The metaverse is considered to be the next stage of how we use technology — the successor of the internet age. It can extend to digital products, social media, augmented reality, virtual stores, video games and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), meaning that many brands began dabbling in metaverse principles even before the term became commonplace.

It’s an immersive place where you can do things together; you can connect with friends through shared virtual experiences from anywhere. What you see in the real world you can imagine in the digital world, but there are no limitations.

As the world becomes increasingly entrenched in the metaverse and its core Gen Z customer base spends more of its time playing, socialising and shopping there, understanding its full potential is crucial for brands.

The term ‘metaverse’ was coined by American writer Neal Stephenson in his 1993 sci-fi hit Snow Crash and is best explained as a collection of 3D worlds you explore as an avatar. But what was far-flung fiction 30 years ago is now nearing reality. At Facebook’s earnings call in June this year, Mark Zuckerberg announced the company’s vision to unify communities, creators, and commerce through virtual reality: “Our overarching goal across all of these initiatives is to help bring the metaverse to life.”

Backing up this statement, the company launched the open beta of Horizon Workrooms last month and took its first real step into establishing its part of the metaverse. Workrooms lets people come together to work in the same virtual room, regardless of physical distance. It works across both virtual reality and the web and is designed to improve your team’s ability to collaborate, communicate, and connect remotely, through the power of VR on the Quest 2.

Other virtual worlds offering similar connected experiences are continuing to be formed, populated, and are already generating serious money. Household names like Roblox, Animal Crossing, Warzone and Fortnite are the most established spaces – all of these saw huge increases in players during the pandemic as people looked to escape reality. For brands, the metaverse offers a prime opportunity to connect and engage with fans globally, grow their audiences, and test products, campaigns and initiatives, while pushing the boundaries of creativity with ideas that might not be possible in the real world. 

One brand which is already seeing the benefits of the metaverse is Vans, who created a fully immersive Vans World skatepark experience within Roblox, opening it to the digital public earlier this month. It has already seen more than 500,000 visitors, smashing the expectations that Vans’ marketing team had.

However, brands shouldn’t rush to the metaverse because they feel pressured to be there. They need to be thoughtful and take the time to understand the platform, the community and everything going on in that space. Before all of this though, they need to establish how they will collaborate with community creators, as they are the ones who make the virtual experiences.

Metaverses give the creator economy a strong springboard, from fan fiction to creating new characters and stories, it promotes vast creativity on an endless canvas. Another brand that has made use of these communities is O2 who, working with Island Records and Epic Games, launched the world’s first real life supervenue in Fortnite Creative. This week-long event saw the recreation of The O2 within Fortnite Creative, with exciting gameplay additions inside the virtual venue and interactive music experiences with leading musicians.

Although the metaverse is at a nascent stage, with consumers and technology still transitioning from early-21st-century digital user behaviours, such as websites and socials, it won’t be long before they catch up, especially with tech like VR becoming more mainstream. So, future-facing brands need to prepare their metaverse strategy now in order to operate, innovate and become pioneers in this hybrid era.

Any metaverse built around a brand will have to deliver a user-driven engagement design, fully immersed digital experiences and strong collaboration with creators. Winners in the metaverse will understand all that, plus have extensive online culture which promotes a community value, digital goods that fans want to own, and gaming experiences.