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04/27/2022

Consumer Interest in “Virtual Living” Intensifies, Accenture Survey Finds

Half of consumers said that they are buying, or would be interested in buying a virtual or augmented travel experience, ranging from a sightseeing tour or a hotel stay.
Michal Christine Escobar
Senior Editor (Hotels)
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The growing use of immersive technologies such as augmented and virtual reality will spur consumer-facing companies, such as those in retail, consumer goods and travel, to increase investment in new capabilities and experiences to blend physical and virtual worlds, or risk being left behind, according to the findings of a recent global survey from Accenture.

The survey of more than 11,000 consumers in 16 countries found that while almost two-thirds (64%) of consumers had already purchased a virtual good or taken part in a virtual experience or service in the past year, that figure is expected to rise, as 83% show interest in making purchases via the metaverse. Furthermore, 42% of survey respondents said they had visited a retailer in the virtual world to get advice, make a payment or browse a product range when shopping for a physical item, while 56% of respondents plan to in the next year. Among millennials, these figures increase to 51% and 61% respectively. 

According to the Accenture Technology Vision 2022, “Meet Me in the Metaverse: The Continuum of Technology and Experience Reshaping Business,” more than half (55%) of consumers agree that more of their lives and livelihoods are moving into digital spaces. In response, the vast majority (90%) of retail executives say that they anticipate that leading organizations will push the boundaries of the virtual world to make it more real, increasing the need for persistence and seamless navigation between the digital and physical worlds. Further, 72% of global executives state that the metaverse will have a positive impact on their organizations, with 45% believing it will be breakthrough or transformational.

The metaverse era has begun, and so for consumer-facing companies, it’s not about deciding if they’re going to go into the metaverse, it’s deciding how,’’ said Jill Standish, senior managing director and global head of Accenture’s Retail industry group “Retailers and brands will need to reimagine and experiment with what new immersive and consultative experiences could mean to consumers. In addition to new opportunities to sell, the metaverse can also help build loyalty through experiences that go beyond just buying a product. For instance, retailers can create a personalized experience by offering a live-stream shopping event where customers can sit next to a brand ambassador, and then immediately be able to step into a virtual dressing room where they can try something on, add it to their cart, and check out.”

The survey also found that half (50%) of consumers said that they are buying, or would be interested in buying, a travel experience such as a sightseeing tour or hotel stay. This figure rises to 55% of millennials, compared to 29% of baby boomers. For leisure, 54% of consumers said that they are buying, or interested in buying, tickets to a concert, a show or sporting event taking place in a virtual world.

Emily Weiss, senior managing director and global head of Accenture’s Travel industry group said, “It’s important to recognize that the metaverse is not intended to replace physical travel, rather provide a complementary enhancement to an overarching experience that, over time, may become an essential part of the travel ecosystem. 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.”

In addition to giving rise to new ways to shop, travel and socialize, virtual products and locations highlights a potential opportunity to grow revenue across industries. 

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Oliver Wright, senior managing director and global head of Accenture’s Consumer Goods and Services industry group said, “In a world where digital has become as important as the physical, consumer-facing companies are challenged to create, shape and market products, services and experiences that can move between the physical and virtual worlds. And they need to do this while coordinating a network of experts, skills, and technologies to help make it happen. While commercial applications of metaverse are still in their infancy, they will develop quickly because consumers already expect it. Successful consumer brands will be those that collaborate with consumers and the metaverse eco-system to create digital products and services that meet these rapidly emerging needs.”

Accenture recently announced the launch of the Accenture Metaverse Continuum business group, which combines metaverse-skilled professionals and market-leading capabilities in customer experience, digital commerce, extended reality, blockchain, digital twins, artificial intelligence and computer vision to help clients design, execute and accelerate their metaverse journeys.

About the Research

Accenture’s Consumer Pulse Survey offers insights into consumer outlook, sentiment, and behaviours two years on from the start of the pandemic (March 2020). This year’s survey is relevant to all consumer industries but is focused on Consumer Goods, Retail and Travel. Accenture surveyed a representative sample of 11,311 consumers from 16 countries: Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, UAE, UK, USA and Vietnam. The survey was conducted online and targeted consumers who have made purchases for their household in the past six months. Respondents were split evenly across gender and age group. This survey was conducted between 7th and 15th February 2022.
 
For the Accenture Technology Vision 2022, Accenture Research conducted a global survey of 24,000 consumers to capture insights into their use of, interactions with, and beliefs about technology in their everyday lives. In addition, Accenture conducted a survey of 4,650 C-level executives and directors across 23 industries to understand their perspectives and use of emerging technologies across their organizations. The surveys were fielded from December 2021 through January 2022 across 35 countries.