The metaverse — what is it? Initially, I thought to myself, “I have no experience with this,” but upon reflection hasn’t the metaverse been around for some time? Whether we’ve known it or not, we have all been part of this evolution for years through VR simulations, gaming and online experiences.
The ideation and infancy of VR technology dates way before my time. But a modern example can be seen in the OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation) brought to life in the book and film Ready Player One. The OASIS is an immersive, multi-player role-playing game and virtual world, much like the metaverse. It’s packed with 1980s nostalgia with one main mission: to find an Easter egg left behind from the world’s creator, in turn inheriting his fortune. Just like in the OASIS, today we are grasping at ways to make money in the metaverse.
Now that technology has advanced further and skills are being acquired to deliver on past ideas and dreams, we are at a potential breakthrough point. Growing up in the ’80s and ’90s, I witnessed the metaverse’s evolution through movies, motion simulation rides at amusement parks, arcades, and of course through the creation of the blockchain. Even prior to crypto exchanges and NFTs, I had seen currency used for special access and digital assets. We are in an exciting time of discovery, and everyone is racing to be at the forefront. Here’s my advice for retailers from within and outside the metaverse.
In ecommerce beyond the current stack of software engineers, QA, design and project management, we need to build out teams specializing in VR, blockchain and decentralized ecosystems — perhaps even the gaming space. UI/UX/CX leaders will learn new skills and work closely with these experts to develop beautifully sound experiences that follow the customer’s journey within the metaverse. There will be several huge revenue drivers and unique experiences pertaining to ecommerce.
Be a Host with the Most
Capitalize on the ability to host pre-sale events for loyal customers. These events are driven by special member access where promotional benefits can be provided. They should be announced ahead of time, allowing for more people to become loyal members, who gain access to your newly exclusive metaverse. The events should build a stronger rapport with the most loyal customers, in turn leading to higher conversion rates. Stealing a major premise from the OASIS, why not hide an Easter egg at the event, awarding one lucky treasure hunter a grand prize?
Online shopping experiences should be immersive and allow customers to visually try on products. A large footwear company, for instance, could build a shoe selection and fitting process. The customer could walk around the store, select from the latest merchandise, see how shoes look on their feet and place orders in real time. This experience should be a more tactile one than the current version of them sitting at a screen navigating your website.
Let’s expand the idea of a digital storefront and add NFTs to the mix. Retailers could sell digital NFTs such as branded shoes or clothing that customers could then gift or sell in the metaverse, contributing to brand recognition. Traditional merchandise should also intertwine with promotional items such as qualifying purchases to receive digital NFTs. These enhanced experiences will bring the consumer back to the store and increase conversion. The more they’re immersed and become accustomed to the metaverse, the more they’ll engage with your brand.
Returns and exchange processing can be extremely time consuming and, if not done well, very costly. With the ability to bring enhanced experiences to the consumer via VR and the metaverse, brands can connect with them on a more personal level. With a highly thought-out and scaled solution, you can cut time and costs on shipping and call center volume. The key points to address here will be customer satisfaction and collecting data to reduce the need for returns and exchanges.
Embrace the opportunity to buy virtual property. Purchasing and owning virtual land will become as common as in the current actual real estate market. Retailers may want to buy more than one swath of virtual property to house unique storefronts. Digital real estate can be used for virtual events and showcases to get valuable insights, share knowledge, recruit, promote and perform award ceremonies, and build camaraderie.
This new and vast world is ripe with opportunity. Retailers lacking the knowledge or experience need to become informed and plan for the future. A good first step is to perform a cost/risk assessment to stay ahead of competitors. Next, building an in-house team or even expanding the current one will also be helpful. There may be friction and challenges with the rapid growth as it may pertain to regulation, standards and convention. So, putting people in place who have an expertise in these areas is a smart move.
If the world is your oyster, then perhaps the metaverse is your magic wand. So, get ready to make the magic happen for your customers.
Jason Hartsell is Technical Architect for Astound Commerce