Metaverse For Business (2022 State of the Metaverse Study)
Back in 1999, “The Matrix” brought to life the image of what an alternate digital world could look like: taking flight, jumping over buildings, and dodging bullets.
Without question, in 1999 it seemed like a thing of the future. In 2022, it seems like a thing of the past.
The board was set even before Facebook became Meta: a growing number of companies had already rushed to invest in this alternate digital world. Perhaps more shockingly, we have seen agencies beginning to specialize in the metaverse as a marketing and exposure channel.
Facebook just made it popular again to talk about the metaverse.
However, it seems it’s a land that, so far, only a select few can access. Our latest Metaverse For Business study reveals as much, after surveying 200 of these companies across Europe and the USA.
Read on to find more about our results, but here’s a sneak peek:
- In its current state, the metaverse seems to be directed mainly towards men (64%), higher-tier companies (60%), and digitally-savvy Gen Z users (55%).
- A whopping 52% of brands believe customers are ready for the metaverse. However, a second study we did to the general public shows that 54% of users would not trust a virtual world.
- 26% of brands expect to see a return on investment in the metaverse, while 17% expect to gather valuable data.
- The majority of the brands surveyed (68%) believe the technology will boom in as little as 5 years.
- 47% of brands say it’s their innovation department that is most interested in metaverse initiatives.
Much like Neo, our inquisitive mind drives us to see how deep the rabbit hole goes and and discover how the metaverse is turning into a privileged playground.
Metaverse is the new risk-taking threshold
“The Matrix” draws a lot of parallels with the business world, starting with the idea of investing in the metaverse in the first place. As a businessman, should I do it? Should I wait and see how it plays out?
In our Metaverse For Business study, we asked this question to companies that had already begun delving into the virtual world, and most said that it was a risk worth taking (55%).
Consequently, when asked why they started to invest in it, the surveyed companies highlighted that the metaverse is “the future” (36%). Similarly, when asked what is the metaverse from a commercial standpoint, they confirmed it was both “the future” (22.19%) and “a platform full of opportunities” (21.85%).
Land For All: Every business will have a share in the metaverse
If there is one thing that our Metaverse For Business study leaves as clear as water, is how much confidence brands are depositing in the digital world.
It is so high, in fact, that less than 3% believe the metaverse will need more than 10 years to reach worldwide consumption and, like Neo, take proper flight. Most (68%) believe it will boom in the next 5 years!
That trend remains visible in the type of businesses these companies think will thrive in the metaverse. 76% believe that all types of industries will have an opportunity inside the virtual world.
Opinion is shared regarding what type of industries will be going virtual:
- 32% believe it will be tech companies only.
- 31% say it will only be companies selling products.
- 29% believe it will only be service companies, while, in comparison, just 17% voted for public companies.
It is business, after all, which is why we must take a closer look at costs and investment money.
33% of brands in the metaverse are investing 10-20% of their budget there
Risk is the red pill, and brands are ready to take it… but not for the reasons we might have thought.
We compared our Metaverse For Business study with a general study we did to 200 users and marketers across Europe and the USA. Both surveys proved to us that appearances can be quietly deceiving.
Despite the fact that 20% of users see the metaverse as a “way of escaping the real world,” in practice it has proven to be entirely the opposite for brands, who tend to believe (26%) that a journey into virtual worlds will yield something more than just entertainment for customers: profit.
These are companies that expect to see a return on their investment in the metaverse, ahead of the 18% who expect to gather data from it and the 17% who seek to develop new products there.
When asked to define the budget they reserved for metaverse projects, 33% of companies claimed it was approximately 10-20% of it.
Who is hanging out in the metaverse? A look at a very niche profile
For all its hype and inviting scenarios, the metaverse is still a new technology, and a new technology always breeds new possibilities.
Most especially if that technology is an entire world.
Companies that have invested in metaverse understand that this new realm is directed mostly towards:
- Men (11.3%), perhaps playing on the stereotypical image of men as early adopters of technology or more interested in it.
- Big brands (10.7%) that can afford to delve into this new (expensive) virtual world.
- Gen Z (9.9%) and millennials (9.3%), who make up the current workforce and are digitally savvy.
A space for innovation… if you can afford it
It is common to think that the metaverse is mostly appealing to people who like to hang out there, those who adopt new technologies quite early on. But that’s only half the picture, and the results of our Metaverse For Business study complete the other half in a very contrasting way.
Our data shows that the metaverse seems reserved to a niche target, one that is solvent enough to afford the computing power that a journey into the metaverse would require, as well as the spare time to embark on it.
Furthermore, 47% of brands already investing in the metaverse affirm that it is their innovation departments that are most interested in metaverse initiatives. This proves that companies are ready for new technologies in the field, but also stresses an important reality: innovation departments are a trademark of bigger companies.
In fact, in 2019 online tech community BuiltIn compiled a list of the top 31 innovation labs belonging to big brands. The list includes Google, Amazon, Verizon, and Coca-Cola.
Brands: “We’re here in the metaverse.” Users: “So what?”
If a company cuts a tree in the metaverse, but no one hears it… did it really fall?
The interest of brands in the potential of an alternate digital world can’t be overstated, and their confidence in its ROI has been crystal clear. But they might be squinting an eye.
