This variety coupled with the potential to freely determine own access, membership, and monetization rights creates a plethora of potential entry points and business models for automotive OEMs that want to stake a claim in the metaverse. (Exhibit 1)
Figure 1: Exemplary metaverse architecture by layer and business model
In the first blog in this series, we argued that investing in the metaverse is a high-risk, high-reward opportunity for carmakers. Sales and marketing – the subject of this post – illustrate the point. OEMs need to select the right approach for their business model to avoid the potential hazards. In some cases, they may even decide that the metaverse has nothing to offer their target customers or that the risks are too great to justify any downstream investment.
Existing approaches by carmakers to leveraging the metaverse range from transposing physical sales experiences to virtual worlds to augmenting physical sales channels with metaverse-derived elements and technologies. Many OEMs and even Tier 1 suppliers have already introduced metaverse features in marketing and sales to enable customers to experience a car in an immersive way without leaving their own home, for example, via gaming platforms. Some OEMs such as Honda even allow customers to purchase a car via the metaverse, and Hyundai and others are likely to follow soon.
We see three distinct segments emerging as more carmakers include metaverse elements and technologies in their marketing and sales activities.
More segments may emerge as metaverse technologies advance, creating further downstream opportunities for OEMs to explore. For example, Honda has demonstrated that digital non-fungible tokens (NFTs) make it feasible to introduce exclusiveness into the virtual world by marketing and selling digital “limited editions” of vehicles. When a virtual car buyer purchases one of Honda’s NFTs, they acquire a unique token on the blockchain ledger that proves they uniquely own the digital asset. In March of this year, Honda’s Acura brand began offering NFTs to the first 500 people to pre-order its 2023 Integra model, which is being marketed using metaverse tools and technologies. (Figure 2)
Figure 2: Carmakers and suppliers’ metaverse activities
The sheer variety of existing downstream approaches to using the metaverse shows that the automotive industry is just at the beginning of a journey. Even Facebook’s parent company, Meta, does not expect the metaverse to realise its full potential for another ten years. With this in mind, we believe that OEMs should adopt the following medium-to-long term metaverse marketing and sales strategies, depending on their business model and target customers:
Around the world, automobile customers display widely differing levels of digital literacy. OEMs therefore need to find a tailored approach when using the metaverse in sales and marketing, depending on which customer segments and specific customer behaviors they are trying to target. In this context, it is important to bear in mind that the metaverse will not be suitable for every OEM or a necessity for all brands. Every carmaker should start their metaverse journey by first answering the question: is this really for us?
Over the next decade, the metaverse’s expected evolution will influence the downstream strategies of OEMs – in particular, how virtual cultures develop and worlds are regulated in different countries and regions. For example, it is already evident that regional variations in data protection regulation will have a critical bearing on future models for virtual worlds. It is even conceivable that the dominant model will be a replica of the real world that exists in one or several virtual worlds, with the same spatial and temporal dimensions. In this virtual replica, OEMs will compete for prime retail locations and stores that sell at the same price per square meter as in the real world.
What will not change, however, is the sheer range and diversity of automobile customer preferences and priorities around the world (Figure 3).
Figure 3: No one-size-fits-all – Car buyers in the metaverse are the same as in real life
Berylls Digital Ventures (BDV) has identified five factors which characterize successful downstream strategies in the metaverse. OEMs should:
The surest route to failure is a one-size-fits-all approach, given the complexity and variety of metaverse applications that are already available to marketing and sales teams. OEMs need to understand where their customers are going and which metaverse activities by which start-ups are the most relevant before venturing into this space. As in the real world, so in the metaverse – the customer always comes first.
Dr. Jan Burgard (1973) is CEO of Berylls Group, an international group of companies providing professional services to the automotive industry.
His responsibilities include accelerating the transformation of luxury and premium OEMs, with a particular focus on digitalization, big data, connectivity and artificial intelligence. Dr. Jan Burgard is also responsible for the implementation of digital products at Berylls and is a proven expert for the Chinese market.
Dr. Jan Burgard started his career at the investment bank MAN GROUP in New York. He developed a passion for the automotive industry during stopovers at an American consultancy and as manager at a German premium manufacturer.
In October 2011, he became a founding partners of Berylls Strategy Advisors. The top management consultancy was the origin of today’s Group and continues to be the professional nucleus of the Group.
After studying business administration and economics, he earned his doctorate with a thesis on virtual product development in the automotive industry.