There has been a lot of talk about the metaverse in recent months and the opportunities it can provide for both individuals and businesses. Learn more about what this emerging technology is and how it could potentially impact your company in the future.
The term “metaverse” has been floating around the internet recently, and you may be asking yourself “What does the metaverse actually mean and why should I care?” The simple answer is that a metaverse puts users into a virtual environment in which they can interact with each other and get the same experiences as they would in the real world. Just as we talked about “the internet” as being a revolutionary building block for a new form of communication, the metaverse is a concept that could completely alter the way we connect with friends and family, and even do business. While we don’t know what this reality will look like, we know it’s coming.
The metaverse may not be here yet, but small businesses have a real opportunity to learn more and get a leg up on the competition as the technology expands. In this article, read about what the metaverse is and its potential impact on your small business.
The global metaverse market could approach $800 billion by 2024.1
What is the metaverse?
It’s still a concept on the horizon, but in broad terms, the metaverse takes features of our physical space and transfers human interactions into a 3D virtual world powered by virtual reality and augmented reality technology. This may remind some business owners of Second Life, an online platform that first introduced many users to virtual reality social experiences in the first decade of the 2000s. Like Second Life, users in the metaverse can craft their own virtual identities through personalized avatars, participate in virtual social events like live concerts and sporting events, and explore the digital world around them. There is even potential for virtual marketplaces and digital currencies that can connect consumers to businesses to make transactions of virtual goods and services.
Right now, whether “being in the metaverse” will be a single, integrated experience offered by a large company like Facebook or Amazon which have popularized the metaverse concept or a network of smaller virtual reality platforms may depend on how the technology evolves in the coming years.
Meta, formerly known as Facebook, plans to hire 10,000 new employees over the next five years to work on the metaverse.2
How will it impact small businesses?
Despite the uncertainty of what the metaverse will look like, one thing is clear: The metaverse will offer a potential growth opportunity for companies of all sizes, including small businesses. In this section, consider potential ways that the metaverse could impact your small business down the road.
If the metaverse is truly the next frontier in the online social experience, it also represents the next frontier for attracting and retaining customers. The key to making sure that your small business is ready for the new era of digital transformation is to have a clear idea of what you want for your brand and how you can leverage the new technology to achieve it. Looking for opportunities to build and expand your brand visibility in this new environment could include creating your own virtual avatars to serve as your brand ambassadors or even opening a virtual location for your business in the metaverse. It will be an opportunity to get creative with your brand positioning so you can embed awareness of your products and services in new ways.
Traditional brick-and-mortar stores give consumers the ability to physically interact with products before purchasing, but e-commerce forgoes the physical aspect of shopping and offers unprecedented access, speed, and convenience. The metaverse is an environment where these two separate worlds can combine to create an experience that will redefine how consumers buy products.
Augmented reality (AR) is a revolutionary type of interactive technology that offers users the ability to project digital elements onto the real world. Home Depot and Amazon, for example, currently leverage AR as a bridge between real-life and virtual worlds to show shoppers in real time how a specific piece of furniture would look in their homes.3 For brick-and-mortar businesses specifically, the “try before you buy” framework of AR will help consumers to make more informed choices when shopping at your business. As the technology becomes more accessible, customers may come to expect this option from small businesses.
Additionally, when more users enter the metaverse and begin to craft their virtual identities, there may also be an increased demand for fully digital products. Some of the large companies investing in the metaverse space are already doubling down on this idea; Nike recently announced the acquisition of RTFKT, a company that makes virtual sneakers.4 If large segments of customers begin experimenting with the metaverse, the future of online commerce for small businesses may revolve around these virtual alternatives to traditional products.
Worldwide spending on AR/VR technology is forecasted to reach $72.8 billion in 2024.5
Currently, many small business owners use platforms like Zoom to engage with their remote workers and those working in a hybrid model. These digital platforms have been helpful during the pandemic, but they are not a perfect solution. Through virtual and augmented reality technology, the metaverse could revolutionize traditional methods of business communication, enabling entire teams to more effectively meet and interact within the 3D virtual environment.
While much of the potential in the metaverse for small business centers around customer relationships, the implications of virtual reality for more effective workforce management are limitless. In the metaverse, your daily team meetings could take place in your own virtual conference room, with each of your employees attending with their personalized avatar. You could also be onboarding your new employees within a digital simulation of your physical office, familiarizing them with the layout, and even the culture of the business before they arrive.
How can small businesses get started?
If you are interested in the potential of the metaverse for your small business, here are two strategies to use as you wait for this concept to evolve:
- Experiment with existing technology: The metaverse is still in development, but there are key aspects of this technology that are available to business owners. Virtual reality is developing rapidly and can better prepare you to capitalize on metaverse opportunities. Take a look at Facebook’s Horizon Workrooms and Microsoft’s Mesh for early examples of virtual reality in the workplace.
- Gain a better understanding of your customer and employee needs: The metaverse may not be a fit for every small business. It is important to understand who your customers and employees are, what they value in a business or brand, and how their priorities are evolving. This will be key for determining when, how and if your business should pursue the metaverse moving forward.
The metaverse represents an exciting opportunity for small businesses in the years ahead. It’s not here yet, but monitoring trends in customer behavior and keeping an eye on potential opportunities for early adoption is a good start for establishing a metaverse strategy that will help your business grow.
1. “Metaverse may be $800 billion market, next tech platform.” Bloomberg Intelligence. December 1, 2021.
2. Elizabeth Culliford and Nivedita Balu. “Facebook invests billions in metaverse efforts as ad business slows.” Reuters. October 26, 2021.
3. Alex Rosenberg. “What is the Metaverse? 5 Things Small Businesses Need to Know.” Nerd Wallet. January 25, 2022.
4. “Nike buys virtual sneaker maker RTFKT in Metaverse Push.” CNBC. December 14, 2021.
5. International Data Corporation. 2020.
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