Consumers are increasingly interested in making purchases of virtual goods and experiences, according to a study.
Accenture surveyed more than 11,000 consumers across 16 countries to reveal that 64% have already purchased a virtual product or enjoyed a virtual experience in the past year.
The research reveals that the figure is expected to rise with 83% of consumers interested in making purchases via the metaverse.
It adds that 42% of consumers have visited a retailer in the virtual world to seek advice, make a purchase or explore products and 56% say they plan to.
And the metaverse has grabbed also the attention of the corporate world with 72% of global executives believing it will have a positive impact on their organizations, while 45% see it as "breakthrough or transformational", according to the Accenture Technology Vision 2022 report.
As the use cases of emerging metaverse platforms broaden, the travel industry will looking to see where it fits in.
Travel's virtual horizon
The Accenture study says that 50% of consumers are already buying, or are interested in buying a travel experience such as a hotel stay or activity.
For millennials, the figure rises to 55%, while for baby boomers, it’s 29%.
Emily Weiss, senior managing director and global head of Accenture’s Travel industry group, highlights other ways the metaverse might be used in travel such as pre-trip preparation through virtual tours of airports, aircraft and hotel rooms.
Employee training is a further area where the technology is likely to be taken up according to Weiss while B2B applications such as virtual tours of meeting and conference facilities prior to an event and digital twins of physical assets for areas such as maintenance, could also be increasingly implemented.
She also sees an opportunity for increasing ancillary sales by using the technology to show consumers virtually the products and services they could buy.
There are also applications for people who may not be able to travel whether for health, economic or other reasons to experience destinations and providing travel companies with the ability to target them with tailored virtual services.
Weiss says: “The metaverse is not intended to replace physical travel, rather provide a complementary enhancement to an overarching experience. Giving the option to sit in a virtual first-class seat, experience the lounge or walk around a hotel resort or room, opens up opportunities to truly engage and inspire people before they travel.
"And, through 'trying-before-you-travel,' recreating landmarks in all their past glory or allowing travelers to investigate parts of nature, which they cannot explore within real-life interaction, the metaverse can also help create a more meaningful travel experience that delivers on or even exceeds customer expectations.”
A number of travel companies are already exploring the potential of virtual worlds.
CitizenM recently claimed a hotel first with its plan to purchase land and build a property in the metaverse.
The potential for non-fungible tokens and virtual worlds for loyalty programs has also been highlighted as a further use case.
Others believe the metaverse could play a role in developing the sharing economy further as well as the potential to use virtual worlds for trip planning.
As the technology develops, pundits are seeing it as a more immersive, more emotionally powerful means to engage consumers that other existing channels.
As such, it could play into the hands of the travel industry as a rich and interactive way to inspire consumers to buy travel.