Metaverse: The Future Marketplace
Metaverse is one of the latest hot topics, with many debating on its potential and implications if not properly managed. For some experts, we are still years away from metaverse but some companies are starting to use the early versions to engage with customers.
But what is metaverse?
“Metaverse” was first coined by author Neal Stephenson in his sci-fi novel Snow Crash written in 1992. Here he referred to metaverse as an all-encompassing digital world that exists parallel to the real world.
As of today, metaverse is defined as a ‘virtual-reality space in which users can interact with a computer-generated environment and other users’, an extension of different technologies among which: blockchain, 3D reconstruction, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), Internet of Things (IoT), and artificial intelligence (AI).
HOW IT WORKS
In the Metaverse, each person has an avatar that allows users to interact with one another in a digital environment where people can work, play, shop with virtual money, and much more. In a nutshell, metaverse is meant to allow people to do the things they do in real life, but on the internet.
We are still far from the creation of the ultimate metaverse: what we are experiencing today is multiple platforms that offer experiences in extended reality but the key element that many experts believe to be vital for the metaverse to work is still missing: interoperability - where all the existing metaverses are connected with one another and all created objects and avatars can be used in any of the existing metaverses.
For example, in an interoperable ecosystem, a user can buy and dress their avatar with Nike shoes in the Nike metaverse - Nikeland - and as they enter the metaverse of Walmart, they can transfer the Nike shoes bought in Nikeland to the new metaverse since the two metaverses are connected
COMPANIES AND METAVERSES
Many brands have opened their stores on the metaverse and, as most metaverses created so far, the virtual experience offered is about participating in games. In some cases, as Benetton did, it is possible to accumulate QR codes in the game, which can then be used to make purchases in physical stores.
Last year Gucci partnered with Roblox, a gaming platform, to create a 2-week virtual art installation in which visitors created their avatars and could dress them up as they walked through the exhibition.
Harrods created a virtual Dior Beauty store to offer shoppers a unique experience made of photorealistic and shoppable products, as well as videos, music and interactive features.
Other companies are exploiting the metaverse to host conferences, and expositions; many have launched NFTs to exploit the metaverse for their marketing activities.
METAVERSE AND RETAIL
Since metaverse is still at the early stages, brand awareness, engagement and loyalty creation activities are quite limited.
However, once technologies will advance, many doors will open also for retailers:
- to make online shopping more engaging and useful
- to bring online shopping closer to what consumers can accomplish in stores without leaving home
- To facilitate the process of converting visitors into customers: consumer relationship will not just revolve around product but interaction, and online retail may become a more valuable business
WHAT IS NEEDED TO CREATE A METAVERSE
To be able to turn the concept of Metaverse into reality, 6G technology is required and Purple Mountain Lab in Nanjing, China is quite ahead. The development of 6G will not just allow the creation of the metaverse but will also have many other implications such as internet of feelings (perfumer, taste of food), holographic communication, ultra-smart telemedicine based on tactile communication.
The creation of a virtual universe does not imply just the development and improvement of technologies. It also implies legal challenges: norms and law are expected to be created in order to create a safe and responsible environment since as cybersecurity expert Baggili said, it is needed “ to figure out a legal framework of what happens if you get harassed in a virtual platform, given that it has real implications since you’re so immersed in the technology”.
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