If you are not entirely sure what the metaverse actually is, you’re not alone. You’ll hear and see references to the metaverse everywhere at the moment, but what exactly is it? Different articles you read will all define it differently, but Wired has a helpful suggestion to make it more accessible, while also pointing out how abstract a concept it can be: “Mentally replace the phrase “the metaverse” in a sentence with “cyberspace.” Ninety percent of the time, the meaning won’t substantially change”.
The metaverse aims to merge our digital and physical lives. Tech Target spells it out more substantially for us: “In the metaverse, users traverse a virtual world that mimics aspects of the physical world using such technologies such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), AI, social media and digital currency”. But what does this have to do with customers and how they interact with businesses?
How is the metaverse already shaping customer experiences?
We are already seeing the rise of the virtual, immersive experience. Think museum or festival immersive experiences like the recent Van Gogh immersive experience, but without leaving your house. Working environments are even beginning to be replicated in the metaverse. What was once considered a gaming feature is set to become an integral part of how we will shop, live, and learn.
Don’t get left behind
Gartner predicts that, by 2026, 25% of people will spend at least an hour a day in the metaverse for work, shopping, education, entertainment, and social interaction. Businesses have the opportunity today to start thinking about how their customers will interact with them in the metaverse. With so little currently defined in this space, it also offers the opportunity to think ahead and consider the types of products and services businesses can provide in the future. And how these interactions will be made and distributed.
How will the metaverse impact businesses?
As Bloomberg calculates the metaverse marketplace could be worth about USD 800 billion by 2024, this is an area where designing the right customer experiences from the outset will be key. There is some speculation that the metaverse will mainly replace our physical world – after all, we’ve already seen businesses go from physical to digital interactions as technology has evolved.
We have moved from having to visit a physical location with physical cash to be able to buy a product to being able to order and pay by post and cheque, then to ordering online and paying by card for home delivery. These days we can order on an app, pay by app, and get delivery to wherever we choose. Not to mention, returns can be made directly from our houses now, too. The next step is for immersive interactions to complement that which has come before, rather than replacing it all.
The Harvard Business Review also makes the point that, as inherently social beings, speculation that the metaverse will effectively ‘replace’ the physical world is unlikely. Instead, they believe, “the metaverse is a mechanism for enhancing the physical world”. We believe the next phase offers the opportunity to start acting today to prepare for the future.
How can businesses prepare for the metaverse?
With very little currently defined in this space, a new set of skills is required for businesses to understand the emerging and future needs of customers. Shaping service experiences that respond swiftly as business models extend into meta businesses will need clarity. Reimagining services in this landscape without this could prove to be a costly exercise. As developing these skills in house takes time, partnering with the right people will enable businesses to react quickly and adapt at scale.
Clear purpose and strategy are needed before product and innovation teams can start exploring what the metaverse will mean for their business in the future: buying or developing assets in the metaverse would be a risky business without this. As the metaverse changes the way customers engage with businesses there is a real opportunity to deliver new experiences.
Designing experiences in the metaverse
Whether or not you are concerned about what the metaverse will mean for you and your ‘readiness’ for it, Engine Service Design’s methodology inherently helps companies design with the future in mind. Our processes will make you think about the future and future customer expectations, helping you design ‘future ready’ products and services. Get in Touch to find out how we can help you deliver brilliant customer experiences.