“We’re aware that people want to know how the metaverse will work, and with augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) – the key technologies that underpin the metaverse – on the cusp of becoming ubiquitous, more and more young people want to learn these in-demand skills,” he noted.
Chen explained that building the metaverse will be a collective effort that involves multiple stakeholders of the society.
“The metaverse won’t be built overnight. Many of these products will only be fully realised in the next 10 to 15 years,” he said.
The social media giant also just announced it will be launching a digital clothing store where customers can purchase designer outfits for their avatars from brands such as Balenciaga, Prada and Thom Browne.
Evolution not revolution
Saskia Fairfull, an industry consultant, believes that Hong Kong and other cities such as Shanghai are leading the way in bringing together physical and digital shopping experiences as their customers are a lot more familiar with technology and smart devices.
Fairfull believes the biggest implication for the APAC marketplace is that retailers risk being left behind.
“I don’t see these new initiatives by Meta HK changing the Australian retail market anytime soon. Australian retail is generally years behind innovative and experiential retailers in Asia,” she said.
“It took a global pandemic and consumers to be in lockdown for many retailers to prioritise the online experience, anything metaverse-related will likely be very low on their priority list.”
Although some digital-first challenger brands are showing interest in this space, most are still in the exploratory phase and yet to develop a strategy, while they wait for consumers to participate en masse.
Retailers will of course have to change their mindset and approach to commerce to take advantage of this technology revolution.
“Those who take advantage aren’t necessarily the retailers you would expect, they are treading carefully and building their own knowledge base of innovative technology solutions that benefit the business and the customer experience,” said Fairfull.
A new age
Perhaps, the most important aspect of this metaverse will be the onslaught of hyper personalisation and targeted marketing strategies that could be employed by companies like Meta.
“Hyper personalisation can mean different things to people, some could be seen as an invasion of privacy, to others, simply convenience, we’re in a very awkward time of defining what a hyper personalised marketing strategy looks like that respects people’s data and information without bombarding them with more ads,” said Fairfull.
She acknowledged that it is critical for brands to find a balance between communicating important product updates to drive purchases and also provide a really cool immersive experience to encourage play and interaction.
“The metaverse is usually talked about in mostly digital terms, however the magic will happen in how we’ll experience the metaverse in real life,” she stressed.
Online shopping trends
A recent seasonal holidays study by Meta of nearly 18,000 people across 12 APAC markets was conducted back in December 2021 and unsurprisingly, it was revealed that Gen Z and Millennials are shopping more on social platforms.
Entertaining and immersive experiences influence ‘Mega Sale Days’ purchase decisions, with AR technologies having a strong influence on purchasing behaviour.
“Brands need to start building for discovery and being part of the consideration set well ahead of Mega Sale Days. Brands also need to meet people where they are,” said Dan Neary, VP of Asia Pacific at Meta.
It’s no wonder that brands need to be social and mobile first to deliver personalised advertising experiences. Shoppers are also interacting directly with brands through instant messaging. So, apart from immersive experiences and live shopping, creative avenues to communicate brand values and purpose is also of paramount importance.
AR is here to stay
Every month, more than 700 million people globally use augmented reality (AR) filters across Meta apps and devices, while in Hong Kong, there has been a 27 per cent year-over-year growth of Facebook Groups related to AR and VR.
VR is now playing an increasingly important role in education. Meta is planning to support local schools to create an innovative learning environment with VR and provide opportunities for teachers, students and educators to explore VR educational content.
So far, more than 700 teachers and students from 88 local tertiary institutions in Hong Kong have benefited from the VR for Good program.
“We have launched the extended reality (XR) Programs and Research Fund, a two-year US$50 million investment in programs and research. The University of Hong Kong is one of our partners which are focusing on research into safety, ethics, and responsible design,” Chen added.
Arts and culture reimagined
The intersection of arts, culture and technology presents vast growth opportunities for Meta in Hong Kong. Creators in this space are using new technologies like NFTs to take more control of their work, their relationship with their fans, and monetisation of their assets.
Meta will be testing digital collectibles with selected Hong Kong creators such as Dustykid, who will share on Instagram the NFTs that they have created or bought.
The Hong Kong Arts Centre will be creating a new special award category “VR Special Prize” for the 28th IFVA Awards (formerly known as the Hong Kong Independent Short Film and Video Awards) to encourage film makers to adopt VR in their works.
Meta is collaborating with the Hong Kong Arts Centre to create a new special award category to encourage filmmakers to adopt VR in their works.
All hands on deck
Meta will provide technical expertise to support the showcase of a VR film project, Chroma 11, the first piece of work from Hong Kong selected as one of the international projects for the Biennale College Cinema – Virtual Reality under Venice Film Festival. The film showcase will be held in September 2022 at the West Kowloon Cultural District of Hong Kong.
For those who want a taste of the metaverse, there will be a DustyLand exhibition at the Central Market from the 17th to the 29th of June. Using a Quest 2 virtual reality (VR) headset, interested participants can use AR filters created by Dustykid and youths.
A pop-up metaverse experience will also be held at Preface Coffee and Wine, from 1st July to 31st July. Customers just purchase a “Metaverse Coffee” to get access into the metaverse via the VR headset.
The metaverse is the next evolution of today’s online social experiences and the mobile internet. As Meta continues to build for the metaverse in Hong Kong, the company will be collaborating at every stage with other companies, developers, experts and policy makers.