The metaverse is hyped as the next big thing beyond social media: the future of how people will interact, transact, and entertain themselves. This space is being used to sell virtual clothes, properties, accessories, and even hold events, while providing a different way for people to interact socially and build relationships. Its purpose is to unite anyone, anywhere on a common, physical ground (in a virtual space), but how are consumers reacting to it?
While most consumers have heard of the metaverse before, nearly half know little about it. Consumers who are very familiar with the metaverse tend to be male, younger than 55 years old, and have a bachelor’s degree or higher. On the other hand, consumers 55 and older, and those with a high school diploma or lower, are more likely to have never heard of the metaverse. When looking at current participation of the metaverse, consumers who are male, consumers younger than 55 years old, and consumers with a bachelor’s degree or higher are more likely to already be participating. Conversely, consumers over the age of 35 and consumers with a high school diploma or less are more likely to have never heard of the metaverse.
The metaverse has many applications, but the most common way of participating is by interacting with other metaverse visitors, most commonly through online games. Consumers are more interested in interacting with each other rather than robots or with AI. Once again, consumers under the age of 55 are more likely to use the metaverse for most reasons compared to those 55 and older, except to create an avatar for themselves, which is more likely for consumers 34 and younger.
Nearly eight-in-ten consumers see at least one advantage to participating in the metaverse, the most frequently cited one being its ability to offers stimulating experiences without the need to leave home. Other advantages revolve around being able to interact with others, which aligns with the most popular reason consumers use the metaverse. Advantages such as offering experiences without leaving the house, socializing with others, having fun, and making games more interesting all tie into the social aspect of the metaverse, suggesting the technology is an advancement in social media. Nearly half of consumers aged 18 to 34 consider each of these advantages to the metaverse. Consumers want to use the platform to create a space that is both relaxing and fun. This results in advantages relating to work being less recognized. However, nearly a fifth of consumers believe there are no advantages to the metaverse, with consumers aged 55 and older being more likely to believe so.
Most consumers see some disadvantages to the metaverse. They are most concerned with how interacting within the metaverse will affect peoples’ real lives, with less exercise, ability to distinguish from reality, and unhealthy psychological dependency being among the top three drawbacks. Consumers aged 18-34 are more likely to believe an unhealthy psychological dependency will be a disadvantage of the metaverse, while women are more likely to be concerned with potentially being bullied or mistreated. Less consumers believe there are no disadvantages to the metaverse, compared to those who believe there are no advantages (13% vs. 21%).
The market is split regarding the perceived overall appeal of the metaverse, with less than half of consumers finding it appealing. Once again, men, those under the age of 55, and those with bachelor’s degrees or higher are more likely to find the metaverse very appealing compared to their counterparts. Alternatively, women are more likely to find the concept of the metaverse neither appealing nor unappealing, along with those with some college education or less.
The metaverse has a long way to go to gain acceptance and encourage participation, but its long-range promise is like forerunner technologies such as email and social media, which is to provide accessibility to others. While people recognize the ways they can use the metaverse for work, the technology is viewed primarily as a place for fun, escape and social interaction.
About the Study: the National Technology Readiness has tracked technology and e-commerce trends since 1999. The survey is co-sponsored by Rockbridge Associates, Inc. and the Responsible Business Coalition at Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business. The most recent wave was conducted in June 2022 and is based on an online survey of 1040 U.S. adults sampled at random from a consumer research panel. Results are weighted to match census characteristics. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by: Nafeesa Bari, Research Manager