Analysis: How in the world do you measure ROI in the metaverse?

Metaverse is definitely the hot new verse in the marketing scene, snatching the attention from brands such as Hyundai Motor Company, Vans and SCMP. Most recently, Hyundai and Vans tied up with online entertainment platform Roblox for their very own metaverse. Hyundai's metaverse has five virtual zones for players to interact with others and experience the company's mobility solutions. Vans World is an interactive skateboarding metaverse playground that allows players to practice their ollies and kickflips with friends. 

Meanwhile, South China Morning Post (SCMP) in July, tied up with the Sandbox, to bring an authentic new series of cultural experiences to The Sandbox’s open gaming metaverse. The strategic partnership aims to bring Hong Kong to life in The Sandbox’s metaverse through SCMP’s 118 years of journalism. Part virtual real-estate, part amusement park, The Sandbox fully embraces the idea of the metaverse - as popularised in movies such as Ready Player One - as a continuous shared digital space where worlds and heroes collide to create immersive experiences that stretch the imagination.

While these new executions might see some brands curious to experiment the metaverse space, one thing for certain is that the industry has yet to figure out the specific measurement metrics for brands’ metaverse investment.

Hyundai Motor told MARKETING-INTERACTIVE that the company is developing new indicators for accurate KPI measurement given the metaverse is currently in a very early stage. The brand said:

Since customer engagement, such as user visits, is a main KPI. We'll come up with advanced metrics to evaluate a detailed level of engagement considering future business.

As with any new trend or technology, one way to overcome the measurement challenge is to use existing metrics and adapt them as the brand deems fit. However, this method can also lead to a lack of standardisation.

Ultrasupernew's head of growth, Asia Pacific, Jean-Francois Thery, said the measurement playbook needs to be re-written when it comes to performance metrics in the metaverse. "I don't think we can apply the same performance KPIs and expect similar results," he added. New benchmarks such as dwell time - meaning how long a user spends within an experience - should be created. This could also include the number of times a user engages within the metaverse, he explained. "I believe as we reframe our ad brains, we will start creating new benchmarks and adapt what we know." 

On the other hand, Zoe Cocker, head of brand and Yahoo Creative Studios ANZ, is of the view that existing metrics can be used to measure investments in the metaverse. "After all, this is a world like our own," she said, adding:

The opportunities to entertain and monetise are the same so when looking to invest in the metaverse, apply the same logic and metrics, for example, brand uplift.

There are also plenty of possible trackable metrics, especially if the metaverse mainly revolves around gamification, founder and MD of First Wave, Don Tsai, explained. In his view, frequency and depth of interaction analysis are two metrics that will remain unchanged. This includes how frequent a player plays and how long do they play on average. When it comes to promotion-driven campaigns in the metaverse, Tsai said brands should also track the conversion, such as the number of redemption of benefits and offers. "Brands should also set in-game or out-of-game channels to collect qualitative feedback," he added.

Metaverse as a branding channel

When Hyundai announced its partnership with Roblox last week, the automotive company said the metaverse is targeted at young consumers who are technologically savvy at exploring virtual worlds beyond physical experiences. By expanding into this space, the brand looks to not only familiarise the younger crowd with Hyundai's products and future mobility solutions, but also nurture long-lasting relationships with fans. 

With the metaverse being a new scene that brands are dipping their toes into, it would also make sense for them to think of this as a branding opportunity. Ampverse's co-founder and chief strategy officer, Charlie, Baillie currently thinks of the metaverse at this stage, as purely a branding channel, and a place that enables brands to be top of mind with young, hard-to-reach audiences. 

Therefore, brands should look at brand awareness and consideration-related metrics.

"As the metaverse matures and evolves, so too will the ways it can be leveraged to drive more performance-related outcomes. But I think it's too early to be clear on that now," he said.

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(Read more: Metaverse for marketers: 'Ignoring it now is like ignoring social media 10 years ago')

Unlocking possibilities with 5G

The advent of 5G is also expected to bring about a whole gamut of changes to digital marketing and transformation. The adoption of 5G is expected to not only unlock existing technologies but also push creativity to greater heights. The same is also expected for the metaverse with 5G in the equation. Baillie said the speed of processing and quality of graphics is a key factor for levelling up the overall consumer experience, and 5G will no doubt play a key role in enhancing the metaverse. According to him, this could be in the form of transporting consumers to a visual world they have never seen before, or taking physical experiences such as attending a live gig and making it feel more real and intimate online.

Similarly, RYOT Studio's Cocker said 5G will offer value to the metaverse in terms of bandwidth and hardware. The metaverse is persistent and consists of vast amounts of information and activity that stays anchored and continues to exist even when you’re not there and interacting with it. Therefore, Cocker said the bulk of the experience must be downloaded locally before being accessed. To connect to the metaverse directly, consumers will need to be able to download hundreds of megabytes per second that only 5G can deliver, she added.

On the hardware front, bulky devices are currently the delivery mechanic for high-end gaming experiences and are unscalable as they require a significant investment. According to Cocker, 5G will look to overcome these barriers.

"One of our major predictions of 5G is the growth of ‘dumb devices’ where computing happens externally from devices. Removing this processing power from the device itself will enable them to be produced cheaper, more lightweight and potentially more native to everyday headwear such as your sunglasses," she explained. 

Ultimately the ability to take advantage of rendering on the edge, the reduction of latency and higher bandwidth will all contribute to a fully optimised metaverse experience.

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