The Metaverse and Market Research

I am sure that you’ve heard the term “Metaverse” thrown around a lot in the past year or two. The big jump in interest came when Mark Zuckerberg changed the name of Facebook to “Meta” and announced that Meta’s focus was to “bring the metaverse to life and help people connect, find communities and grow businesses.”

But what exactly is the Metaverse? Is there a place in the Metaverse where market research could fit?

Let’s start with trying to explain what the Metaverse is exactly. In the broad terms, the metaverse is understood as a “graphically rich virtual space, with some degree of realism, where people can work, play, shop, socialize — in short, do the things humans like to do together in real life (or, perhaps more to the point, on the internet)”. The defining “feature” of the Metaverse, is that you’re supposed to feel like you’re really there, interacting with friends, co-workers, strangers, whoever. There are already spaces that simulate this now (albeit in very early stages) where you can hang out with friends, shop in a virtual “Rodeo Drive”, buy real estate, etc.

These virtual spaces create a unique spot for Market Research companies. Since the Covid-19 pandemic started, market research companies have had to adapt fast. Companies that relied on face-to-face interactions or in-person focus groups were left in the lurch. Many companies did adapt though, switching to fully online interviews, discussion groups, panels, etc. While sitting in a Zoom call with a group of participants definitely solved some of these issues, the Metaverse presents an intriguing opportunity for market research companies. 

Imagine wanting to conduct a shopping experience study. Typically, you would either have to build a display in an area where participants could “shop” or have a respondent meet up with a moderator in an actual store where they would shop with you as you go through the store. With the Metaverse, you could build a full-fledged grocery store as realistic as you want. Respondents could “walk” through the store as they normally would, but in the comfort of their own home. Or take product packaging studies as an example. Instead of shipping products to 100 different people, respondents could throw on a pair of goggles, and take a look at whatever number of samples they need to look at. There are numerous new opportunities to be had and a lot of money to be saved in the long run.

Now, this doesn’t come without some considerations of potential challenges as well. One of the biggest hurdles right off the bat would be participant access to the Metaverse in general. Not every average person owns a VR headset, allowing them to participate in some of the things I have mentioned before. Though, in 2020, there were more than 57 million VR users in the US, and that number is estimated to reach 95.1 million this year. Another consideration is privacy and identity confirmation of participants. Are these respondents participating in these studies who they say they are? There are ways to properly confirm and identify respondents, so thinking ahead on logistics and proper vetting for VR studies is crucial. 

The future of the Metaverse and market research is an interesting one. Over the next few years, I am sure we will start to see some very interesting partnerships between the two, good and bad. Either way, it is an exciting time to be a part of Market research, and I am looking forward to being a part of it!