Are you metaverse-ready?
Written by Sarah Townsend
Cast your mind back to the early noughties (if you can) when Web 2.0 was a mere concept and apps like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter were in their infancy. How many of us thought they would be nothing more than a flash in the pan – a promised land of web application paradise?
Fast forward to today where social media is engrained in our everyday lives – both personally and professionally. Imagine networking without LinkedIn, pitching without remote software and researching without Google.
Well here we are today. Faced with the prospect of Web 3.0 and the metaverse becoming the next big iteration of digital.
In my opinion, the metaverse is here to stay and we should not only be excited by it, but we should start riding the wave early on. The decision makers of the future are already comfortable moving between physical and virtual worlds and in ten years time, will be choosing which SaaS platforms, services or products their brands will be using.
What is the metaverse and how will it impact B2B?
The rise of the metaverse, virtual/augmented reality, NFTs, and cryptocurrencies are working increasingly hand-in-hand as we enter the new world of Web3. With the physical world going through an uncertain two years, should we be putting emphasis on bridging the gap between digital vs real-world, and looking to the metaverse for our next marketing efforts?
One big plus is that the pandemic has forced decision-makers into the virtual world – meetings, pitches, and product demo webinars have pushed us into engaging with digital experiences without even needing to speak to a human. These experiences are:
Now the new norm
Packed full of useful data and insights that can enable personalisation at scale
A great way of having to avoid small talk.
What’s perhaps most exciting is that right now, the metaverse represents the single largest blank canvas for brands and organisations to launch products, create experiences, connect to communities, and of course, monetise!
Clearly, technology is already playing a huge role in the potential rise of the metaverse.
Global shipments of virtual and augmented reality headsets were 5.5 million units in 2020, increasing to an estimated 11 million in 2021 – but this volume is projected to hit 43.5 million by 2025. These emerging technologies are already switching up the sales journeys that users are taking by giving the buyer an immersive experience that they can control. According to Adobe, 38% of B2B buyers claimed AR would speed up their buying cycle. AR can eliminate the need for buyers to comb through pages of product demos, whitepapers, webinars and sales collateral by visualising benefits and key features of products and software on a device. Not only that, it can also allow decision makers to virtually interact with those features and see how they work in real time, potentially narrowing the gap between MQLs and SQLs. One slight challenge will be the equipment. Many immersive experiences use VR or AR goggles such as Oculus or Hololens and they aren’t exactly like slipping on a pair of cashmere socks. Price is a consideration too, with 54% of high-end VR device users citing cost as the most important issue VR tech is facing right now. What tech giants will likely be doing now is ensuring that tech and virtual experiences can become accessible to as many people as possible. Imagine a place with no boundaries where we can all go and experience the same thing? What’s also exciting, is that there are so many innovators and creators out there, right now, stress testing and innovating the next big product. Quite simply, if something doesn’t exist or isn’t best suited for needs – you can go and make it!
Data and governance
Social media is already allowing third parties to mediate our lives through targeted news feeds and targeted advertising based on data that has been collected. Everybody thinks they must be seeing the same thing that everyone else is — only they may not be, since algorithms will be able to share content to you in your echo chamber.
This will be amplified in a virtual world. A world where third parties can dictate what you see in your home, on the street, and at work. And experts agreed that it'll be more difficult to identify misinformation and division.
Advertisers could pay for filters within a person's virtual world to inject their reality with specific targeting and messaging. An exciting prospect is virtual product placement. There are some trends that run counter to the metaverse discourse, such as privacy laws (e.g. – Austria deeming Google Analytics a GDPR faux pas) and tracking protection software (from browser-based adblockers to DNS sinkholes such as pi-hole). What makes these counter currents important is that the early adopters for the metaverse will possibly be techies – the very same people who have not only the will, but also the power to fully insulate themselves from trackers. Whatever becomes of the metaverse, ad blocking will be an integral part of it. For better, and worse.
The goal of the metaverse is to bridge the gap between real and virtual worlds. Instead of finishing a meeting using Microsoft Mesh, then logging off and logging in to Hyperverse to socialise and explore the universe, we will (supposedly) be able to move between virtual places with little to no friction.
The beauty of the metaverse will be that you could collaborate with colleagues in one part of the metaverse, then swing by a virtual showroom and check out the features of a new product in another. There’s also the potential to create your own experiences. The metaverse would be ours to explore and create in.
Let’s also not forget the virtual economy. You might buy virtual products or collect digital items in the form of non-fungible tokens (NFT). Virtual shopping experiences are already familiar to anyone who's played a game that features digital currency. At present, digital currency is purchased using real world money. From the current virtual games and platforms, people are already primed for spending real money in virtual worlds and B2B brands are already using Crypto as a means of reducing friction in the buying process.
Omnichannel engagement strategies retain an average 89% of their customers.
Customers love to be able to move seamlessly from physical commerce to online ordering to social media to email and beyond. A great metaverse experience will be one where your customers can move easily between your business and other parts of the metaverse. We don’t have an open and connected metaverse yet, but the success of services like Fortnite and Roblox among younger audiences is paving the way for more virtual worlds with their own economies. Imagine your customers finding you in the metaverse: they could take your products for a digital test run, try out different options, or chat with a support or sales team. Instead of writing a wordy email, sales reps could use holograms to show customers around a product or software. It would certainly beat waiting for a pre-written bot response! We’re talking about an immersive experience that engages a customer’s full attention. One study showed that the amount of information stored in the memory is 70% higher when using AR, than when not. That could mean a much bigger impact for businesses in putting products or services front and centre for DMUs
The next gen are already well-versed in the metaverse with VR and AR usage on the rise. The humble cow is even turning to VR in a bid to improve production and us B2B marketeers should be following suit.
What we do know for sure is that the metaverse is entering a 10-year roadmap to develop the right infrastructure. As a final few words, here’s what we see as being the biggest opportunities for B2B in the coming years:
Better connected customer experiences in real-time
A richer understanding of journeys and experiences that prospects are taking
A more inclusive place to be educated, informed and do business
A place where the buyers and DMUs of tomorrow will feel absolutely comfortable.
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