The allure of IRL – is Gen Z meh about the metaverse?
Brands may be curious about the impact of the metaverse and web3 tech, but just how much does the younger generations care? Sinead Lambe, Associate Director of Communications at Gen Z market research platform Imagen Insights wonders if these virtual realities have taken the world by the storm they were predicted to.
The launch of the metaverse was hyped for a few months and then it seemed the excitement and anticipation of what it could and would innovate trailed off. Keen to understand more, we decided to include digital innovations as part of our annual Brutally Honest Gen Z report for 2023.
Homing in on three topics: work; rest and play, we polled our Gen Z community across the UK, Europe and the US to find out how its members were engaging with such ‘metaverse’ technologies as Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and NFTs to see whether they were having the impact predicted by the industry.
Alongside the craving for physical human interaction Gen Z is not necessarily adopting new technologies as often assumed by marketing and brand folk.
The first digitally native generation it maybe, but Gen Z is still putting a lot of value on in-real-life (IRL) interaction. Coined as the generation who are glued to their phones and spend considerable amounts of time on social media apps, our findings around the value placed on meeting with friends and family physically may surprise some.
The vast majority of our community polled, a substantial 95 per cent, reported real-life interactions with friends to be more important than socialising online or meeting people in the metaverse.
One 22-year-old US male respondent stated: “I think it will take a long time for the metaverse to become commonplace. Currently it is unwelcomed by the general populous because it is not any more convenient to do anything in the metaverse than it is in real life.”
While some were all for the benefits it may bring, others were sceptical and many said they just don’t really understand the concept or point of interacting more online in this way.
Alongside the craving for physical human interaction Gen Z is not necessarily adopting new technologies as often assumed by marketing and brand folk. As brands and organisations battle it out to be the first adopters of, and the most engaged with the metaverse – is it really the next big thing? And is it Gen Z who are actually driving online interaction?
We asked our community if they owned any of the technologies associated with the arrival of the metaverse and web3. Almost three quarters, 72 per cent, reported that they didn’t own any of the following; VR or AR headsets, Smart Glasses or NFTs. So perhaps it’s still early days?
Above: Sinead Lambe, Associate Director of Communications at Gen Z market research platform Imagen Insights.
There was a real divide when we delved deeper into our community’s view on the metaverse with a subset of our respondents. While some were all for the benefits it may bring, others were sceptical and many said they just don’t really understand the concept or point of interacting more online in this way.
Why would you want to buy something in the metaverse when you can buy it in the real world and enjoy it properly?
“I'm a little scared of the metaverse if I’m being honest. It is a little overwhelming just how quickly these programs have developed. I always try to get my friends to ignore the hype about Crypto, NFTs, whatever.” Female, 18 - UK
“With NFT’s I really don’t see their purpose. As with the metaverse why would you want to buy something in the metaverse when you can buy it in the real world and enjoy it properly? For example a house, how is a house helping you in the metaverse when in reality you don’t have a stable place to stay.” Female, 19 – Netherlands
However, members of Gen Z are able to see how future applications for metaverse technology could benefit differing sectors. It would appear they see value for how the metaverse might shape education and learning with this coming at the top with 29 per cent of our community seeing value here alongside gaming at 25 per cent, but online retail trails behind with only 8 per cent of our community feeling these technologies will benefit this sector. What does this mean for brands?
Walk before you run is my suggestion. Focus on creating immersive experiences online and in-store that will drive Gen Z to your brand rather than driving them away by jumping in feet first to metaverse hype.