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How Should Companies Approach the Metaverse?

The term metaverse and what it potentially represents for businesses and/or industries has been inserted into conversations involving digital transformation, marketing and the enterprise as a way of creating opportunity and harnessing the metaverse’s potential. What exactly the metaverse is remains unclear to most C-suites and is seen by others as a way to describe Web3. What is clear is that it would be wise to pay attention to what the metaverse can do to future-proof your organization or business, and the disruption it will inevitably cause across all industries and the brands we engage with.

This recent McKinsey Podcast with Tech Futurist and Metaverse Strategist, Cathy Hackl, describes the metaverse as “a convergence of our physical and digital lives. It’s our digital lifestyles, which we’ve been living on phones or computers, slowly catching up to our physical lives in some way, so that full convergence. It is enabled by many different technologies, like AR [augmented reality] and VR [virtual reality], which are the ones that most people tend to think about. But they’re not the only entry points. There’s also blockchain, which is a big component, there’s 5G, there’s edge computing, and many, many other technologies.” She adds, “the metaverse is also about our identity and digital ownership. It’s about a new extension of human creativity in some ways.”

“This is your chance to reimagine what you become in the metaverse—what is the extension of who you are?

While the metaverse will be comprised of virtual content and experiences, it will also be how new forms of commerce and education get delivered through digital, AR, artificial intelligence (AI) and physical experiences.

An additional point that Ms. Hackl makes is, “This is your chance to reimagine what you become in the metaverse—what is the extension of who you are?” The takeaways here go back to a company or brand’s purpose, and of course having a clear strategy as to why you’re doing this and the desired outcome. Don’t just dive into the metaverse without understanding risks and rewards to your consumers, customers or employees.

Who’s Laying the Metaverse Groundwork?

It should come as no surprise that entertainment and gaming companies are leading the way, e.g., Roblox and Epic Games. In 3Q21, active users of Roblox reached 47 million compared to 36 million in 3Q20, a 31% increase. These users, children 13 and under, have increased the number of hours playing by 29%, to 11 billion.

Millions of people go to these virtual worlds to socialize, play and engage in a digital economy. Some participants even make a living inside these metaverses by selling their digital wares. While Roblox is essentially a collection of games, to move it closer to being a metaverse, the company is relabeling them as experiences. This is creating more opportunities to monetize these so-called experiences by hosting real-life events and expand a brands reach that bridge the physical and digital.  For example:

Recently, Roblox invited music star David Guetta to perform a DJ set as a digital avatar in Roblox. Concertgoers were able to navigate through a digital world and interact with other users through activities like DJ and dance battles.

The company signed a deal with skateboarding and apparel company Vans to create “Vans World,” which provides opportunities for users to purchase Vans products for their digital avatars. This experience drew 40 million visits in its first month.

While all of the brand partner events hosted in 2021 saw millions of visits and nearly one-third (or more) visits from the 17+ audience, the top five events that engaged over 30% of visitors in the 17+ age group were Gucci Garden, Twenty One Pilots Concert Experience, KSI Launch Party, the Fashion Awards 2021 and Nikeland.

Creating Immersive Business Solutions

The metaverse opportunities aren’t exclusive to consumer brands, particularly when it comes to training, employee onboarding and HR, or simulations to accelerate or streamline manufacturing or logistics.

As explained in this Harvard Business Review article, “Microsoft is positioning its cloud services to be the fabric of the metaverse, using its Mesh platform to enable avatars and immersive spaces to thread into the collaboration environments, such as Teams, over time. With post-COVID hybrid or remote working environments, many of these more creative virtual business experiences are likely to become even more relevant to how companies connect to their people and to their customers.”

“With post-COVID hybrid or remote working environments, many of these more creative virtual business experiences are likely to become even more relevant to how companies connect to their people and to their customers

The post-COVID-19 impact has forced the acceleration and adoption of a virtual workforce. In some respects, it has primed us for the next evolution of how we work, collaborate and are trained, further transforming the traditional enterprise and employee relationship. Take, for example, how Accenture reinvented its enterprise onboarding program: “We used to be able to, in start groups, bring people to physical locations—hotels or campuses, etc.—and we would get to know each other, get to know Accenture and get to know the culture. We can’t do that anymore, nor do we think that’s the right thing for us to do at scale over time. And so we said, what a great opportunity for us to bring people into a virtual world, no matter where they are coming from across the planet, can go into a virtual world that we call One Accenture Park—it’s actually based on Microsoft Space and MESH—they go with a headset, or they can go via their PC, to join that group. Go through this magical virtual world we created to learn about the various aspects of Accenture. They go on a tour of these different lands where they learn about different Accenture services.”

“What a great opportunity for us to bring people into a virtual world, no matter where they are coming from across the planet, can go into a virtual world

Nvidia is proving how the metaverse can save money and expedite production by building virtual factories and infrastructure that can then be translated to a physical environment. Through their work with BMW, they are creating a future virtual factory that is a clone of the physical factory. This enables BMW to explore ways to optimize production through virtual simulations, all without ever impacting the physical production environment.

While the industrial metaverse is still uncharted, this article shared how “its ability to provide seamless, immersive digital experiences due to its ubiquitous, always-on connectivity also offers substantial potential for manufacturing and supply chain organizations.” These use cases include:

  • Boosting brand awareness via virtual factory walks and interactive assemblies

  • Virtual presentations of products and services

  • Payments via blockchain technologies, cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs)

  • Collaborative R&D for design, simulations, and testing of products and services

  • Leveraging the voice of the digital customer to improve the real-world customer experience

So How Should Companies Approach the Metaverse?

As with any form of digital transformation, the metaverse should be approached with the curiosity and rigor to test and learn. All indications are pointing to more and more companies launching their own version of the metaverse. So, it would be wise to understand sooner rather than later how it can benefit your customers and workforce.

Here are a few questions companies should begin to ask:

  • What is our purpose with the metaverse and how does it elevate our brand?

  • What pain points could we eliminate for operations, sales and our customers by utilizing the metaverse

  • What is the greatest unrecognized opportunity?

  • How would the metaverse benefit our audiences or deepen our relationship with them?

  • What are our customers doing as it relates to the metaverse?

  • Is there anyone outside our sector we should be paying attention to?

While there are certainly many more questions to ask, your organization, industry or audiences may end up dictating an accelerated path towards how and why your business embraces the metaverse—just don’t ignore it for too long, because it’s not going away.

Questions? Feel free to email me here. As always, thank you for reading.

Photo Source Roblox