APAC: What the ‘metaverse generation’ wants

In one of the largest metaverse consumer surveys to date, some stark differences in expectations of the metaverse between APAC’s Millennials and Gen Z were identified, along with some interesting points of parity.

For some, the metaverse seems like a fanciful term you’re likely to see in a sci-fi movie trailer, but with it increasingly entering the mainstream – particularly among younger audiences – it's time to identify the expectations of your audience if you enter this space.

A recent survey by Yahoo has drawn back the curtain on APAC’s “Metaverse Generation” and identified important differences between Gen Z and Millennials’ expectations for the virtual reality universe.

The study is one of the largest consumer surveys on the metaverse in APAC to date, covering over 15,000 people aged 13 to 65 across Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Awareness and interest in the meterverse among Millennials and Gen Z – viewed as the societal subsection making up the “Metaverse Generation” – is high, with 66% of APAC Millennials and Gen Z “looking forward” to the metaverse, but expectations for the metaverse and how it will be used are distinctly different between the two generations.

Zoe Cocker, Director of Innovation and Creative Studio at Yahoo, said: “There has been a lot of hype about the potential of the metaverse, but very little is known about what consumers expect. This study has powerful signals for marketers on what users care about — the building blocks to connect with both core audiences and niche consumer groups in the metaverse.”

Gen Z vs Millennials: what do they want from the metaverse?

The study found Gen Z respondents are most looking forward to building social connections in the metaverse. Highlighting the chance to disrupt the rules, accumulate wealth and achieve their personal dreams as priorities, Gen Z believes that everyone should be entitled to equal opportunities in the virtual space.

Millennials however view the metaverse less so as a place to increase their personal affluence and instead as an opportunity to enhance and upgrade experiences. They hope it becomes a place to innovate, create life-like interactions and experiences, diversify and enrich existing human connections.

Digital: avatars, assets and brands

The survey found further separation in Gen Z and Millennial responses in terms of how they plan to use digital avatars. Gen Z were found to prefer creating avatars based on their “true appearance”, expressing uniqueness through hair styles, makeup, apparel and accessories – just as people do in reality.

90% of Gen Z respondents said “customisation” is the most important factor for their avatars. Millennials on the other hand prefer avatars that are “totally different from their current appearance”, opting to adopt large-scale embellishments and abstract enhancements to skills they don’t currently possess.

Interestingly, a point of parity among the two generations was found regarding their expectations for use of digital assets, such as virtual collectables like artworks, profile pictures, gaming goods, limited-edition cards, videos, music pieces and NFTs. The report shows one third of Millennials and Gen Z have already embraced virtual collectables, with 31% of the metaverse generation in APAC having already studied NFTs, and 9% having purchased them.

APAC’s metaverse generation were also found to be very receptive to brands applying the metaverse to marketing or advertising campaigns, with nearly 60% saying they would like to know more about a brand venturing into the metaverse and pay more attention to its events or products.

An important cue for marketers is the research indicates that the earlier a brand adopts the metaverse as a way to reach consumers, the easier it will be to generate an audience and become attractive to them.

Concerns: safety, data security and accessibility

As in the real world, data security remains a top concern for future metaverse consumers. 62% of survey respondents noted worry about both “fraud” and “the inability to distinguish truth from falsehood”. In terms of privacy and safety, 61% of consumers believe protection of privacy and personal information will be a significant challenge inside the metaverse and 57% are concerned about the “absence of moral and legal norms”.

An additional concern from APAC respondents was the financial investment that participation in the metaverse will require, with two of the top five barriers dissuading people from joining the metaverse relating to purchase costs. Fears of the metaverse being “too expensive” and users “not having the technology” are currently key factors deterring potential consumers.

Early adopters: The Singapore metaverse generation

Of the survey’s respondents, Singapore’s metaverse generation was found to be leading the charge in terms of awareness and interest. Awareness of the metaverse among this group is 6% above the APAC average and excitement at the prospect of participating is 2% higher.

Both Gen X and Baby Boomers in Singapore also indicated a 6% higher likelihood of adoption compared to the APAC average for those generations and 51% cited that they are looking forward to the metaverse compared to the 41% APAC average.

It remains unclear exactly how popular the metaverse will be and its rollout into general society will almost certainly have its ups and downs. The study shows that interest in and awareness of the virtual universe is growing, meaning marketers need to remain vigilant and be prepared to act, or risk missing out on the opportunity to be among the first to answer when the metaverse comes knocking.