5 experts share why you should start your metaverse journey in 2023
Finding your foothold in the metaverse
Facebook became Meta. Chief Metaverse Officers joined the C-suite. Dozens of books on the metaverse frontier hit bookstores. Even Gartner is calling it one of the top ten strategic technology trends for 2023.¹
The metaverse is seemingly everywhere, but the concept is not new – it was first coined over 30 years ago by Neal Stephenson in his sci-fi novel Snow Crash. Although not all of Stephenson’s elements of the metaverse may come to fruition, there are some that we can see taking shape in the modern metaverse that we hear about today.
The metaverse is and will be the next generation of the internet that is always real-time, mostly 3D, interactive, social, and persistent. Despite the growing popularity of virtual worlds, it won’t consist solely of avatars and AR/VR games.
The metaverse will become an additional layer atop the physical world which extends across virtual experiences and devices. Now, many leaders are wondering how to be a part of this monumental shift and not get left behind.
1 Gartner, David Groombridge. “Gartner Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2023”. October 2022
The metaverse is the next generation of the internet that is always real-time, mostly 3D, mostly interactive, mostly social and mostly persistent.
The catalyst driving change
What sparked this somewhat sudden interest in the metaverse? Like many things, the COVID-19 pandemic played a big role.
In a commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Unity, 54 percent of respondents said that the pandemic accelerated their implementation of immersive technologies and another 34 percent said that it has triggered implementation – in other words, they started using them for the first time due to the pandemic.² Among those industries, retailers, luxury goods brands and e-commerce platforms have seen significant benefits, as well as manufacturers who have had to suddenly pivot to remote and digital alternatives.
Seeking solutions for new priorities Approximately four out of five companies (79%) say that improving digital marketing and e-commerce capabilities – over any other areas of their business – is a more important priority, in light of pandemic challenges.³ Some of those experiences will transcend the digital world and merge with the physical. For instance, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) try-on and try-out applications are becoming more common to drive e-commerce. Product-oriented brands are implementing real-time 3D configurators on their websites and many luxury brands are dabbling in virtual collectibles, fashion and worlds.
This level of customization and interactivity has been spurred on by shifting consumer shopping trends caused by the pandemic. Consumers are pushing for a more personalized online shopping experience to bridge the gap with in-person shopping. Seventy-one (71) percent of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions. Of those same respondents, 76 percent get frustrated when this doesn’t happen.⁴ These experiences are encouraging increases in sales as well as stronger customer-brand relationships resulting in return shoppers.
Interest in metaverse experiences for e-commerce is not isolated to the retail or direct-to-consumer market. These B2C trends are in fact helping to shape how B2B organizations approach virtual selling. Companies that provide outstanding digital experiences increase their likelihood of being chosen as a primary supplier twofold.⁵
They are tapping into an audience that increasingly prefers to shop virtually. By 2025, 80% of B2B sales interactions between suppliers and buyers will occur in digital channels, which means sales organizations need to actively look for new ways to engage with customers.⁶
2,3 “The new way of working is immersive” a commissioned study by Forrester consulting on behind of Unity.
4 McKinsey & company. Nidhi Arora, Daniel Ensslen, et al. “The value of getting personalization right—or wrong—is multiplying”. November 2021.
5 McKinsey & company. Liz Harrison, et al. “How B2B sales have changed during COVID-19” July 2020.
6 Gartner. “Gartner Identifies 7 Technology Disruptions That Will Impact Sales Through 2027”. October 2022.
Take the plunge
Whether you’re reimagining marketing and e-commerce, operations, or any other part of your business, they will be part and parcel of the metaverse. Ultimately, the metaverse is here to stay; it has limitless applications across all industries and is continually being reinvented, opening the door for new business models and building the foundation of our future society.
Here are three tips from industry experts as you get started:
1. Be early and reap the rewards
Although the journey may seem daunting, don’t delay. Those who are not prepared for this next technological era – just like the world wide web and social media before – will quickly find themselves struggling to keep up with a world that they no longer recognize. Get the ball rolling, all it takes is the initial push – from marketing to manufacturing, find that area of business that can pull you over the starting line.
2. Find your fit
The metaverse is a spectrum between the industrial metaverse, made up of primarily digital twins to visualize data and optimize operations, and the consumer metaverse, which is made up of primarily individual, public experiences such as entertainment and shopping. Some organizations may fall into both. Pursue what makes the most sense for your business goals.
