Data in the Metaverse

Mario Ramic - Author Image
written by Mario Ramic
April 7, 2024
IKEA Place
  1. Eye-Tracking data
  2. Spatial data
  3. Facial expression data
  4. Economic behaviour patterns

A New Dimension of Data

In recent years, the practice of collecting and using user data to predict their behaviour and better target users has become more and more popular. Most modern marketers have accepted that data is the key to understanding and targeting users as well as that it is crucial for tracking the performance of your campaigns and projects.

In the Metaverse, these principles hold true as well, what will change is the sheer amount of data that will be available to marketers. Adding another dimension is not just an aesthetic change, it fundamentally increases the amount and types of data that will become available to companies. This will not only be useful, but necessary, as the user flow of going through metaverse experiences will be much more complex than the linear flow in 2D applications.

This means that you will need more data and advanced data management techniques to spot what is engaging or disengaging users in your experiences. In this section, we will underline just some of the potential new data streams that will emerge because of people immersing themselves in the metaverse as well as some trends that we expect to be happening in data management and collection.

In this article we will go through 4 data management trends that we have observed through our work and research at Takeaway Reality as well as 4 new data streams that are opening up within the metaverse landscape.

Data Management Trends:

1.      Automated pipeline creation

2.      Decentralization

3.      More advanced AI

4.      Data Ethics

New Data Streams:

1.      Eye-Tracking data

2.      Spatial data

3.      Facial expression data

4.      Economic behaviour patterns

Data Management Trends:

1.      Automated pipeline creation

The metaverse with its immense increase in the amount of useable data will result in the acceleration of progress being made regarding AI-powered data collection. In the Metaverse, we can expect advanced AI that can identify useful data from the environment and create new data pipelines all by itself, without any human involvement. In practice, this could mean that if the AI sees that users are spending a significant amount of time looking at a certain object within your space (for example, a decorative tree placed in your environment) it will automatically record and track data such as how much time people are spending looking at that tree and what their reactions to it are (positive or negative). In this practical example, you would be able to understand more about objects and parts of your experience that you would not expect would drive attention and can make more informed decisions on why and how people are using your app.

2.      Decentralization

We believe that in the metaverse, individual creators will have much more autonomy than they do on current web 2.0 platforms. For example, an Instagram influencer or a youtuber is able to look only at the analytics that YouTube or Instagram offer them. In the Metaverse, much more autonomy will begiven for individual experience creators to implement their own data tracking solutions into their experiences. This is believed to be the case due to the vast amounts of freedom the metaverse concept allows in theory. Another big reason for believing this is the case is that the barriers to entry will be slightly higher for metaverse creators, as creating a good experience will usually require a team of developers and modelers, so the creators will be looked at much more as businesses than for example current creators on social media. However, in practice, major platform owners in the metaverse might take the same path as they do within the web 2.0 environment and restrict the potential of individual creators to implement their own data tracking.

3.      Advanced AI

We have already talked about AI being one of the foundational technologies of the Metaverse. One of the big areas where it will be used is in the generation and processing of user data. Just from current AI developments, we can be relatively certain that AI will help optimize and clean up data, as well as produce real-time insights. The potential usage of AI in this field in the metaverse is almost limitless. The potential for using AI within the metaverse is truly vast. This is why it will be crucial for any on-going metaverse experiences to have an AI expert on the team that will be able to create algorithms that will focus on the areas most relevant to the needs of that particular experience.

4.      Ethics of Marketing Data

The field of data privacy has been talked about a lot in recent years and we will touch on the ethical implications of this later in the book. Instead of talking about the ethical implications and potential ways of handling user data and how that might evolve, we will just try to outline what implications this might have for the marketing function. We believe that consent will be key. Regulation such as GDPR in the EU has already established consent and privacy as the key considerations to keep in mind when handling user data. We believe that this will become even stricter and clear explanations will need to begiven to users on what data is being used and how. However, the metaverse opens up a great way to visually present this information to users in a fun and interactive way. For example, instead of a boring consent form, you could give your users bubbles that contain various data categories that they can pop and see how they are used to improve the experience.  

New Data Streams

1.      User Attention Points (Eye-Tracking Data)

Even the most basic VR devices today have the functionality to spot what the user is looking at any time during the experience. Eye-tracking is an incredible tool both for businesses and researchers. This is a major benefit of metaverse experiences compared to real-life experiences such as retail shopping. Just imagine how much money retail chains would spend if they could have the data to see at which products and at what time the user is focused on. This is possible in the metaverse and will be used extensively. In fact, we believe that alongside with traditional metrics such as number of users and average usage time, user attention points will become one of the major KPI’s for metaverse experiences.

