CONTRIBUTOR
General Manager and Editorial Director,
Techstrong Group

While it’s easy to be dismissive of the metaverse given the rapid rise and eventual slow decline of the Second Life online avatar platform, it appears that consumers, thanks to the popularity of virtual reality (VR) headsets, are warming up to the idea that the metaverse is a place worth visiting.

A survey of more than 1,000 consumers conducted by KPMG finds that not only are close to two-thirds (65%) aware of the metaverse, roughly half (46%) said they believe the metaverse will provide a forum to interact with friends in a way that is as meaningful as an in-person interaction.

Naturally, the willingness to interact in the metaverse has a lot to do with the age of the consumer. The KPMG survey finds a full 86% of Gen Z and 81% of Millennials are familiar with the metaverse. Males (71%) in general are slightly more familiar with the metaverse than females (59%).

The single biggest gating factor to the metaverse is, of course, ownership of VR headsets. A total of 40% of consumers purchased a VR device for their children, who according to parents spend an average of 8.5 hours per week on their device. In contrast, approximately 70% of consumers do not currently own a VR device and of those, only 13% plan to purchase a VR device over the next 24 months.

However, adults that do have virtual reality devices report using them three to five hours per week for gaming (67%), movies (55%), fitness (30%), work (21%), viewing live events (19%) and virtual tourism (11%).

As a result, the metaverse is now starting to be a larger factor in digital business transformation initiatives. Nike, for example, has launched a virtual space dubbed NikeLand on the Roblox metaverse platform where, not only can visitors play games, but their avatars can try on Nike gear in a showroom. CLIF Bar and Co. launched a CLIF Kid AR experience to enable kids to wear both pro skateboarder helmets and try on the helmets used by Sky Brown in the Olympics. Other companies investing in the metaverse include IKEA, Amazon, Ferragamo and Fendi.

Retailers that don’t start making investments in the metaverse are especially likely to find themselves at a disadvantage as the way consumers engage brands evolves in the age of the metaverse, says Scott Rankin, consumer and retail strategy leader for KPMG. In fact, it’s only a matter of time before the headsets that are required to visit the metaverse become a set of sunglasses that anyone can easily don on or off, he notes.

Of course, a wholesale shift to the metaverse will not happen overnight. “It will play out over the next five years,” says Rankin.
In the meantime, it’s not clear what impact the rise of the metaverse might have on existing spending. For example, there may be less business travel as more meetings are held in the metaverse. However, it’s apparent that whether organizations are ready or not, a major shift in consumer behavior is already well underway.