Researching In The Metaverse: For Better Or For Worse?
by Julie Trujillo
Admittedly, I’m no expert on the metaverse. Yet, here I am, raising questions and starting the conversation.I think this is a conversation that needs to start now because we are already here. "Here where?", you ask. Here, conducting research in the metaverse. For better or for worse, it has begun.
Before digging in, you may be wondering what brought about this blog of questions? Well, the idea took root during a recent discussion I had with a client when he asked if our firm had conducted any research in the metaverse. After my moment of surprise, I answered that no, it wasn’t something we'd done yet. After our Zoom meeting ended, I found myself wondering about all of the aspects involved in conducting such research. There is a lot to consider!
- What would research in the metaverse look like?
- What types of research would be meaningful?
- How would you find respondents?
OMG, this could be crazy-awesome! All of my thoughts about the possibilities were quickly followed by more questions:
- How do we translate existing research methods to fit this new frontier?
- How do we ensure sample validity and quality?
- How do we know the research outcomes reflect real life and not virtual life?
The last question may be the most important one of all. Especially since, for better or for worse, research is already being conducted in the metaverse. I did a quick Google search and identified 4 types of research that are currently being conducted in the metaverse:
- Heat maps - Enabling real-time consumer behavioral visuals or models.
- Virtual testing of designs - Companies may release products virtually at first and get people to try them out before releasing any physical product worldwide.
- Collaborative analytics - Enables team-based users to visualize, tweak, view, and interact with data to produce more meaningful, action-oriented analyses.
- 3D data visualization - Data will be virtually compiled from supply chains and, with a fusion of VR and AI for analytics, it will enable a more complete look at diverse processes.
Of these, I have the most familiarity with heat maps and virtual design testing, and they both raised immediate concerns for me. They seem intuitive to use in the metaverse spaces, but they raise a few questions with a common theme. That is, when operating in the metaverse, whether in the capacity of an immersive virtual world, augmented reality, or something in between, is consumer behavior the same in these environments as it is IRL?
As researchers, we write questionnaires and design test methods to minimize bias and elicit the truest responses from participants. That is, we want respondents to answer, behave, react, and talk to us as they would in any particular real-life scenario. But, in the untried, untested, and somewhat unregulated metaverse, we have yet to validate that virtual behavior reflects IRL behavior. So, there are more questions to be answered:
- What risks do these research methods represent?
- What biases exist that we haven’t yet realized?
As supplier-side researchers, our goal is to help our clients address their business problems by using data and insights from reliable research. We design studies to answer strategic and tactical business questions. We use research methods that are tried and true, and when appropriate, we implement them in innovative ways. So, my questions to you are:
- As the metaverse continues to rise, how do we as a research community embrace this space and maintain the integrity of the research we do every day?
- With all of the unanswered questions we have, is now the time, or is it too soon?
About the Author
Julie Trujillo (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Senior Vice President at Decision Analyst. She may be reached at 1-800-262-5974 or 1-817-640-6166.
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