52% of the businesses surveyed think customers are ready for the metaverse, while our general survey says a significant 54% of users would not trust a virtual world.
Additionally, companies might be exalting the business power that Meta is bound to have over its users, and with the metaverse, even more so.
Our general metaverse survey to 200 users and marketers reveals that 20% of respondents in each group feels a virtual world is more of an “escape route” from reality, and so emerge the challenges for companies to make commercial interactions feel natural and fun.
Undoubtedly, Meta’s former identity cannot be hidden, and the doors of possibility are open…
… will the metaverse force businesses to depend on Facebook once again for advertising and branding opportunities?
All work and no play makes the metaverse a dull place
It would not be a Sortlist study without shedding some light at the industries that are investing in this virtual world.
None of the 200 surveyed companies belong to the entertainment business. Instead, the industries of IT (17%) and education (12%) are the predominant sectors.
They are followed by the industries of finance (11%) and marketing and advertising (10%), confirming the massive potential that businesses see in the metaverse as another income stream.
In education, we can clearly see the scope of Meta’s ambition in its announcement of the metaverse: learning as it’s traditionally known will cease to exist as the lines between learning and experiencing will begin to fade.
With innovations like these, a new study seems warranted: will the metaverse be another factor in the education field responsible for widening the gap between the haves and the have-nots?
Problems of Pandemic Proportions: The metaverse formula that succeeded
We mentioned at the beginning of our Metaverse For Business study that a large number of companies had already begun investing in the metaverse long before Facebook announced it.
In fact, an astonishing 66% of companies had given thought about investing time and money there before Facebook turned into Meta.
As if that weren’t enough, the majority of the companies surveyed (31%) said that the recent events in Ukraine had no effect on their metaverse strategy.
This is yet more proof of the impact that digitalization had for businesses across all spectrums after the pandemic became a reality.
It is not surprising, then, to find that the combination of the health crisis and the need of companies to achieve digital transformation boosted interest in the metaverse as a business opportunity. A stellar 92% of companies surveyed said that the pandemic accelerated the metaverse technology.
It seems that not even a war nor Zuckerberg himself have as strong an influence on companies going digital than does a sanitary crisis.
NFTs, crypto, and going remote
The metaverse seems to have given proper validity to two other technologies that have been steadily on the rise: cryptocurrencies and NFTs.
Our Metaverse For Business study at Sortlist shows that these are the top projects companies are investing in inside the metaverse, with 18% of brands focusing on crypto and 15% on NFTs.
It seems only fair: cryptocurrency has been hailed in recent years as the future of transactions across countries.
Investment in the metaverse is still viewed as a big risk, which could explain why trends like decentralized finance (DeFi) jump out as a favorable alternative.
Cryptocurrencies constitute a form of decentralized money, and especially in times of war, this becomes particularly helpful because it keeps that money from losing its value.
Besides, during wartime, financial institutions often limit people’s access to bank accounts and foreign currency, making it difficult to rely on. Here is where a relatively anonymous system without government intervention like crypto becomes more than ideal.
As a matter of fact, we asked companies whether or not the recent events in Ukraine had an impact on their investments or strategies regarding the metaverse. 27% said they didn’t, and a higher 31% also agreed the events had no effect on their strategy, since they believed the metaverse to be “more important” than ever.
While both push digital transformation, it seems global events like pandemics strike the farthest.
Additionally, the metaverse presents itself not only as an opportunity to do business, but also as a potential solution that the pandemic brought forward: remote work.
14% of brands in our Metaverse For Business study said they were investing in remote office environment projects inside the virtual world, right after crypto and NFTs. In fact, remote work is the only metaverse investment not related to a business endeavor.
Despite the fact that businesses in general are quite keen on delving into the new virtual world, there are still some legitimate concerns that keep them from diving head-first.
The main one is cybersecurity. It stands out as the main doubt that companies have with the metaverse, with 38% of brands worried about their business’ security and data, and those of their customers’.
It is placed ahead of worries like having the metaverse trend fade (25%) or, even, that digital life takes over real life (25%).
Once again, confidence in the metaverse seems rock solid, but we are still some years away before we see mass adoption of the metaverse for businesses. Until those creating these virtual worlds address these cybersecurity concerns, we expect that time to be prolonged.
A (Privileged?) World Awaits
The concept of a metaverse has been alive and kicking for more than 20 years. In classic novels like Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash (where the term “metaverse” was first coined) and movies like The Matrix, we have been vexed by the idea of stepping into a reality that mimics our own.
Today, thanks to the power of technology, we can finally see how that reality is starting to grow, and companies are watching along with it.
However, that vision today seems skewed. Investment risks have been acknowledged, but brands seem to think it is space for only a handful of users. We will accompany brands in studying the development of this virtual world, but so far, it appears that, for all its vastness, the metaverse seems to be thriving in a bubble.
The study was conducted between February 24th and March 1st, 2022, among 200 companies that have already invested in the metaverse. The surveyed companies came from Belgium, Germany, Spain, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States. We specifically targeted employed individuals above the age of 25 that occupied C-level positions such as executives, presidents, CEOs, board members, and senior management. The responses are anonymous.