For better or metaverse

The metaverse is more than just a buzzword. Tech giants have already invested trillions into its genesis, and soon it will be a reality—or at least a virtual one. By 2024, the metaverse is predicted to grow into a $783.3 billion market, and before you know it, you’ll be faced with a generation of consumers well-versed in metaversal ways, presenting both fantastic opportunities and thorny challenges to your organization’s customer engagement strategy.

Earlier this year, McKinsey produced a report that said that the metaverse has the potential to generate up to $5 trillion in value by 2030 and is simply too big for companies to ignore. More recently, Bloomberg Intelligence said that the metaverse is the next big technology platform, attracting online game makers, social networks and other technology leaders to capture a slice of what they claim is already an $800 billion market opportunity.

Investment in the metaverse has increased significantly in 2022. During the first half of the year, $120 billion was invested in metaverse-related areas, led by Microsoft’s $69 billion acquisition of Activision. And over the past couple of years, we’ve seen developments such as Nvidia’s Omniverse platform, VR headsets from Meta, Sony, and Apple, edge computing advancements to allow data to be captured and processed locally by Microsoft, Google and Amazon, and software platforms to create interactive 3-D video from the likes of Unity Software, Autodesk and Adobe.

The advent of the metaverse opens up new possibilities, especially when it comes to overhauling the customer experience (CX). Already today, possession of an omnichannel capability is a requirement for any modern business, with web chat, email, social media, SMS, voice and video expected as table-stakes communication options by consumers. Harnessing the power of the metaverse will allow businesses to expand beyond omnichannel and into the realm of immersive CX, consolidating familiar face-to-face and online interactions with virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).

Allowing consumers to visualize and interact with products in AR and VR blurs the boundary between virtual and in-person shopping experiences, which makes those consumers less likely to return products that don’t match their description — a reason given by over 60% of shoppers when returning online purchases. According to the US National Retail Federation, one-fifth of today’s online purchases are returned, meaning billions of dollars’ worth of goods whose value is lost while they are in sales limbo, plus the hidden costs of mark-downs, inventory shortages and extra labour.

When it comes to traditional CX, brands risk losing almost 40% of their existing customers due to poor levels of personalization. The metaverse is capable of changing that—with new avenues opening up to improve customer experiences using next-generation hyper-personalization, customization and interactivity. When a customer journey is tailored to the consumer’s specific needs, the customer feels valued: Seventy-eight percent are more likely to recommend, purchase and re-purchase from businesses that can efficiently personalize their CX.

Millennial and Gen Z consumers will indelibly alter the luxury shopping landscape by forming deeper connections to brands through their interactions in the Metaverse. Approximately one quarter of Millennials and Gen Z surveyed are not only aware of the Metaverse, but also want to shop in it. One-fifth of Gen Z and Millennials have shopped in a virtual store, and 22% say they would purchase an item in an online game. Fifteen percent have bought an NFT or digital item already.

Working from home brings challenges and opportunities both to keeping long-term associates feeling part of a community and making new talents feel welcome. Companies have begun using the metaverse as part of the onboarding process to familiarize new staff. Imagine snapping on a virtual reality headset for a 360-degree training video and seeing office processes live, replicating the feel of the work way beyond the current 2D webinar or Zoom training. With the metaverse, companies have proved that 3D immersive training from home can be possible.

Almost two-thirds of all business collaboration calls are now made via video. Interactions in the metaverse would follow a similar principle: “Face-to-face” conversations using virtual avatars would improve the depth of the experience for organizations and consumers and bring a fresh perspective to global team meetings.

Nothing can be taken for granted when trying to predict what the metaverse might look like. As with the web, mobile internet, and social media, what’s certain is that once it does, it will be far too big for anyone to ignore.

Glow’s role

The metaverse requires reliable, high throughput and bounded latency networks. 5G is ready to deliver that even though challenges remain. 5G can enable exciting uses like metaverse VR, metaverse XR, and help make Web 3 a reality. 5G is a critical enabler for the metaverse and its device and application developer ecosystem and Glow facilitates this.

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