Generational Views of the Metaverse in the US

Published Feb 01, 2022

Tammy Young, SVP, Tech, Media, Telecom, Entertainment, North America at Toluna

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There has been a lot of buzz about the metaverse lately. Shortly before Mark Zuckerberg announced that he was changing the name of Facebook’s parent company to Meta, the company announced it would be hiring 10,000 engineers to transform and build out the metaverse. Since then, the number of articles and mentions of the metaverse has exploded. However, while there is a lot of buzz around the metaverse at CES 2022, there is still a lot of confusion on what it is and what it will look like in the future.

It begs the question: if CES attendees are confused, then what does the average consumer think? You might be surprised by the results.

Toluna recently asked consumers of ages 13+ in the U.S. about their understanding and perceptions regarding the metaverse, and we received 2,006 responses from our Toluna Influencers in less than 24 hours. The findings of the study showed some notable differences between age and parent groups.

Regardless of the business you are in, it’s likely that the metaverse is going to be a part of your business strategy in the near future, and getting your customer and target audience prepared is going to be a key differentiator for your brand.

Do People Even Know What the Metaverse Is?

The biggest question our Toluna team had was, with all of the recent hype around the metaverse, how many people think they know what the metaverse is? What do they think it is, and what are their initial attitudes towards it? Unsurprisingly, 46% of teens age 13-17 feel that they know about the metaverse, compared to only 26% of adults. Of the adults, there were stark differences in whether someone knew of the metaverse. The majority of older adults aged 55+ said that had never heard of the term (54%), while a slight majority of adults aged 18-54 had heard of the term but did not know what it was (36%).

To further understand what the metaverse means to them, we partnered with Canvs AI, which is the easiest and most accurate consumer insights platform for analysis of open-ended text from surveys, social media, and customer reviews. Most teens who answered this question referenced virtual reality and Facebook in their answers, along with new technologies in the social media, cryptocurrency, and digital space. For those that used emotional language, they had mild to strong feelings of excitement about the metaverse future. 

As for adults, their answers also referenced VR and Facebook, but adults were more likely to anchor their knowledge of the metaverse around Facebook. This indicates that they likely first heard the term more recently when Facebook changed its name to Meta. For those that used emotional language, their answers tended to reflect more uncertainty about the metaverse than teens did.

What Excites People About the Metaverse?

The metaverse seems to offer endless possibilities and uses. From attending a concert, to socializing with friends at a virtual bar, to traveling to faraway exotic places, consumers are just starting to learn of all the ways that they will interact with the metaverse. So, what are they most excited about? It turns out that teens are more interested in trying new virtual experiences, with Gaming (55%), Watching TV/Movies (52%), and Shopping (40%) being the top interests they have in the virtual world. Young adults were most interested in Gaming, Watching TV/Movies, and Learning, and to a lesser extent than teens (42%, 43%, and 30%). Of adults aged 55+, 45% said they weren’t interested in trying any virtual experiences at all. The second-most-popular answer for this age group was Watching TV/Movies (33%), followed by Learning (23%). Real estate, physical therapy, and workplace applications of the metaverse were the least popular options among all three groups.

We wanted to dig in a little more and ask consumers what they thought the metaverse could offer them that they couldn’t currently get, and turned to Canvs AI to analyze the number of open ends we received. Adults reacted with more uncertainty, while teens were able to imagine many more possibilities. Teens tended to mention ideas such as traveling, attending concerts, meeting people, and enhanced gaming. While there was still some uncertainty in their emotional language, they also had positive emotions in their answers. For the adults who were able to imagine what they could do in the metaverse that they can’t do now, they did mention travel and interacting with people. However, when analyzing their feelings in their responses, there was much more uncertainty, with a mix of positivity and dislike towards the metaverse.

What Concerns Do They Have in the Metaverse?

As with any new technology, there are always initial concerns and fears, and the metaverse elicits similar concerns to other technologies. Of parents with children in the household, most felt that their children’s privacy was their biggest concern, followed by access to mature content. Interactions with unknown participants, bullying, and spending too much time in virtual reality were other concerns that scored high.

In general, concerns around the metaverse were very similar across age groups—with some slight nuances. For teens, their biggest concerns are privacy, additional technology expenses, and poor graphic experiences—in that order. For adults 18-54, lack of privacy, technology expenses, and less human connection are their top concerns about the metaverse. For adults 55+, their top concern is less human connection, followed by privacy and technology expenses.

What Metaverse Experiences Will Resonate with Consumers?

Ultimately, teens and adults both feel that their most meaningful connections are in person—with adults feeling more strongly about the need to connect with people in person rather than digitally. In the context of the metaverse, though, adults said they want personalized experiences and the ability to customize their avatar.

Meanwhile, teens are most excited about the ability to play games with their friends, followed by personalized experiences. However, as much as teens are excited about the metaverse, 50% still said that they were scared about some of its possibilities. They also expressed that they weren’t entirely comfortable using a VR headset yet, and preferred to use their mobile, tablet, or desktop devices for digital interactions.

Among people that have already purchased digital or virtual goods, most teens and adults indicated that their purchase was for use in a gaming environment (45% and 39%), while the second biggest reason was to express themselves (35% and 30%). Teens tended to purchase gaming weapons and NFT art/videos. Adults were less likely to have purchased digital/virtual goods, but for those who have, it was most often for avatar clothing or cryptocurrency.

As your business builds out its plans for engaging consumers in the metaverse, you will first need to address the concerns of your target consumer. There’s a lot of uncertainty in these early phases! However, as your customer gets more experiences with NFTs, cryptocurrency, and virtual reality sessions, their comfort level is going to increase, and their expectations for the experience will rise.

Stay tuned for more detailed studies from our team that explore the many different aspects of the metaverse as it continues to evolve. If you want learn more about the metaverse and its implications for your industry, and would like to run an agile study utilizing our proprietary panel on the Toluna Start platform, get started by scheduling a demo today.

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