is clear acknowledgment among those surveyed that consumer education is needed and 78% of marketers plan to work harder to educate consumers on the benefits of the metaverse. The survey asked almost 700 global marketers and 2,001 consumers about their perception of the metaverse and how it will change interactions between brands and consumers.
Many brands are intending to place a large investment into the metaverse, with 50% of marketers planning to allocate more than 10% of their budget to the metaverse throughout 2023. Extraordinarily, almost all marketers (91%) will be investing a portion of their total budget into plans for the metaverse over the next five years. An impressive 81% are also creating a new role in their team for a metaverse coordinator and the same amount believe there will widespread metaverse adoption in the next five years. Two-in-five marketers have already witnessed a compelling metaverse use case that could help drive ROI in their firms.
Although many marketers see the metaverse as the ‘next big thing’, with 67% expecting consumers to spend more there than they currently do on social media, there is acknowledgment that consumers will require education. Almost two-thirds (65%) feel that consumers don’t fully understand the concept of the metaverse and only 30% of consumers currently class themselves as ‘metaverse enthusiasts’. However, with any new technology, there is an adoption period, so this is likely to change in the coming months and years.
In this respect, Mohammed Alkhotani, Area Vice President, Sitecore Middle East & Africa, says it is expected that there will be a rapid uptick in knowledge of the metaverse among consumers in parts of the Middle East, given recent developments such as the announcement of The Dubai Metaverse Strategy. “The strategy aims to establish Dubai as a global hub for the metaverse community, so we can expect consumers in the UAE to become increasingly aware of the metaverse and its potential. We have already seen government and private entities in Dubai aligning with this strategy – which builds on the emirate’s achievement of attracting more than 1,000 companies in the fields of blockchain and metaverse – and there has been subsequent widespread interest and media coverage of the concept.”
Commenting on the implications of the report for marketers, Paige O’Neill, Chief Marketing Officer at Sitecore, said: “Whilst the metaverse is still very much in development, the concept is already offering a real opportunity for brands to create better connections with their customers. When it comes to experiences in virtual worlds, we’re in entirely new and very exciting territory. Brands now have the ability to find new ways to impress and excite their customers, whether that be from having conversations with them via a metaverse influencer, offering them exclusive access or inviting them into your virtual store. And whilst there’s clear excitement around the possibilities for the metaverse, there is a greater need for further education on how exactly it’s all going to work.
“By partnering with industry experts, brands can start to build the foundations of new connections with their customers whilst consumers can start the journey of understanding what the metaverse has to offer.”
Metaverse as an alternate reality
With rising global inflation, there is a clear indication from consumers around the world that they may be more willing to turn to alternative ways of shopping in order to cut costs. In fact, 58% say they’d be more inclined to stay at home and purchase through the metaverse if it meant less expenditure on travel. Other experiences consumers would like to see include:
- Having the ability to shop with friends or a community that can share feedback on products – 48%
- Getting access to new products and exclusive releases before their real-world launch – 44%
- Engaging with a metaverse influencer before making purchases – 28%
- Allowing payment for products and services in cryptocurrency – 14%
Privacy and safety remains a major concern, no matter location
Despite much enthusiasm, privacy and safety remain key for marketers and consumers alike. The data shows 73% of consumers express concern about the safety and privacy of their personal data and 61% say they would be less inclined to give up their personal information via the metaverse than they would be in person.
For marketers, privacy concerns center around:
- Keeping their consumers data secure – 70%
- Brands sharing user data in virtual worlds – 75%
- Brands developing intrusive content – 75%
- Brands not monitoring bad actors that could compromise user safety and security – 79%
- Brands targeting children with non-age-appropriate content – 80%
- Brands fostering terrorist groups – 65%
- Brands creating biases that could lead to malicious or non-inclusive eco systems – 71%
Regulation has been hailed by most marketers as the way to combat these concerns, with 85% wanting to see regulation and legal standards for how brands can operate in the metaverse – 67% will be looking towards the government for this guidance — and 58% would welcome industry regulation.
Sitecore commissioned this research to help marketers better prepare their strategies for the boom that is to come surrounding the metaverse, and provide insight into the consumer attitudes towards the new technology. This will help them to better tailor content and create personalized digital connections to win customers over in a new age of experiences.