3. Take a long-term view
In the short term, companies will need to reconcile sky-high expectations while the metaverse is in its infancy. They should expect that the shift will take time and patience internally and externally as key tech building blocks mature.
Read on to learn how industry experts are approaching the metaverse and their advice for getting started.
Giving old ideas new experiences and endless potential
The metaverse is, put simply, real-time 3D graphics on the internet. What used to be static and passive 3D content – pre-rendered still images and linear video – has now come to life as fully interactive experiences where the user is in control.
As we all become connected via intuitive, human-centered experiences, the possibilities are endless. For enterprises, imagine everything from small teams collaborating on the designs of new products, to thousands of workers being immersed in digital twins of facilities, environments and even whole cities to increase productivity, enhance understanding and ensure safety.
This is what the metaverse promises, and it’s all made possible with real-time 3D. The technologies that comprise the metaverse will be rolling out over the course of this decade, but the time for enterprises to get started is now. Real-time 3D can unlock significant value for your business today – and it doesn’t have to be a scary proposition.
Creator tools like Unity are a great place to begin your journey because they take care of the hard work of 3D rendering, animation, interaction and simulation, allowing creators to focus on the experiences that will level their businesses up. And finally, waiting is not an option; companies that don’t invest in digital transformation via the metaverse today could be left behind in the world of tomorrow.
The metaverse unifies your enterprise and gives everyone a voice
The metaverse is the consummate storytelling platform. It can be used to tell the story of your product’s development, its manufacture, and how your customers will enjoy the product. It enables your company throughout the product lifecycle and opens new pathways for your customers to experience a product.
The Web 3.0 platform is designed to experience applications in any format and on any device. This gives control back to its users. Together these capabilities enable everyone to communicate in an effective, efficient and/or entertaining manner.
The metaverse enables us to take product functions and represent them in the context of other data and show them at any point in the product development process to everyone who should see it. Everyone has a voice. These persistent and shared spaces, where scientific and artistic creators connect with customers, can give customers a voice in what becomes the next generation of your product.
Produce 3D content and integrate the metaverse into your current strategy
The concept of the metaverse – although still not owning a unique and proper definition – has been in every headline for months.
It will strongly impact every B2B industry if it hasn’t already, but in a way that is still unpredictable. Some will choose to invest in a virtual land to replicate a physical experience, and some will draw in their creativity to reinvent sales and marketing, just as web 2.0 helped with the emergence of social networks in the 2000s.
My recommendation is to not wait for the definitions of the word “metaverse” to converge or for the self-proclaimed metaverse “prophets” to establish all the rules before taking action. The raw material of the metaverse is 3D data, and companies need to produce this content before thinking about integrating it into their marketing and sales strategies.
And that is exactly where the secret of success in the metaverse lies: Integration in your marketing and sales strategies, whether as a product configurator, a phygital experience or a full VR application. Don’t rush anything, step back, take the time to understand the technologies and their usage, and add the metaverse as another string to your bow that links all your current channels.
Building new value through ownership, expression and exclusivity
Brands looking to get into the metaverse should consider how to build real meaning and value that satiates a key desire in the metaverse: creative and fiscal ownership. For those in retail, e-commerce and apparel, wearables or other digital collectibles are a natural opportunity to drive value and, potentially, new revenue streams.
In our work, we’ve seen that audiences are driven to these spaces in search of rare collectibles, exclusive experiences and opportunities for self-expression. Craft is important here, whether you’re talking about digital fashion that drives desire or unique digital art objects. Tying these collectibles to some sort of utility, like opening access to a one-of-a-kind experience, sweetens the deal.
The metaverse is a fast-evolving space, so leaping into it swiftly may be tempting—but brands need a plan. That’s why it’s important to act now by experimenting with ways to align artistry and utility to unlock value.
Customer-in-the-loop product design and prototyping
As an innovation organization, we’re always exploring new design concepts. The best feedback we get comes from our end-use customers, but engineering models sometimes fail to capture the aesthetic impact and ergonomic effectiveness of a design. And prototyping hardware for real-world context is often longer and more expensive than needed at the concept level. Also, if a customer can’t be at our facilities for that experience, then we ship the setup to them – sometimes overseas.
We’ve started to split the difference by leveraging VR to bring design concepts and trades quickly and cheaply into an experience that the user can properly evaluate – without the cost and hassle of building out every potential solution. In the future, with a true metaverse infrastructure, what can take weeks right now will get done in a day.
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