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The meta-what?!

(Source: @mckaya via Twenty20)

The pandemic reintroduced the world to a ‘little thing’ called a QR code and as we reopen to the ‘roaring twenties’, incredible ‘techcceleration’ is already taking us well beyond the Covid check-in.

After two years of intermittent lockdowns and remote living where more of our lives were intrinsically lived online, what’s next? We’re looking to the Metaverse where people will grow their networks and connect in 3D worlds. By 2025, it is predicted that almost three-quarters of people globally and almost all smartphone users will be frequent AR users. They’ll play, shop and conduct business in the Metaverses of their choosing, which will be filled with data and allow businesses to extract more intimate real-time customer data such as facial expressions and vocal inflections. So what the meta is it?

If you’re moshing at an online concert, trying on digital clothing or joining your colleagues for coffee in the virtual office, you’re already dipping a toe into what may be part of an eventual Metaverse. In fact, if you’re a gamer (or have a child who is) and familiar with World of Warcraft, you’ve already made a very early foray into the concept. 

Did you get caught up in the augmented reality gaming phenomenon Pokemon Go? Well, now it’s joining the Metaverse. Essentially, the Metaverse will be the next generation of the internet blending physical and virtual spaces where your reality comes to life through your avatar. And there will be many Metaverses to visit – think of it as the internet 3.0 delivering the ultimate virtual marketplace travelling through vastly different platforms and experiences.

The Metaverse will be an intimate, hyper-real alternative world to co-exist and collaborate in

Different Metaverse platforms will cater to different audiences and purposes – all intentionally enriching the customer experience. And although early days, it’s already starting. For example, gaming platforms are ideal for creating memorable and engaging brand experiences and offer a huge market for buying and selling virtual goods. Nike built a digital platform ‘Nikeland’ on Roblox – a gaming platform boasting around 47.3 million active gamers engaging every single day across the world. Among its many touchpoints, people can visit Nike’s digital showroom and outfit their avatar with special products. 

In the Metaverse, the product will be the experience, and that experience will provide new sales and upsell opportunities. And the opportunities will be endless. For example, advances in digital olfaction could be game-changers in grocery – nascent technology is already being developed in Japan to digitally transmit taste sensations through a handheld ‘lickable screen’.

So what the meta does this mean for retailers? A whole new world of omnichannel possibilities

In this evolving shared 3D virtual reality space, blockchain technology will ultimately allow people to buy, own and sell a digital asset with a level of peer-to-peer ownership (not subject to a central authority like a government or bank). Cryptocurrencies are the Metaverse’s money, and each Metaverse could have its own set, for example through non-fungible tokens (NFTs). In the virtual reality of Decentraland, you can buy and create on blockchain land as you see fit. And big brand retailers are already in on the game, for example, Gap has released its own NFT collection

As a network of 3D virtual worlds focused on social connection, the Metaverse can come into its own as part of a future-focussed omnichannel strategy. Your customer data – and knowing how to effectively use it – is now more valuable than ever before. It’s all about being ‘the retailer for me’ in the worlds that I choose to play in – and increasingly, that will be in the Metaverse.

Find out more about digital trends in eRetail with our On The Pulse on-demand webinar – watch it here.