Meet Your New Consumer Target: Their Avatar

Navigating the metaverses that will extend well beyond gaming

Brand disruption is nothing new. Every year a new app emerges that literally changes everything forever. Think Netflix or Uber or TikTok. The list goes on to include all the many platforms that have significantly altered consumer expectations and behaviors. Less common, though, are disruptions to whom the consumer actually is and where you find them. But it's that particular disruption we're talking about when we consider targeting the millennial or Gen Z demographics via B2A—business-to-avatar. 

Specifically, selling virtual products and experiences to be used in a number of today's "metaverses" (collective virtual environments) by the online avatars of consumers. That means reaching the significant number of people ready to splurge big time, not on their real selves but on their avatars as they appear in today's gaming metaverses like Fortnite, Minecraft, Roblox and Animal Crossing. 

Kerry Murphy, founder of The Fabricant, a digital-only fashion house where you can download coveted couture for your digital you, told Mission Mag that the avatar audience is comprised of around 3.5 billion individuals globally with more than 55 percent of the total spending power. In 2018, Glu Mobile's Covet Fashion game, which allows users to style models with digitally rendered designer clothing, generated $53.4 million.

It is in these metaverses that the opportunity now exists for brands to engage Gen Z and younger millennials consumers with new experiences based on their avatars, essential manifestations of their digital selves. For many of them, virtual worlds are places for connection and, of particular importance to brands, self-expression influenced by the trendsetters and influencers they encounter in them.

Gaming is the most recognized gateway, right now, to the world of metaverses, but that will change. This trend will transcend gaming to encompass both blended and pure play spaces for entertainment, work, commerce, connection, and other shared cultural experiences. For evidence, consider Sony Music artist Madison Beer's Immersive Reality concert in January that was available via Playstation VR and Oculus VR, as well on music streaming platforms. Or the annual ComplexCon, which reimagined itself as a game-like digital experience called ComplexLand where attendees' avatars could attend sessions, shop exclusive drops, and, in two cities, order food for IRL delivery from within the virtual festival.

Why B2A Now

While more people are comfortable connecting and interacting in virtual entertainment-based environments focused on gaming, the dynamic that was already in place before the pandemic has been accelerated not just by the need to shelter in our homes. The fact that these environments are places for social interaction and connection has driven acceptance gains. The ease with which this type of connection is extending to other virtual spaces is both by necessity and desire.

Another influence in this shift has been the rollout of 5G, which holds the promise of a quickly evolving metaverse that some futurists describe as the "spatial internet" where we all will soon interact with and be surrounded by a digital overlay of our physical environment. You'll see this next phase of the metaverse also described as the AR cloud and the mirrorworld. That evolution will also influence how brands think about targeting in terms of both content and context.

Today, we're seeing fashion brands like Gucci, Ralph Lauren, Marc Jacobs and others experimenting in gaming environments with the option to purchase elements designed to enhance the individual's in-game identity. As more of us shop, work, play, and attend performances and conferences in collective digital environments, more brands will see the need to market to our avatars. Our avatars are quickly emerging as a new dimension to how brands define their target consumers, allowing for hybrid identities that combine who we are online and in the real world. And with tech brands already exploring the ability to offer a unique avatar that can travel across different virtual environments, the time is right to experiment while most avatars still exist within individual metaverses.

It's an exciting opportunity for both brands and consumers. Just remember: what you buy in the metaverse will definitely appear on your IRL credit card.

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