The Metaverse. As a small business owner, does this term stir curiosity, confusion, or even fear? Maybe you’re wondering if the Metaverse is the future of the Internet, and if your small business can benefit from it? Is the Metaverse already here? While there has been a lot of buzz around it, it’s still very early days. The idea behind the Metaverse has been circulating for some time. Recently it’s gained a lot of attention because it’s often paired with terms like Web 3.0 and blockchain technology (decentralized technology), which are also very hot topics right now. Experts say we could be as far as a decade from mass adoption and maturity. But with big tech companies making considerable investments in the Metaverse, one thing remains crystal clear: the Metaverse is coming – eventually. As a small business owner, it’s important to be informed on this impending new era of the Internet so that you can decide how best to adapt your business. Read on to discover what the Metaverse is, which business sectors may be impacted, and how your small business can learn to leverage it when the time comes.
What is the Metaverse Anyways?
Some argue the Metaverse isn’t mature enough to define and doesn’t have a clear roadmap. Others say the Metaverse is nothing new and has existed for decades in video games like Second Life or World of Warcraft. These games allow players to create avatars to explore expansive virtual worlds, and transact with other players to buy and sell digital items. Mark Zuckerberg and other tech gurus describe the Metaverse as a digital world accessed through virtual and augmented reality that exists whether users are logged in or not. Its goal is to be an interconnected network of realms where virtual worlds meet, communicate with each other, and allow you to transfer items and assets with others (i.e., NFTs).
If you’re still confused – don’t worry. You’re not alone. The Metaverse remains a vague and controversial term that’s yet to be properly defined and will certainly continue evolving with time. For now, understand that its main objective is to connect people through the Internet on a network of 3-D worlds by leveraging devices (computers, phones, headsets, etc.). A virtual universe where people can gather to work, play, or just hang out. In short – it’s considered the next iteration of the Internet. So, what does all this mean for your small business and how can you better prepare for the Metaverse?
What the Metaverse means for Small Businesses
At this point you may be wondering: Why should I worry about the Metaverse now if mainstream adoption is still so far away?
Our collective understanding of the Internet and how it needs to evolve has shifted considerably. Major companies and investors have seen this as an opportunity and are throwing money into this space. It’s predicted that the Metaverse will be a trillion-dollar market by 2030. And whether we like it or not, 2030 is right around the corner. The best thing you can do right now is making sure you have a solid understanding of how it could impact your small business, so that you’re not caught off guard later. Companies like Meta and most recently Apple, are building AR and VR products and making them more accessible to the average consumer. With time, we will begin to see new products and services open doors for businesses to strengthen their foundation and interaction with the Metaverse. Only now are we beginning to witness its true potential.
Affected Industries in 2022 and Beyond
Depending on your industry, the Metaverse could have major impacts on how your business operates in its day-to-day functions. We could see a major shift in how businesses and customers interact. We are already seeing signs of this in various sectors such as retail, ecommerce, real estate and manufacturing.
Retail/ecommerce: 3-D technology is opening up new opportunities for retail and online businesses. Businesses like clothing, cosmetics and furniture can now create virtual storefronts or demonstrations offering immersive product and shopping experiences to customers. For example, customers can try on clothing using augmented reality technology to better visualize their potential purchases.
Real estate: Companies can now create virtual replicas of real-world properties, allowing potential buyers to tour houses from wherever in the world. What’s even more shocking; businesses can now buy digital ‘’land’’ where they can host virtual events, meetings or conferences for their customers or coworkers.
Manufacturing: The Metaverse could have a major impact on manufacturing. The future of factories includes immersive and virtual experiences where product design, production, and other operations are all possible. Companies could have accurate 3-D virtual representations of facilities they operate, allowing workers to do their job from anywhere in the world.
Preparing Your SMB for the Metaverse
1. Ride the Digital Wave
While the Metaverse isn’t here yet, your customers have certain expectations. With digital transformation being accelerated during the pandemic, more small business owners began offering their products or services online. Consumers now expect small businesses to have a good website and a social media presence. Younger generations, like Gen Z and millennials, grew up with technology and are shaping the future of ecommerce as we speak. They want the convenience of a seamless online/offline shopping experience, and the flexibility to communicate with you across a multitude of digital channels. Your best preparation for something like the Metaverse is by strengthening your business’s online presence and embracing digital transformation.
2. Build Your Metaverse Footprint
Don’t be afraid of the unknown. It’s a great time to start thinking about how you would approach the Metaverse. Perhaps it’s an opportunity to modernize your branding or your product offering. Think about how you might approach immersive digital experiences for your customers. Consider experimenting with the following:
- Hold presentations, product showcases or events in virtual spaces.
- Use the power of gamification to improve customer engagement & loyalty.
- Create interactive online classes offering energetic & immersive learning experiences.
- Begin accepting crypto payments to keep up with competition and consumer demands.
- Launch and sell your own NFTs to grow your business, supplement your marketing or to fund a project.
With a bit of creativity, the options are limitless. It’s just a matter of finding what works with your business, and you have plenty of time to think about it.
3. Observe Your Competitors
With the Metaverse gaining more and more attention, rest assured that your competition might be thinking about how they can integrate their business. The Metaverse is still in its experimentation phase, so keep a lookout on what your competitors are doing. Identify what’s working and what’s not working for them to avoid making the same mistakes. Completing a competitive analysis should be a part of your long-term marketing strategy to claim your rightful spot within the Metaverse.
4. Stay True to Your Roots
Preparing your SMB for the Metaverse doesn’t mean changing everything about your business. It’s about adaptation. Your business is wonderful, and we recommend staying true to your brand and focusing on your customers. The Metaverse will be new for them too. Only 36% of respondents of a national survey said they were somewhat interested in the Metaverse. Most of your customers are likely not ready to dive in, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t position your company to be ready for what comes next. Just don’t be too quick to forget your old ways.
The Bottom Line
The Metaverse is still in its early days and will require a lot of trial and error to find its footing in our digital world. The pandemic has prompted us to spend more time online and to redefine what ‘’virtual’’ really means. How your small business will adapt to further changes happening over the next decade will be up to you. You don’t have to jump in right now but you should keep a close eye on how this new era of Internet unfolds.