The term “Metaverse” is having its day in the sun, as of late. With Facebook changing its company name to Meta and Microsoft acquiring Activision Blizzard, maker of metaverse games Warcraft and Call of Duty, technology innovators are betting on the Metaverse being the next innovation in social media and internet use. But what is the Metaverse, and how will the concept’s popularity affect businesses large and small in the near future?
The Metaverse, in simple terms, is a network of virtual worlds that include the use of artificial intelligence, virtual reality, avatars, and the concept of a digital second life. The main difference between the Metaverse and typical virtual reality or gamification as we know it is that the Metaverse does not go away when you log off.
The Metaverse is not a new concept, but how the Metaverse can be best utilized and expanded is being explored more than ever before. Businesses from real estate to big box stores are looking to enter the Metaverse. Some have already blazed a trail, showing other companies what can be accomplished in this new virtual frontier.
So, if one owns a small business, how can they best enter the Metaverse and use it to their advantage to scale their business and gain new customers? There are many ways a business can enter the Metaverse and make the most of the technology at its disposal.
The Metaverse, though not a new concept, still has a ways to go in terms of maturity. Companies are still feeling their way around, looking into how they can best utilize what the Metaverse offers.
When Facebook changed to Meta, they cautioned that it would be 10 to 15 years before the full realization of the Metaverse would come to fruition.
You may want to proceed with caution when you are a small business, with perhaps tighter purse-strings than larger companies. That is not to say you should write off any Metaverse-related plans altogether. On the contrary, getting in on the ground floor of innovations can be advantageous for a small business looking to scale. Tread carefully and keep abreast of breaking news and changes concerning the Metaverse. Let that inform your decision-making process for your business.
It helps to have a long-range plan for the Metaverse’s role in your business and keep investing in current social media and virtual products to keep your business’ online marketing presence fresh. If one counts on the Metaverse to be the be-all and end-all of their business marketing plan going forward, they are likely to end up disappointed and unsuccessful. The structure is far too new to be relied on in its entirety.
Dip Your Toe in the Metaverse Waters
Businesses are already trying different Metaverse concepts for size, taking baby steps into the world before diving in head-first. Perhaps you’ve been online and been able to do a virtual “try on” of a pair of glasses or an outfit? Virtual reality and artificial intelligence for business are already here and have been changing the face of e-commerce for some time. Businesses have found success with technology that allows consumers to visualize what a product will look like on them or in their homes before making a purchase decision.
When considering how one’s business fits into the Metaverse expansion and innovation, the possibilities are becoming vast. For example, businesses that sell a physical product may consider if virtual products would work for them. In the future, most physical products you can imagine are likely to have a virtual counterpart in the Metaverse.
Those at the forefront of Metaverse innovation have high hopes for this technology to grow and become integrated into the Metaverse at large. For example, you could someday try on an outfit just as you would live in a store, purchase that outfit online, and your avatar could wear that outfit to a concert you attend virtually later that day. The possibilities are vast, and businesses have many opportunities to find their place among the ideas, innovations, and expanding worlds.
Consider Immersive Gamification
Gamification has been utilized not only for consumers but also for employees and training. It has been shown to increase engagement and help with retention within a company.
Game makers were the pioneers of the Metaverse. Games such as Second Life, World of Warcraft, and Fortnite offer a virtual world experience where avatars, which is a person’s virtual representation, can not only play a game, but socialize, buy and sell goods, and customize personal spaces.
Since games were some of the world’s first exposure to the Metaverse concept, it may be tempting to dismiss the entire Metaverse as kid’s stuff. But, gamification has been used everywhere, from schools to e-commerce, with sweeping success. The use of games for either learning, entertainment, or training will not be going anywhere soon.
Small businesses can use immersive gamification to help consumers or followers learn a new skill, provide an immersive experience of their service or product, or train and motivate their employees.
Prepare for Challenges
As with any new and rapidly growing technology, there are bound to be some bugs to work out before businesses start to see a return on their investment, whether financial or in terms of engagement. Investment into the Metaverse is no exception. Those at the forefront of Metaversal technology, such as Meta and Microsoft, do not foresee the technology being fully formed for at least another decade. Growth may be slow going for some businesses for a while.
Another challenge will be acclimating the general public to the very concept of the Metaverse. Once the public learns what the Metaverse is, the next hurdle for businesses will be leading consumers through how to best utilize everything the Metaverse has to offer. Pioneering anything new can be challenging when one has to convince others to come along for the ride. If they don’t understand the benefits, consumers may be wary of putting too much stock into a virtual existence. When businesses start to brand out into Metaverse-adjacent concepts such as NFTs or cryptocurrency, they may risk alienating a less tech-savvy population.
The Metaverse will be consistently in flux, at least for the duration of its initial construction and for some time after. Businesses looking to transition into a Metaversal platform will need to prepare for the challenge of constant change and be ready to roll with the punches for a while. Consumers who become accustomed to the hyper-customization of the Metaverse will come to expect that same level of customization from your business.
One way to circumvent possible hiccups is to be proactive. Suppose a small business, for example, wants to start accepting cryptocurrency as payment for goods and services. In that case, they could provide courses on crypto investing or how to utilize cryptocurrency with their business best. Offering courses and instruction set the small business up as a subject matter expert. So, in this case, if a consumer wanted to start investing in or using cryptocurrency, they would continue to see your business as their gateway into that world.
Tools in a Toolbox
Now that the Metaverse is on its way to becoming the latest tech juggernaut, poised to change the face of commerce in the next decade, there are parallel companies devising tools to make it easy for businesses to enter the Metaversal space.
These tools run the gamut in terms of utilization. They include connectivity tools, e-commerce shop hosts like Shopify that allow for 3D product display, and Metaverse gateway companies poised to help businesses integrate their technology. Like with any new industry, which one could consider the Metaverse to be, there will be companies that spring up to support that industry from all angles.
When considering moving into the Metaversal space, small businesses should carefully consider the tools at their disposal and how they may assist the move.
A Change of View
The Metaverse is not just a new technology; it’s a societal shift. Much like the emergence of social media marketing over a decade ago, the rapidly expanding Metaverse could eventually change how everyone conducts business and engages with one another for work, play, and commerce.
It benefits all small businesses, even if they have no plans to venture into the Metaverse soon, to follow emerging news concerning the technology. To survive, modern businesses, large and small, need to be adaptable and open to change.
Keeping a finger on the pulse of what is happening with the Metaverse, especially within one’s niche industry, will help that business properly prepare for making necessary shifts to stay relevant.
If you are hesitant to consider the Metaverse as the next move for your business, perhaps consult the annals of recent history. Think about those businesses who were maybe around for decades who, when the internet was first making waves, refused to get a web page. They saw no problem sticking with the status quo, as it had always worked for them until it didn’t. Today, businesses that refuse to interact with social media or the internet as a whole are likely to go under. While there are always exceptions to the rule, they are few and far between. Businesses that want to thrive need to be, at the very least, educated about technological advancements happening around them. The Metaverse is, as stated, still in its infancy. Even with grand projections from some of the great minds in technology, it remains to be seen what kind of effect the Metaverse will have on business as a whole. Keeping proactive, flexible, and creative will ensure small businesses are ready when the opportunity to break into the Metaversal world presents itself.