Depending on whom you ask, the metaverse involves some form of virtual or augmented reality designed to bring users into the digital realm, where they can connect with other people for a variety of purposes, whether for leisure or for commerce.
Although the final form of this new technology is not entirely fleshed out, the estimates about its potential value are wide-ranging. Bloomberg Intelligence thinks the opportunity could be worth $800 billion by 2024, and based on an annual growth rate of 13.1%, it could double to $1.6 trillion by 2030.
Meta Platforms (META 1.44%) spirit Snap (SNAP -0.50%) are two leading developers of the metaverse, and they’re each approaching it from different angles. Here’s why owning both might be a great bet for the long term.
Meta’s multibillion-dollar bet
When the economy was roaring during 2021, Meta Platforms’ big bet on the metaverse was seen as an intriguing investment in a future technology that could change the way people connect socially and professionally. Meta stock was trading at an all-time high of $378 a little more than 12 months ago.
But in 2022, with the economy slowing and the rest of Meta’s business struggling, investors have lambasted the company and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, for its continued spending on the project.
Meta Platforms is the parent of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, all of which rely on advertising to generate revenue. But given the current climate, consumers are spending less, so businesses are investing less in marketing, which has directly affected Meta’s portfolio of social media platforms.
The company generated $27.7 billion in revenue during the recent third quarter (ended Sept. 30), which was a slight year-over-year decline from the $29 billion it delivered in the same period of 2021. While that’s not ideal, investors are more concerned with Meta’s accelerated spending in its Reality Labs segment, which is responsible for the metaverse. In the first three quarters of 2022, Reality Labs has lost $9.4 billion, and it has been a drag on the company’s bottom-line results.
But it’s not all bad news. Meta is still experiencing user growth across its family of apps, which now have 3.7 billion monthly active people. And the company’s annual revenue for 2022 is expected to top $116 billion, which would be flat compared to 2021, although that’s not necessarily a bad thing given how challenging the economy is.
Then there’s the financial potential of the metaverse. Weighed against what could be a multitrillion-dollar opportunity in the long term, Meta’s investment of less than $10 billion this year doesn’t seem so unreasonable. Mark Zuckerberg predicts the company’s mass-market virtual world could attract one billion users, who will each spend hundreds of dollars on digital goods before 2030.
Because Meta stock is down 70% from its all-time high and trades at the cheapest price-to-earnings ratio since it became a public company, this might be an opportune time to buy.
Snap has an augmented take on the metaverse
The beauty of a new technology like the metaverse is that companies are all working on their own innovative visions for it. Snap, which is the parent of SnapChat, doesn’t see a virtual world at all, and has in fact criticized the approach taken by its rival Meta Platforms. Instead, Snap wants to fuse the digital realm with the physical one, and it’s doing so with augmented reality (AR).
AR has broader applications because the user does not have to be fully immersed in the technology by using a headset, for example. It can be delivered on-screen using a smartphone camera, or even with special glasses Snap is designing called Spectacles. The wearers can go about their normal day while having digital enhancements beamed into their vision without ceasing interactions with other human beings in real life.
Like Meta, Snap’s advertising-based business has suffered at the hands of the weak economy this year. But it’s working on a series of initiatives to revive its growth trajectory, including AR-based features that are true game changers.
SnapChat users are able to try on clothes using AR through their smartphone camera, and one retailer generated 11 million impressions on the platform during the third quarter. Similarly, another store saw a 14-fold increase in its return on investment by allowing SnapChatters to explore outdoor furniture products using AR.
Therefore, setting aside any potential value created from the metaverse itself, it’s clear AR could provide a significant boost to advertisers. Since Snap is a leading developer of the technology, that might be a big long-term tailwind for the company.
Snap’s revenue grew by just 5.7% year over year in the third quarter — for context, it grew 10 times faster (57%) at the same time in 2021. But on a more positive note, the company continues to experience robust growth in daily active users, which jumped 19% during the quarter to 363 million. As long as that continues, Snap’s advertising revenue should bounce back strongly once the economy recovers.
Like Meta, Snap’s stock decline (some 87% from its all-time high) places it near the cheapest valuation since becoming a public company, so investors might see value in building a position at these levels.