Ever since Facebook announced its name change to Meta , the technology space has been abuzz with the term “metaverse.” How will this new virtual world fundamentally change the way humanity works? How will the metaverse affect marketing?

What is the metaverse?

With the continued rise of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), the metaverse is penetrating the Internet. It is estimated that approximately 85 million users will experience AR or VR at least once a month by 2021.

But what exactly is the metaverse? Although the term was first coined in Neal Stephenson’s 1991 science fiction book Snow Crash, its newfound relevance can be attributed to both the rebranding of Facebook to “Meta” as well as popular avatar-based games like Fortnite.

Science fiction writer Neal Stephenson coined the term “metaverse” in his 1991 book Snow Crash , using it to refer to a computer-generated universe. It is typically a highly immersive shared virtual world where people gather to play games, socialize, and work. It is also linked to the development of Web3.0, which some believe will be the next chapter in the Internet’s existence – a chapter built on blockchains that will, theoretically, democratize access and power and weaken the grip of the largest technology companies.

But let’s keep it simple. A metaverse is a shared virtual space that is hyper-realistic, immersive and interactive through the use of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies. There can be multiple virtual worlds within a metaverse, where people can engage in a wide range of activities that are the result of a blend between physical and digital. Instead of looking at a screen like you do now, in a metaverse you can be inside all of your online experiences, such as shopping, meeting friends and family, going to a concert, filling out official documents, etc.

From another perspective, it is possible to describe the metaverse in two ways. One is a direct parallel to the Internet as we know it todayThe other is made up of several products that act as online spaces where people can interact in an immersive way.How to leverage the metaverse in digital marketingThe Roblox platform, for example, allows players to inhabit worlds created by other users, leaving the design to the community. They’ve also recently begun experimenting with interactive ads, which give marketers much more freedom than product placements or simply placing an ad at the static video game level. They are creating a blended experience that changes as players move through the games, giving the ads a way to come to life.

Hyundai has also taken advantage of this. The automaker created its own Roblox level where all the cars are its own. It has entered the metaverse to seek a younger base on its own turf – games – and aims to “maintain lasting relationships with fans.” Gucci also opened Gucci Garden on Roblox, a virtual experience to complement a real-world installation called Gucci Garden Archetypes, which took place in Florence, Italy. Vogue Business revealed that people could “mingle with others exploring the space and purchase digital pieces created in collaboration with Roblox designer Rook Vanguard.”

With exposure to Roblox’s more than 43 million daily active users, it’s easy to see why brands are jumping at the chance to stand out.

But that’s not all. The metaverse offers another unique opportunity for digital marketers: a new way to collect data and understand user behavior. One survey shows that 65% of Gen Z consumers have spent money on a virtual item, such as a character modification or specialized equipment, that exists only in-game.

Today, no boundaries are off limits to digital marketers. But metaverse or not, marketers must design interactive experiences that drive engagement and thus forge authentic relationships.