Are virtual worlds becoming the most effective way to reach younger consumers?
Changing Behaviours Present New Opportunities
Games such as The Sims and Second Life where the players live out virtual lives in what are essentially a recreation of everyday towns and cities could provide businesses with a brand new method of showcasing their products to consumers – in fact, some have started taking advantage already.
With much of the global population still spending extended periods of time at home due to lockdown restrictions, it should come as no surprise that only 4 months into the pandemic, Sims had already reported an increase of 10 million players.
With such games allowing players to engage in social activities and business transactions similar to those in real life, the engaging environment of the online world becomes the perfect place for advertisers to appeal to heightened emotional senses.
Advertising in Virtual Worlds and Gaming
There are a number of benefits to advertising within a future world, the main one being that unless players turn off the game completely, they can’t exactly ‘turn it over’.
Repeated exposure to subtle advertising such as placements on virtual billboards or allowing players to purchase food from particular restaurants within the game may be enough to trigger the desired response.
While ‘The Sims’ tends to promote products and mention fictional companies, other virtual worlds such as ‘Second Life’ (which had over 900,000 active users in 2020) have taken full advantage of brands wanting to reach their users, working with huge organisations such as NASA, MTV and Sony since its launch in 2003.
Second Life has given brands a platform to host virtual concerts, lectures and competitions to its global audience with Jin and Bolebruch (2012 p.3) stating that ‘‘the ability to offer vivid and engrossing social interactions with spokes-avatars within 3D environments is the key advantage of interactive marketing in Second Life’.
However, not all companies wish to associate with such open platforms and have instead taken inspiration from virtual gaming to create their own immersive experience.
Creating an Immersive eCommerce Experience
The pandemic saw a rise in the number of brands who used virtual branding experiences to connect with their customers. Burberry launched a virtual replica of its flagship Tokyo store while Dolce & Gabbana and Charlotte Tilbury created augmented reality boutiques.
A brand’s social media and website is where customers are currently meeting them, but as we move towards web 3.0 these virtual brand worlds and the calling cards of the future.Cathy Hack, Futurist & Chief Metaverse Officer, Future Metaverse Labs
While the more immersive online experience is likely to become more widely used available, brands have been warned against ‘putting all their eggs in one basket’ and investing heavily in augmented reality ‘just yet’ as post-pandemic life could mean there is a significant drop in those wanting to make use of virtual experiences when in-person alternatives are safe and available.
A quote from SK-II’s Chang sums up the future of augmented reality in branding nicely
New consumer habits were created over the past year. I think people found so much convenience doing things virtually, if our experience us done right it will be meaningful to our customers and make their time well spent.SK-II’s Chang