A metaverse describes a virtual 3D world that uses a combination of technologies, including virtual reality, augmented reality, Blockchain, AI, spatial computing, the Internet, and more, to enable humans to interact with each other and businesses using “digital avatars”. Metaverse users need special devices to enjoy the immersive, multi-sensory experience of the medium.
Over the past three years, the metaverse paradigm created much excitement only to have lost its place among the top technology trends. Although it is difficult to predict its future evolutionary path, it is reasonable to say that with the physical and virtual worlds co-existing, the metaverse is very likely to gain significance. It has already demonstrated value both in enhancing customer experience and reducing operating costs in sectors as diverse as commerce, education, healthcare, and leisure travel.
Metaverse can pivot the customer experience
As the battle to attract and retain customers gets fiercer by the day, business leaders realize the potential for customer experiences as a source of tangible competitive advantage. The “moment of truth” is no longer just when a product or service is purchased. Customer advocacy is critical to ensuring repeat business and depends largely on customer experience.
There are several use cases that illustrate how the metaverse can help businesses deliver superior customer experience. For instance, vacationers can get an immersive experience of the cruise as well as destinations even before they make reservations. They can interact on the metaverse with the ship’s captain and others, to obtain information about the ship, the route, onboard food/ entertainment, and safety features.
In the automotive industry, manufacturers use the metaverse to allow prospects to explore features and even take a simulated test drive to assess comfort, road handling, and other factors. This reduces the hands-on exploration and testing typically associated with buying a car.
Metaverse technologies can improve patient outcomes by making it easier for doctors and surgeons to collaborate on diagnoses and treatments (including surgery).
Cosmetic brands are being personalized on the metaverse with the help of NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) and POAPS (Proof of Attendance Protocols). This improves user education, drives inclusivity, and facilitates new product launches.
Millennials and gen alphas are early adopters of the metaverse, which they see as an extension of gaming. This can be used to build competencies around financial literacy, mental health, diversity, ESG, or more.
When combined with robotics, Metaverse can improve technician training around repairs that involve working with hazardous materials or in difficult working conditions.
The metaverse can be harnessed for engaging with “internal customers” too. Onboarding new employees (or town hall meetings) across different locations becomes more interactive, immersive, and engaging with the metaverse. It can make training programs more effective by better addressing the learning styles and pace of the learners. In addition to greater flexibility and personalization for learners, the metaverse can reduce costs. It also reduces the time for which employees need to be away from their regular work- a key benefit when sales and customer service teams are being trained.
Metaverse technologies can enhance the effectiveness of the design-product launch cycle. For example, brainstorming sessions around innovation and product design can be more interactive. During product launches, the metaverse can boost awareness and interest amongst stakeholders. A shared metaverse can support business ecosystem strategies. For instance, car dealerships, banks, and insurance companies can all be part of the same metaverse.
Metaverse adoption has challenges
For the metaverse to become as ubiquitous as websites on the internet, many challenges must be overcome:
- Reduce the cost of devices such as VR headsets
- Address concerns around data privacy and the threat of cyberattacks and fraud
- Device makers may gain access to personally identifiable information that amplifies the threat of data breaches and misuse, including the risk of bullying, body-shaming, and sexual harassment
- Develop global standards and protocols for interoperability and performance
- Implement robust, globally valid regulations to govern crypto assets, which will be a key enabler of commerce in the Metaverse
- Reduce energy consumption of metaverse devices and apps as the world looks to fight climate change and boost sustainability.
Ignore metaverse at your peril
The promise of the metaverse world too will take time to bloom. A better metaverse (“Bettaverse”) will evolve over the next few years and shape how enterprises operate. Younger employees and customers will prefer to engage and transact in the alternative reality afforded by metaverse. Innovation, combined with supply chain configurations, will make devices more affordable. The next generation of the metaverse will integrate generative AI to further disrupt customer experience. As newer mobile protocols become popular, access to the metaverse will get easier and cheaper.
Metaverse technologies can enhance customer experience as well as operational excellence. While enterprises that have already invested in the metaverse will analyze performance and fine-tune their tactics to optimize ROI, fence-sitters will also take the plunge to avoid being blindsided by their more agile rivals.
The article has been written by Bindya S Raj, Associate Vice President, Head – Strategy, Planning & Operations, Digital Experience, Infosys