2.      Spatial Data

The need to look at data within the 3rd dimension will revolutionize not just the types of data available to marketers, but also the processes they use to access and mine this data. You will need to look at what areas, sub-spaces or rooms are the most visited, where are people spending most of their time, what are people doing in these areas etc. The question of where something is happening will be one of the most important questions anyone wanting to improve a metaverse experience will need to ask themselves. This is because the correct identification of where some things are happening will lead to being able to analyse what is happening there and what are the reasons this particular part of the experience is more/less populated and used than the other parts. In many ways, it is similar to see which pages on a 2D web user’s visit, but it is vastly different in the way you approach it. The primary reason is that each space will need to be divided into trackable subspaces that will be designed for some reason. This will allow you to test and compare various use cases and reasons why people are choosing this exact space.


3.      Emotional Responses (Facial Expression Tracking)

With the rollout of the Meta Quest Pro, we have witnessed the first headset on the market that can track users’ facial expressions. The most obvious benefit of that for the user is that their emotions will be able to be translated to the virtual world, which would significantly improve the social immersion and interactions within VR. But the benefits to brands and the ability to use this information to better target potential customers is unprecedented.

Facial tracking in VR can provide brands with unprecedented insights into their customers' preferences, behaviours, and reactions. By using facial tracking in VR, brands can:

- Enhance customer engagement and loyalty:

Facial tracking in VR can help brands create more personalized and interactive experiences for their customers, such as tailored recommendations, feedback, and rewards. For example, a VR game developer can use facial tracking to adjust the difficulty level, narrative, and graphics of the game based on the player's emotions and expressions. A VR retailer can use facial tracking to offer customized products, discounts, and suggestions based on the customer's mood and interest.

- Improve marketing effectiveness and conversion:

Facial tracking in VR can help brands measure the impact and performance of their marketing campaigns and strategies in a more accurate and objective way. For example, a VR advertiser can use facial tracking to track the attention, engagement, and emotional response of the audience to their ads and optimize them accordingly. A VR content creator can use facial tracking to test different versions of their content and select the one that generates the most positive reactions.

- Gain competitive advantage and innovation:

Facial tracking in VR can help brands gain a deeper understanding of their customers' needs, wants, and expectations, and use this data to create more innovative and differentiated products and services. For example, a VR education provider can use facial tracking to assess the learning outcomes and satisfaction of their students and improve their curriculum and pedagogy. A VR healthcare provider can use facial tracking to monitor the mental and physical health of their patients and provide better diagnosis and treatment.

Facial tracking in VR is a data-rich technology that can offer significant benefits for brands across various industries and domains. By leveraging facial tracking in VR, brands can gain a competitive edge in the market and create more value for their customers.

4. Economic behaviour patterns

Tracking user purchases has been a staple of web 2.0 marketing data gathering for the past decade. The metaverse has the potential to take this to an entire new level. Because instead of just looking at purchases, the individual can be modelled after their entire economic behaviour.

For example, you could gather data from their selling and entrepreneurial behaviors to better target entrepreneurial tools and products. You can also compare users based on how big their propensity of saving is and target products such as insurance on those more risk averse.

There are obvious data privacy issues that arise when looking into things such as amounts of savings or entrepreneurial patterns (from which potential strategies could be gathered) for marketing purposes. Setting aside the morality of such actions for now, the practical implications of whether this will be possible at all will initially depend on the platform/DAO/Community which will oversee the rules in the metaverse experience. It is also not out of the question that after time passes, this area gets regulated by lawmakers. In any case, the possibilities of gathering data within the metaverse are truly incredible and it is certain that it will disrupt the world of marketing.  

Privacy Concerns

Now, let’s address the elephant in the room – privacy. In the last 10 years we have seen an incredible number of discussions regarding users’ privacy in the virtual world. These discussions have spawned regulatory action such as GDPR in the European Union.

These new data streams won’t disrupt any of the current processes expected from companies to comply with these regulations but will increase both the quality and quantity of data companies can gather. This might lead to new regulations on user data gathering.

Apart from the regulatory risk, there is also a risk of receiving a negative sentiment from the users, as some users might consider that tracking their facial expressions and emotions in Virtual Reality might be overly invasive.

However, although there have been several discussions regarding privacy concerns, the data indicates that the users are in general not willing to change their usage habits even if they do not appreciate data collection. The best example is TikTok, although there are some very serious privacy concerns using the app, it has been enjoying incredible growth in the last few years even in the supposedly data-conscious era that we live in.

The only conclusion I can draw from this is that today’s social media users are easy to complain about data gathering but are not so bothered by it to stop using the apps that gather their data or take any drastic actions that would impact the incentives for data gathering apps.

A New Era For Marketing

Considering all of the information gathered from this sub-chapter it is easy to see how the metaverse will open up an entire new marketing landscape filled with opportunities for marketing your products and services that are not possible in the current web 2.0 era. The metaverse will be an entire new world, and despite our best efforts, no one can truly predict all of the marketing strategies that will become most popular. We have given you the architectural knowledge, but now it is upon the marketers on the world to build, test and experiment with innovative marketing approaches in the metaverse. Be brave and explore the new frontier!

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