Diana Kelter
Diana is a Senior Trend Analyst at Mintel. She investigates how cultural, lifestyle and technology shifts take shape across sectors and leverages Mintel data across trend observations.

With every form of technology there is a learning curve and adoption cycle before it becomes an everyday concept. Society is still far from a place where the term ‘metaverse’ can be brought up in conversation and not be followed by five follow-up questions. Mintel’s 2022 Global Consumer Trend ‘Flexible Spaces’ highlights that the metaverse will continue being defined as a space that exists beyond the analog world over the course of the next five years. This means the ultimate question for brands is how can they play a role in building consumer adoption of an unknown and undefined space.

From unknown to familiar

Mintel data highlights that just slightly more than a third of US consumers like to be one of the first people to get the latest tech devices, but on the flip side two thirds of consumers either feel neutral towards the use of new technology or say it’s usually not that useful for them. This is the common framework we often see with new technology. There is a smaller group of trendsetters, but the population at large doesn’t understand the full necessity or value. This is where ‘functional value’ and ‘real life value’ comes into play.

For example, imagine trying to get through the day without your smartphone and think about how many basic routines would be disrupted. It’s that real life value, where any individual’s life would be more stressful and unproductive without the technology, that creates a mainstream adoption. This is why Mintel data shows that 93% of US consumers own a smartphone. To be clear, not every type of technology will be as relied upon to the same level as a smartphone, but it’s that fundamental mindset of ingraining technology into routines that really unlocks an understanding of new technology.

Creating efficiency in the metaverse

The Mintel Trends Analyst team recently observed that Boeing wants to build their next plane in the metaverse. While your initial thought might be that you want to travel to the physical beach, not a virtual beach, there is an implication for the physical world with this announcement. The goal of designing the plane in the metaverse is to become more aware of design flaws and issues so they can be addressed in real time, essentially resulting in more efficiency and safety for fully functioning airplanes. As more brands prioritize that element of efficiency and quality, gradually the metaverse will start to correspond with familiar elements of value.

Testing and learning 

In order to build acceptance of the metaverse in its early stages it’s important to start off with  small layers of adoption. This means not solely focusing on the value of an entirely separate digital space—which will be harder for consumers to grasp—but rather how leveraging a digital world can supplement and create value in the physical world, similar to Boeing utilizing it for design efficiency.

An example could be a food brand or retailer offering a service in the metaverse that allows users to digitally make a meal that replicates ingredients they have around the house. By first testing the combination of those ingredients in a digital realm, an algorithm could then reveal a rating of how likely that recipe would be successful or even offer suggested tweaks. Cooking is—after all—a science, and while there will always be a need for a human touch, for the everyday home cook having a bit more grounding in what will work and what won’t could make them feel that more confident before putting together a meal.

What we think

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember there still isn’t a totally clear purpose, or understanding, of the metaverse. While that is creating excitement for some, it’s creating fear for others. When thinking about any topic that is difficult to understand, it can help to step away from the granular details and focus on those foundational and core motivations of human behavior. Mintel Trend Drivers ‘Value’ and ‘Technology’ are constantly at an intersection for any new digital tool, and if brands keep their focus on the delivery of value they can gradually build more trust for expansion into new spaces.