The Metaverse, in theory, is the internet. But the internet is evolving daily, so what is the metaverse today? And does it still matter?
The Metaverse as we currently know it provides an immersive, real-time digital experience for online users within 3D virtual environments. But recently it has been questioned whether the Metaverse matters as much as it did when it first walked on the scene and into mainstream media.
How can that be possible? How can we question such advancements in technology? Well, the thing is, the metaverse is not new anymore. The term “metaverse” itself was first used in Neil Stevenson's 1982 novel, Snow Crash, but it arguably existed even a long time before that; it has just evolved.
Think back to 2020, in the peak of the pandemic, where gaming became one key area that kept pushing the boundaries of animation and digital technology. High resolution graphics, social interaction, and connectivity all came together, and we did not yet fully understand the full impact this was going to have on society and online culture.
It has now been over a year since Facebook announced that it was going to be rebranding to ‘Meta’, to pave the way for Mark Zuckerberg’s plan to create a metaverse, but most of us are still not quite sure on what the Metaverse is, what our part in it is, and what’s coming next…
A metaverse is a collective virtual shared space, created by the convergence of virtually enhanced physical and digital reality.
Perhaps what needs to be recognised instead, is that we are only in the early stages of the modern Metaverse and what it is today to the modern-day consumer. Nobody can really say what the future holds, we must just wait and see. As the metaverse evolves, alongside other digital phenomena like cryptocurrencies and ChatGPT, and reaches mainstream status, we see that it will likely change how we not only interact with our own environment, but with our favourite brands, and even other people too.
How does the Metaverse work?
The Metaverse works by unifying material from digital professionals and everyday online users to create an immersive experience and continuous shared digital reality.
It lets users interact with multiple others worldwide, whether to play or collaborate. However, this level of complexity is only achievable through advanced technologies, which include:
Augmented and virtual reality
An AR cloud
Internet of Things (IoT)
How is the Metaverse impacting our industry?
The Metaverse economy is set to be worth trillions in the coming years, and the world’s leading fashion brands such as Gucci are experimenting already. Let’s be realistic, if we’re building replicas of the physical world in the Metaverse, why would ecommerce customers react differently in that virtual world too? Of course it is going to be successful!
According to Gartner, 25% of people will spend at least one hour per day in the Metaverse by 2026. The Metaverse shoppers will be able to visit virtual stores, where they can try on digital versions of clothing and accessories (cool right?). Customers will even be able to consult with store personnel via chatbots and get opinions from other shoppers with reviews/forums. Brands may also find opportunities for lines of digital clothing for their online avatars; you see the metaverse will really bring to life the shopping experience.
What’s more, an ecommerce metaverse has the potential to really bridge the existing gap between online and physical stores. But what we need to remember of course is that a high percentage of consumers do still like to have the ability to try clothes on, sit on their new sofa, and physically touch products.
Luxury people should understand NFTs and digital ownership better than anyone. Afterall, nobody buys a luxury watch to tell the time.
Ian Rogers, Chief Experience Officer, Ledger
The relationship between the Metaverse and ecommerce
The Metaverse is said to harness the possibility to change the way people shop and what they shop for, forever. Early adopter ecommerce brands are currently using the Metaverse as a source of innovation for their customers, but soon brands are going to start becoming available for virtual shopping anywhere in the world.
Only early versions of an ecommerce metaverse are currently available in our industry, like we said, so most brands aren't affected, or rather don’t know how they are affected just yet. But the possibility of an ecommerce metaverse offers progressive and proactive ecommerce businesses multiple benefits.
Here are some benefits of an ecommerce metaverse:
1. Augmented data strategies
A metaverse will allow you to track users data and behaviours to your advantage. You’ll be able to measure what kind of people find your metaverse content engaging, get faster feedback on user behaviours and interactions, and get an idea of productization which will allow you to optimise your metaverse experiences faster than ever and reach your return on investment goals even sooner. Ecommerce brands will be able to task their teams with positioning their products as part of virtual experiences but be driven by more complex data allowing for even more refined and lucrative approaches.
2. Improved customer experience and social engagement
If you provide an ecommerce metaverse for customers, you are empowering them to actively engage with your brand’s activities online. Social proof is already at the heart of ecommerce’s online engagement and is bridging the gap between physical stores and online shoppers, but in a virtual space you can build a more unified relationship. For example, you can drop an exclusive product launch, announce events, hosts forums, hold competitions and much more for only your most loyal followers, call them VIP’s if you want. These consumers will be the ones who pay the special fee to get access to your brand’s virtual world.
3. Product viability
Leveraging the Metaverse for product viability and discovery among consumers will become essential for brands. Many, such as Nike, are already starting to leverage our senses beyond traditional audio-visual and include multi-sensory features that speak to a broader range of needs, such as dialing up touch and smell for those with vision impairments. An ecommerce metaverse will mean that the use of sound effects and music will become increasingly powerful in evoking emotional and even physical associations with your products.
4. Supply chain improvements
In the absence of being able to try and touch products, the Metaverse will allow you to carefully consider options like free delivery and quibble-free returns to encourage consumers in the metaverse to purchase risk free.
5. Omnichannel loyalty
Currently personalisation within ecommerce stops at the point of virtual stylists, emails with product recommendations or discounts, gift-wrapping and so on. But imagine a metaverse, where ecommerce brands can offer their loyal customers hyper-personalized experiences without worrying about the physical world’s many barriers. Introducing the next frontier of influencer marketing; brands have begun collaborating with virtual influencers to champion their products. With virtual influencers your brand can use omnichannel strategies to perfectly engage customers and build deep communities in a virtual environment.
The physical and digital worlds are blurring; ecommerce as we know it will begin to exist almost entirely in the metaverse. Different metaverse entry points will start to emerge and increase in number, whether through in-store environments or via smartphones, on desktop or tablet; opening up accessibility to a larger audience.