This week I spoke at the Brand Experience Summit 2023. I did a presentation to a group of brand agencies about “Brand Activation in the Metaverse”. One of the questions that I tried to address was this: Is the Market Nigerian Market ready for the Metaverse?
A survey by Hubspot last year clearly shows that the US market is at that point of crossing the chasm. Looking at the adoption cycle of immersive technology like the Metaverse, it is safe to say we have moved from the innovation stage to the early adopters but have yet to cross the chasm to the early majority. With over 100 Million Americans forecasted to use augmented reality out of its 330 million population this year. Once we can cross the chasm to the early majority, it can make it to the mass market.
Looking at the survey for the US, two things pop out for me: the demographics going for the Metaverse-related activity & the kind of activities are they doing. Here are my thoughts on how brands in the African market should respond to this.
Market Trends and the Metaverse reality
Late 2022 and early 2023 it looked like Metaverse related activities slowed down. The center of attention, resources and All we talked about was artificial Intelligence and the economy. Here are some trends that might have slowed this adoption:
- The mass adoption and development of AI has taken the focus
- The somehow slowed space of driving this platform by key players like Meta.
- The nascent nature of the technology and the bulky form of VR headsets.
- High cost of VR headsets ( Apple Vision Pro to sell for $3,499 and the Meta Quest Pro g0es for ~$1000 ).
Bringing this home it home to Africa and Nigeria creates another layer of complexity:
- Data shows below that line, poverty can not purchase VR headsets or devices.
- Data is still expensive for fast and reliable internet. In fact, more than 40% of the country’s population is still offline.
- Power is still a challenge. [92 million Nigerians lack access to electricity.]
Source GSMA 2022: Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region where the cost of 1GB of data as a percentage of monthly GDP per capita exceeds 2%.
Yet I would argue that for countries like Nigeria, if I draw a parallel to the mobile internet era, once you can look beyond the unit economics, markets like South Africa, Egypt and Nigeria are positioned to drive immersive adoption in Africa. Certainly Nigeria particularly because of:
- Aspirational nature of consumers.
- The youth population [Over 60% of Nigerians are less than 25 years old]
- Growing adoption of online gaming, Web3, NFTs, Crypto, etc.
- Large creator economy open to digitization from music, comedy, and movies
How Can Brands Use the Metaverse?
How can you use immersive technology effectively for marketing activities? Brands should go back to the reason they campaign: to connect and engage their target audience. Can this be one of the marketing tools they can add to their arsenal to achieve this goal? I think so, especially if the demographics you are trying to reach overlap with those already engaged in metaverse-related activities. That Youthful population, online gaming community or those already active in NFT/Crypto/Web 3 and VR space.
I believe it can also be a great tool for brand awareness for mass-market brands that want to be seen as creative, innovative, technology-driven, etc. A good example is market leaders for large retail brands and the mobile operator space.
Uses cases that have been effective for Metaverse brand activations are cases where it has been used for educating or instructing consumers. The Sanlam Group use it for financial education for consumers for example. Banks have gone to create digital twins of the branches in the metaverse to service clients. Banks like HSBC have created a virtual branch in Decentraland.
Also, the Auto Industry is using this for virtual showrooms and in some cases, a virtual store where you can make purchases. There have been lots of cases of brands using the metaverse for customer experience centres, consider a scenario where customer service representatives from banks, telco, and auto dealers can resolve queries in the metaverse. It is a creative way to stay on top of mind.
The Metaverse Strategy
In closing, in considering your strategy for immersive technology, I would propose a mixed approach to reach a wider audience. It can create quite a buzz if used for a time-based activity like a campaign, product launch etc. Also, consider not just owning a space to display in the metaverse but engaging users. The immersive nature of the technology leans into this.
Keep your brand top of mind for clients and consumers using engagement-related activities like rewarding action. Reward action by offering collectables ( NFTs), making it fun with Avatars, trading cards, and other accessories. For wider coverage, a layered approach where you use other digital and traditional media channels coupled with augmented reality, and Metaverse scenarios that can be accessed with VR and the web, creates better adoption. A tip for brands seeking a mass market appeal. In conclusion, as a brand, what is your immersive technology strategy?