How the Metaverse Will Impact Online Businesses

How the Metaverse Will Impact Online Businesses

Facebook’s decision to change its parent company name to Meta was a clear signal that the metaverse was the next big online thing. But what is it and what will its arrival mean for online businesses? Here we take a closer look.

What is the metaverse?

In essence, the metaverse is the merging of the real and virtual worlds. Using technologies like virtual and augmented realities, together with the peripherals that allow people to connect to them, virtual headsets, augmented reality apps and wearables, etc., people from across the world can gather together to have experiences and interactions in real time.

In many respects, not all of this is new. Virtual, avatar-populated worlds have existed for some time, Minecraft, Roblox and Decentraland, for example, as have augmented reality games, like Pokémon Go.

However, as technology has evolved, these have become of increasing importance beyond the realms of gaming. Today, metaverses are places where people create, sell and own virtual objects, even virtual real estate, through the use of non-fungible tokens. Brands operating within virtual worlds can also do real-world business. They can open up virtual stores and use them to sell real items which are then delivered to their customers’ doors.

Why brands are moving to the metaverse

Why would a business invest millions of pounds to buy virtual real estate and build a virtual store in one of these metaverses?  Quite simply, it’s because that is where lots of people, the younger generations at least, like to hang out. In less than a year, Nike’s virtual store on the Roblox platform had a footfall of 7 million, a figure that would have way surpassed the number of people that walk into the average high street store. 

Why such popularity? Because the metaverse is the ideal location in which to provide the tech-based customer experiences that the younger generations want. Hundreds of thousands of people might turn up to festivals like Glastonbury, but that figure pales in comparison to the 12 million, from all across the world, that virtually attended the Travis Scott gig on Fortnight during the lockdown.

Compared to a concert in a venue, there is no limit to ticket sales, little set-up expense and the potential for huge merchandising sales. In a single, virtual concert, Scott was able to reach an audience that he would have needed a worldwide tour to reach in the physical world.   

Collaborative possibilities

The metaverse is not just of huge potential for retail, gaming and entertainment; it offers collaborative possibilities for all types of organisations. While the lockdown introduced the world to Teams, Zoom and the multitude of other remote video chat and collaboration tools, the metaverse offers a far wider range of possibilities.

Why sit staring at someone on screen when you can meet up in virtual environments? These virtual spaces, of course, can be fully equipped with all the tools and applications professionals need. No matter where they are physically, together artists can create, scientists experiment, engineers build and doctors practice.

Different types of metaverse

The great thing about metaverses is that they can be created to suit different needs. For many businesses, that need will be to deal with customer interactions. Beyond retail and entertainment, any organisation that has customer-facing operations, local councils, banks, universities or energy companies, for example, can create virtual stores, offices, lecture theatres and meeting spaces to deliver their services to younger generations.

A metaverse can also be helpful for organisations wanting to deliver better employee-facing experiences, especially for those with a workforce that is in various locations. The financial and environmental costs of bringing people physically together for meetings or training can be foregone, but they can still interact and even have downtime together in the metaverse and in more normal and meaningful ways than via Teams or Zooms.

Another way that a metaverse can be used to great benefit is in the creation of virtual twins. Indeed, some companies are already making use of this technology to trial new products and operations. For example, instead of designing a new plane by building and testing a series of prototypes, this stage of production can be carried out in the metaverse. Not only is this a cheaper way to bring a physical product to life; it also means it can be better tested for safety, quality and customer approval before being brought to the physical prototype stage.

Conclusion

The huge numbers of younger people flocking to the metaverse to visit stores and take part in events are testament to its growing popularity. For online businesses that target this age group, this opens up a new channel that, potentially, can be more lucrative than social media. For all organisations, however, the metaverse gives rise to a wealth of opportunities for customer engagement, employee interactions and product development.

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