Is Metaverse the Future for Business?

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The term “metaverse” has seen a massive increase in popularity over the last two years. Thousands of projects and companies have sprung up with their own take on these virtual environments. And with so many different interpretations, the definition of what a “metaverse” actually is seems to depend on who’s asked.

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But one thing seems certain, the metaverse has the potential to disrupt a number of different industries and settings. But does it have the power to shake up the business landscape?

Recent interviews with Zvika Krieger, (former) Director of Responsible Innovation (Meta), Venura Perera, Director for Innovation and Development (Allianz Personal, UK), and Erin Pryor, Executive VP (First Horizon Bank) offered valuable insight on the subject.

Let’s start by exploring exactly what draws people into the metaverse. Mr. Kreiger was interviewed by Lewis Grafton, COO of the leading blockchain gaming and entertainment studio, Catheon Gaming. The COO brought up the fact that the metaverse carries a variety of definitions (depending on who you talk to).

In response to how he would conceptualize it, Zvika says, “I think that the full expression of the metaverse that most people are excited about and what is creating so much hype about it is this fully immersive technology, usually leveraging VR or some derivative of virtual reality technology and in a way that you’re fully immersed in an experience. So, it’s fully submersible. You’re not doing other things while you’re in the experience, but that you feel like you are there.”

The Meta director goes on to clarify that it’s a space that provides “real-time synchronous communication and engagement.”

The value for businesses

Many businesses and consumers are already exploring the various benefits of the metaverse. In fact, McKinsey research found that 57% of metaverse-aware companies have already adopted it. Moreover, 59% of consumers have expressed excitement about transitioning their everyday activities to virtual worlds.

A separate report by Salesforce found that consumers plan to spend more time online than they did prior to 2020. Taking these findings into account, it’s safe to say that there will be plenty of opportunity for businesses to attract and retain customers within the metaverse.

Erin Pryor shared her thoughts on the future of it, saying, “The platform is moving toward becoming an immersive community where you can connect with various areas of your life – family, friends, coworkers, and brands.”

Bloomberg projects the metaverse to be valued at $800 billion by 2024. Considering this projection, Pryor goes on to say, “…it’s not surprising that we are seeing major brands like Gucci, Nike, and Coca-Cola making investments in bespoke branding opportunities with retail sales opportunities inside the digital space. It’s likely that other brands will follow suit.”

The First Horizon VP discussed one example that stems from the concept of augmented reality (AR). Brands like Peloton, which are not solely driven by virtual reality (VR), use it to help people from all over the world work out from the comfort of their own homes.

The acceleration of metaverse tech

As previously mentioned, one of the interviews was conducted with Venura Perera, the director for innovation and development for Allianz personal, the holding company for companies like LP General Insurance. Allianz works with private and institutional clients to help them protect their wealth. Perera’s background is very much technology-based across a “broad spectrum of domains.”

Perera describes the metaverse as a “second life-like environment” where you have “a virtual instance of yourself in this digital environment where you can build your own homes, create currency, spend money, get digital assets and live a second life right in a completely virtual space.”

The director believes COVID certainly accelerated virtual experiences as more people realized just how important technology was in their everyday lives, and a March 2022 survey from Statista would concur. In fact, it was found that 92% of businesses felt that the pandemic helped accelerate the formation of metaverse technologies.

Interviewing Perera was William Wu, CEO of Catheon Gaming. Wu was curious to get the director’s stance on the effect that social media has had on the Metaverse when it comes to adoption, popularity, and how people will prefer to spend their time within the space.

Perera starts off by saying, “I think the word influencer people kind of think it’s a new term but it’s not it’s been around for hundreds of years…people are gonna adopt it [the metaverse] because they’re going to believe in what those people [influencers] are saying. And so they’re going to jump on board, right?”

He continues, “Your shopping malls, all of that, I think there’s gonna be a big transformation in how those areas are set up because COVID happened. It’s changed the way we live. People want more experiences in their life.”

Perera: The combined effect will be much greater than the separate effects

He goes on to explain that he believes companies will benefit most by essentially merging the digital and physical worlds.

“I don’t buy into that kind of complete separation of the digital and the physical environments. I actually believe that these things coming together is where you’re going to get that synergy. So, the closer we bring the digital world to our physical world, and kind of really create a guess more of an augmented verse rather than just separated.”

“Things like Pokemon Go was a great example of, you know, you’re bringing gaming into the physical environment where people are actually interacting with the real world, but it’s actually you’re overlaying digital content on top of it.”

The value of community

All in all, the metaverse will be community-centric. That being said, it will be vital for businesses to find a way for their consumers to interact with one another, whether it be through virtual gameplay or other means.

Venura enjoys explicitly the power of online interaction. “I love doing things with my friends. So, if I was going to put a headset on I want to have a system where I can actually go in. We’ve got kind of an equal share, and we’d go around playing. We’re all kinds of gamers. So, we’re either kind of FPS style games or strategy style games, you know, we’ll do that,” he says.

It’s safe to conclude that businesses that create the most immersive, interactive environments are the ones who will build the strongest communities. They, in turn, will benefit most from the metaverse.