The Metaverse – A New Dimension In Customer Experience
“The smartphone is no longer just a device we use. It’s become the place where we live.” – Daniel Miller
Stemming from the combination of the words, “meta” (that means beyond) and “verse” (short for the universe), the Metaverse is quickly becoming a technology buzzword in the business world. But what does it mean?
Effectively, the Metaverse refers to a “shared” virtual world environment as a future iteration of the Internet. We can also understand it as a collection of shared digital spaces, which are made more lifelike using virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR).
How does it serve business enterprises? No matter what technologies are deployed by business brands, their ultimate aim is to improve and enhance customer experience (CX). The 2021 “Into the Metaverse” report from Wunderman Thompson suggests that 93% of global consumers agree that technology is our future and 76% believe that their everyday lives and activities depend on technology these days.
The idea behind the metaverse is to facilitate more multi-dimensional interactions, where online users will be able to immerse themselves in digital reality rather than simply observe or experience it.
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While the metaverse is a trending topic, its many aspects have been around for some time (in fact, as early as the 1980s). Science fiction writer Neal Stephenson predicted a future when virtual representations (or human avatars) would be merged into one consistent experience.
How does the metaverse add a new dimension to CX for modern retail brands? Let us talk about its amazing benefits:
1. A personalized and engaging shopping experience
In the modern eCommerce age, we know the value personalization is adding to the overall shopping experience. With the metaverse, retail brands can now connect and engage with global users, while pushing the boundaries of creativity with ideas that might not be possible in the real world.
A recent study from Squarespace and The Harris Poll found that over 60% of Gen-Z and millennial consumers believe how a brand presents itself in the “online” space is more important than how it is in the “physical world.”
With the translation of real-world products into virtual spaces, brands can offer their customers a hyper-personalized experience without worrying about the limitations of the physical world. An example of this is the collaboration between French luxury brand Balenciaga and online game developer Epic Games, (the company behind the popular Fortnite game). Through this collaboration, the partners are looking to bring the brand’s fashion clothing and signatures into the online game (where gamers can directly purchase the items of clothing).
Adding to the increasing interest in the metaverse, an online virtual space enables fashion enthusiasts to experience how a particular piece of clothing will look on them.
2. Makes gaming more real
While online gaming and the metaverse have always been intertwined, the metaverse offers far more than just a gaming experience. There are abundant opportunities for digitized entertainment and social bonding in virtual-reality-based gaming.
According to Keith Stuart, the games editor at Guardian, “a lot of traditional ways of marketing to young people are gone forever. Gaming is where they are.” The emergence of the metaverse is making online gaming a bigger playground for brands to connect with their engaged users.
More games are now being positioned as non-fungible tokens (or NFTs). Tradestars is a particularly interesting game that blends sports knowledge with fantasy stocks and Ethereum cryptocurrency, which is convertible to real-world cash.
Adding to that, the popular Pokemon Go game could be the “next biggest” thing in the metaverse with the way it uses the location memory system and serves as a tool with which users can mark important events in their life, along with places they’ve lived or visited.
4. Retail stores can exist virtually
With retail brands seeking to heighten customer engagement, the metaverse could be the way ahead. According to Maury Rogow, CEO of Hollywood’s Rip Media Group, “Retail is an area that’s expected to become increasingly involved in the metaverse over the next several years.”
The “Into The Metaverse” report notes that innovation has already started happening in stores or on the Instagram platform. Till now we saw customers using AR to try on clothes virtually, but the metaverse will facilitate buying of fashion items that never existed physically.
An example of this trend is the fashion accessory brand Gucci selling a virtual (or digital) version of its Gucci Dionysus handbag on the online Roblox gaming platform for just over $4,100.
5. Brands learn more about their customers
Consider the trend that “virtual dressing” can reveal more a shopper’s tastes and preferences, thus enabling retail brands to learn more about individual consumers.
Adding to that, customer analytics is essential for building a successful AR marketing campaign. Brands now know how users behave in a particular situation, and how this can correlate to their choice to buy the products.
Consider it like tomorrow’s version of search engines using the user’s search data to market its advertised products. For instance, Shrimps, a London-based fashion brand ran a competition on Instagram, asking followers to post #StayAtHomeShrimps looks. The winner would receive a Shrimps bag of their choice. Fans sketched their dream outfits, and the brand learned a lot about the individual customer’s tastes and choices.
4. Revolutionize virtual events
Is the future of online events on the metaverse? Potentially yes, which is why event managers and communications professionals need to pay more attention.
The 2020 global pandemic made almost all physical events and concerts online. With online social events becoming increasingly mainstream, the metaverse can further bridge geographical divides in the future.
For instance, the metaverse is already being adopted in the entertainment industry. The recent John Legend’s “Bigger Love” virtual concert used Wave XR technology to broadcast an avatar version of John Legend. Fans could socialize and interact with John Legend, with the virtual event seen by 500,000 live attendees.
Technologies that can enable the Metaverse
Technology innovators Mark Zuckerberg and Satya Nadella are referring to the metaverse as the “next generation of the Internet.” Zuckerberg recently turned heads by announcing that Facebook would transition from being a social media company to “a Metaverse company” within the next five years.
Wondering what technologies will enable it? First, crypto and blockchain technology allow companies to create their own NFTs that will power the metaverse. Further, technologies like virtual reality (VR), mixed reality and augmented reality (AR) are making virtual spaces “lifelike” through a wide range of digital gadgets.
Currently, Facebook’s VR headsets are in the limelight. A first look at its prototype headsets might provide some insight into how the metaverse will operate. Moreover, there is news floating about Apple working on its Apple AR glasses product with its “mixed reality” headset.
Looking at the trends and benefits, it is likely that the metaverse will be a huge development for enhanced CX in the future digital world. It will represent an entire ecosystem of virtual realities, which are broader and more complex than the current Internet ecosystem.
How do retail and non-retail brands prepare for the next wave of customer experiences in the metaverse dimension? As a technology solution provider, Ignitiv has worked with global brands in improving their customer experience to align with future trends. Get in touch with us to know more.