The metaverse, a virtual world, a convergence of new technological ideas that as Mark Zuckerberg put it “a period when immersive digital worlds become the primary way, we live our lives and spend our time.” But what does that mean? It all sounds very glossy and new age science fiction but in simple terms, what is the metaverse? And how can the business world adapt to this new platform and better market to the customers of the future?
What is the metaverse?
The metaverse is the inevitable merger of several technological developments from the past few years such as VR (virtual reality), AR (augmented reality) and blockchain (think cryptocurrencies). It is still in its infancy but is expected to become an online space that you can access via VR and interact with the environment in the form of your own personal avatar. And if you have seen the 2018 film Ready Player One, you might have an idea of what the metaverse could potentially become in the distant future.
Why should I care about the metaverse as a business owner?
Just as the rapid progress of computers and the advent of the internet led to changes in the way we do business and interact as a society over the last fifty years, the metaverse is expected to cause similar changes over the next fifty. Think about how much our society has transitioned to online platforms, social media, wireless or digital payments, and other such tech-based areas in the last few decades.
The overlap between our physical and digital lives is becoming increasingly blurry. Workspaces have become remote, and meetings moved to apps like Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Communication for both work and socialising now regularly take place via text-based chat, email, or social media. We have already become dependent on technology in our daily lives. It is easy to imagine how a vibrant online space in which everything we need and want is available at the touch of our virtual hands would be appealing. Reimagining who we are as our online avatars might allow people a new outlet or escape from reality.
CX next steps in the online arena
As a business, getting involved in the metaverse at this early stage is to get ahead of the curve and prepare yourself for the future. There are a few things to consider when developing your metaverse customer experience.
A virtual store or spaceThink about how you want your physical environment to appear within the metaverse. Is it going to be a physical store you can step into? Are you going to get abstract with the concept, i.e., a paint company that you visit by entering a giant paint can? What is going to be found within your space? Will there be e-commerce items, avatars representing your business, media that can be viewed, access to online events or NFTs?
Experts predict that 58.9 million (VR) and 93.3 million (AR) people in the United States will use VR and AR at least once a month this year. If your company is already tech-savvy, you might already have some AR mobile applications developed. How can you build on this initial work to create your unique online presence?
A great example would be the work done by Gucci. In May 2021, Gucci opened the Gucci Garden on Roblox, a virtual experience to go alongside their ‘real-world’ installation called the Gucci Garden Archetypes. Users could explore the online event space and purchase unique digital art pieces that had been developed alongside the Roblox team.
NFTs (non-fungible tokens)What are non-fungible tokens? That is a whole other article, and we will cover it in detail in a few weeks, but the gist is they are online-only assets that you can buy and trade. For example, if you had a cool sword you could purchase on an online game and keep as part of your character’s inventory. That would be an NFT.
The Snapchat/TikTok generation has over $4.4 trillion in global spending power. Developing unique NFTs for your brand engages with a customer base that has increasingly been brought up in an online world.
A few brands have already started designing web-exclusive assets. Coca-Cola recently auctioned off a series of NFTs developed around iconic aspects of their brand such as a classic cooler, red winter jacket and retro neon sign. The collection of Coca-Cola NFTs use dynamic motion, movement, and multisensorial elements to give a well-rounded experience. The winning bidders received their NFTs in the form of ‘loot boxes.’
Bots and customer service avatarsArtificial intelligence is going to play a significant role in managing the metaverse space. It is important to consider which aspects of your brand you will ultimately leave up to ‘bots’ to manage as well as how you will visually present them. Will you still utilise human-to-human interaction via customer service avatars? Could your brand mascot or logo be brought to life as a brand ambassador within your metaverse domain?
The fast-food chain Wendy’s saw an opportunity to advertise its "fresh, never frozen beef" within the growing online market. They joined the streaming service Twitch and created a character that resembled their brand's mascot. The Wendy’s avatar then joined the popular game Fortnite and began a campaign of destroying all the freezers within the game’s Food Fight mode. Wendy's live-streamed their quest, inviting hundreds of thousands of players to watch and join them in matches devoid of PvP kills, built around their ‘fresh’ mantra. Their event gained 1.5+ million minutes of views and there was an increase of 119% of brand mentions across social media.
Adapt to different user platformsJust like social media, early metaverse builds will be diverse and spread out amongst a variety of parent company platforms. The hopeful end goal from a user perspective is a unified, free-to-use Metaverse similar to Wikipedia. But the likely immediate future will consist of separate platforms that your brand will need to build individualised assets. Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Apple, and Disney are already assembling their own online worlds. From a marketing and costing perspective, it will be worth studying the different platforms and which best suits your brands needs and target demographics.
The most popular metaverses currently available are video games. Large community games such as Fortnite, Roblox, etc with avatar interactions and NFTs are a good early-stage example of how metaverses may come to be structured.
Web securityOnline fraud and crimes have been on an upward trajectory since the dawn of the internet. It is important not only for your brand’s protection, but also for ensuring the confidence of your customer base, that your online domains have all the correct security checks. Investing in online security experts to deal with any potential data leaks or hacks could be considered a prudent move.
The metaverse is likely to only expand on this issue. So next level steps to protect customers from being exploited will become even more essential.
Be coolThis one is straight forward, try not to be too corporate. The metaverse is merging the entertainment worlds of gaming, the e-commerce worlds of online shopping and the user experience of websites or physical stores. You want to have a space that is fun, dynamic, visual, and engaging. Be unique, be knowledgeable, be trendy - be cool!
Get in touch with Diversity
Let us know your thoughts on the metaverse and how you think it will change the way we interact via our various social media channels. Our team is always trying to stay apprised of current trends and developments. Keep your eyes out for our future blog on NFTs and learn more about this exciting new digital asset in more detail.
#metaverse #customerexperience #cxtips #digitaldesign
Written by Joe Macbeth