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Metaverse Part II

Metaverse part two: from virtual to reality

Most commonly, visions of the metaverse involve virtual reality headsets and an immersive, if cartoon-like environment that allows users to touch, feel and multi-sense via their digital avatar. This concept has been prominent in the gaming industry, meaning many, mainly younger consumers are already familiar with the more futuristic ideas touted by metaverse creators. Total sensory immersion has its limitations though: you can’t eat a plate of pixels or imbibe a bottle of binary code. Thus we are led to the big question of where the entirely physical, real-world sensation of food and beverages sits in the metaverse.

New opportunities of Marketing

The obvious starting point is always marketing. To achieve brand awareness you need to occupy the same space as your target audience. In this sense, the newness of the metaverse is no more strange or daunting than commercial television in the 1950s or the early internet forty years later. Where it differs is in its two-way, collaborative nature. Innova Market Insights’ 2021 Consumer Lifestyles & Attitudes Survey revealed 97% of respondents use digital technologies. Further, interest in the next generation applications such as augmented reality is growing, especially among Latin American and Asian consumers. Across Innova’s Top Ten Trends for 2022, the demand of consumers to connect with brands through interactive technology shines through.

Metaverse: Man using virtual reality headset in restaurant

Copyrights: Innova Market Insights

Best Practices in the Food Industry

At the same time, innovation opportunities presented by the metaverse are myriad. Chipotle launched a burrito building game that, as well as being a fun and single-branded distraction, translated to offers and orders in physical stores. That is at the simple end of metaverse technology. Coca-Cola and Taco Bell are among those who have jumped on the possibilities offered by non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which facilitate the ownership of digital possessions. On the whole NFTs have seen greatest take-up in areas such as art and music, some conveying very deliberate corporate or ethical messaging, but they can also be used to offer exclusive access to real-world events, offers and goods. A branded VIP pass if you like.

There are many ways to transfer metaverse experiences into physical action. A long-standing application is the “Digital Twin” - the creation of a virtual but identical replication of a physical environment. Kraft used the digital twin format to simulate supply chain scenarios; stress-testing, problem-solving, concept-proving. Right now, the metaverse offers a safe and increasingly cost-effective method of trying out new ideas in the virtual world that stand a far greater chance of working in reality. On the retail side, McDonald’s is exploring the potential of a virtual restaurant to enhance its delivery service. Additionally, digital product development tools are speeding up innovation while offering early consumer collaboration opportunities and reduced costs.

Meanwhile, behind each data-packed avatar is a real person with very real needs, concerns, demands, desires, freedoms and constraints. But these avatars are not restricted by place, price or personal circumstances. They can, in theory, go anywhere and experience anything, in ways unique to the person they are based on. Coupled with technologies becoming so fast and powerful that sights and sounds can transmit anywhere, interactively and in real time, this brings the world to someone’s door with greater clarity and immediacy than ever before; and that will only keep improving. Thus, local products, cultures and learnings can be transported and experienced live across the world, but in a virtual setting. Industry professionals are seeing this, with Masterchef Australia contestant Depinder Chhibber signing up to bring her traditional Indian cooking to the metaverse. She joins other top chefs who are finding ways to transport their skills – formerly limited by location and logistics - to a new, worldwide audience.

The metaverse is real, growing and, very simply, a logical next step in digital progression. Like all other great inventions and innovations, it starts with a chaotic big bang and eventually settles through natural selection into a comprehendible construct of normality. There is already an audience of avatars waiting in the metaverse, each just a digital representation of a very real person with very real needs. The signs are that audience, along with the possibilities offered via the metaverse, will only keep growing.