The pitfalls and the possibilities: how marketers are approaching the metaverse and AI era

AI and immersive platforms like the metaverse could be at the forefront of both accelerating and elevating marketing strategies, opening up new channels to your target customers.

A few years ago, the idea of a robot winning a legal battle or a couple raising a digital child would have sounded like the plot of a Black Mirror episode.

But in 2023, both are on the verge of being considered normal. The technologies underpinning these tasks have exploded into the mainstream, with people across the globe embracing artificial intelligence (AI) and exploring the possibilities of using new immersive environments like the metaverse in all their mind-bending glory.

Of late, many have started using ChatGPT, an AI enabled chatbot, for a range of tasks, from answering their burning questions to writing their wedding vows. So meteoric is its rise that early studies indicate it’s the fastest growing application of all time.

Meanwhile, virtual environments like the metaverse continue to expand to a network of immersive digital worlds where digital avatars can reside, interact, play games, visit and make purchases from shops, and even buy properties. While still in its nascent stage, McKinsey states the value of the metaverse could reach $5 trillion by 2030.

As is the case with most trends, where people go, marketers soon follow. We’re already seeing examples of these technologies being harnessed to drive marketing results for brands.

Rebecca Smith, Chief Marketing Officer, Ciena

AI for Marketing

In some companies, marketers have already started to relegate routine or time-consuming marketing tasks to AI; for example, data organization, SEO, and entry-level training. AI is also being leveraged by some customer support organizations to answer frequently asked questions and provide basic product information. For example, a food brand recently had ChatGPT ask customers five quick questions and was able to recommend a personalized cheese board based on their preferences and the occasion.

While AI will never replace creativity in marketing organizations completely, it can help free up time for staff to focus on high-level creative thinking and engage more directly with target customers, a crucial benefit as skills shortages continue to besiege the marketing sector globally.

AI can also help uncover target customers’ thoughts and concerns, their behaviours, the places they visit, the organizations they interact with and the emotions they’re expressing. AI can help generate key customer insights for brands to harness strategically.

Immersive Platforms for Marketing

We’ve also seen a lot of creative ways virtual immersive environments like the metaverse can be used to deliver more personalised experiences. Tennis Australia, for example, created an interactive metaverse game for visitors for the recently-completed Australian Open, featuring virtual-world tennis games.

Organizations are also increasingly turning to new immersive platforms like the metaverse for business-to-business interactions, such as for product showrooms, educational sessions and conferences.

The appetite for such events is well and truly there, with our recent study of 15,000 business professionals, more than three quarters (78 per cent) are willing to participate in immersive experiences like the metaverse versus current tools, such as video conferencing.

Not a replacement for the human element

Before you discard the rest of your marketing toolkit, it’s crucial to assess the limitations of these technologies. AI and new virtual worlds are not like what you might see in a Hollywood film. As stated in the 1984 Transformer movie by one of the original sentient machines, Optimus Prime, “sometimes even the wisest of men and machines can be in error.”

However, AI-generated content doesn’t have its own style, it merely recites the data it’s been fed albeit in a conversational, accessible form. Brands still need to work on standing out amid the veritable deluge of AI-generated content. It’s also a concern if people input sensitive information or intellectual property into the application, because AI learns from such data and could share it publicly down the track. There have also been instances of chatbots inventing information or sourcing it inaccurately. We must also keep in check copyright and licensing sensitivities.

Meanwhile, the mass availability of new immersive environments like the metaverse relies on the reliability, speed and capacity of the underlying telecom networks to keep them online and functioning.

Any network performance issue could completely disrupt the metaverse experience. The moment interactions become less than perfect – a spinning wheel of buffering here, an immersive interaction going completely and suddenly offline there – and you could lose your audience.

In fact, unreliable network performance was cited by 38 per cent of our survey respondents as the top concern holding them back from using these new immersive platforms.

While challenges exist, they should be viewed merely as blips on the path towards the inevitable incorporation of these technologies into marketing efforts. And with the right amount of experimentation and ongoing human guidance, AI and immersive platforms like the metaverse could be at the forefront of both accelerating and elevating marketing strategies, opening up new channels to your target customers.