There’s no hiding from it: The metaverse is coming, and it’s on track to disrupt the world of business as we know it.
Championed by newly rebranded Meta (formerly Facebook), the metaverse will be a network of 3D, 360-degree immersive and interactive micro-worlds. These digital spaces are where we will buy products, consume media, learn new skills, socialize and play in avatar form.
Naturally, businesses are looking to get ahead of the curve and stake their place in the alternate reality; giants such as Walmart, Sony and Manchester City FC are quietly preparing to win over customers and fans with digital-first products and experiences.
So as a business owner and/or leader, you might be excited by the wealth of opportunities that the metaverse will bring. But it’s just as likely that you’re apprehensive, underconfident or just completely confused about what this latest era of tech evolution means for you and your enterprise.
I’m passionate about making the metaverse as inclusive and accessible as possible so that everyone can benefit from the opportunities it has to offer. That’s why I’ve put together this introductory guide for fellow entrepreneurs. Read on to learn about the simple ways that any business can harness the potential of the metaverse to support employees, connect with customers and drive success.
Explore new avenues to connect with customers
You already know that to win new customers and retain existing ones, businesses need to demonstrate adaptability, relatability and relevance. So when customers are getting excited about the metaverse and shifting (some parts) of their lives into virtual spaces, companies must follow suit.
Excitingly, the creation of a whole new world means a whole new world of marketing opportunities. The challenge here is working out exactly how you’re going to catch the eye of new leads in the metaverse. This could look like sponsoring virtual events that your ideal customer plans to attend, branding the spaces they will inhabit, or creating your own immersive adverts to feature on streaming and video sharing platforms.
Ambitious companies could take things one step further by building their own virtual experiences, exhibitions or games for new and existing customers to engage with in a playful or unique way. Bonus points for those who can encourage users to interact with their product or get excited by their brand narrative in these virtual environments.
Importantly, don’t panic about your own lack of tech development skills or understanding. You could consider partnering with a specialist agency, exploring low-code platforms or even hiring a developer with the relevant experience.
Deliver engaging virtual events
For businesses looking for a reliable way to engage customers, clients, prospective hires and current staff, the hosting of a live event has always been an option with a strong track record of success. But now, in the metaverse, hosting live events can be much easier, more cost effective and more impactful.
From panel discussions and conferences to master classes and hackathons, virtual live events are free from the restrictions of budget, time, space and geography that their in-person cousins face. The creation of new virtual events platforms mean that organizations can create fully branded live streams and webinars at the click of a button. Content can also be simultaneously streamed across multiple social media channels.
More sophisticated platforms, such as the Virti Studio, allow hosts to record and store content, analyze viewer eye-tracking, assess chat-log data, and gather a huge array of insights in order to measure engagement and impact.
Level up your staff onboarding and training
We’ve now explored some of the opportunities that the metaverse holds for external stakeholder engagement, but don’t let this distract you from the benefits that can be reaped internally.
For a start, in a recent survey, 87% of executives said they were experiencing skills gaps in the workforce or expected them within a few years. But less than half of respondents had a clear sense of how to address the issue.
Clearly, the newly remote and hybrid global workforce needs a new, data-driven approach to L&D. And this is a challenge that the metaverse and immersive reality innovators are stepping up to address.
In the metaverse, immersive training programs can be hosted in virtual environments. Employees can then access the content from any location, at any time, as many times as they need to. For example, a middle manager could brush up on communication skills with the help of a virtual human – an AI-powered avatar that can assess and track hundreds of performance metrics. Or, a sales team member could practice complex product demos in a zero-risk virtual training space.
The results from metaverse-enabled L&D are likely to exceed your traditional in-person training. This is because when learners interact with the virtual world, they make decisions just as they would in the physical world, activating the same neural pathways in the brain. And, as an added bonus, immersive training platforms facilitate progress tracking using AI data, which helps learners and managers understand where the areas for improvement lie. In turn, this data can be used to improve the training content for future users.
The evidence to back the purported efficacy of immersive training is mounting; studies have shown that, when immersive simulations are used consistently for training new hires, learners experience a 61% higher retention of information during the first 30-days after initial onboarding and achieve a 27% faster time to productivity.
Build productive relationships in your team
The final mention in this introductory guide is perhaps the most important: personal relationships.
People are the foundation of any business, and although onboarding and training matter hugely, it’s intra-team collaboration and communication that are crucial for the smooth running of everyday operations. With organizations increasingly operating fully remotely, we need to find new ways to maintain those relationships that previously flourished in face-to-face office environments.
It might seem counterintuitive to suggest that the metaverse, a fully online environment, is a powerful tool for social connection. But I believe that it holds incredible potential as a space to unite people and facilitate collaboration.
This is why I’m a strong advocate for regular virtual meet-ups in my 50+ person team at Virti. We use virtual spaces to discuss our work, ideas and projects synchronously and asynchronously. But we also use them to talk, to get to know one another, and to reflect or celebrate together. It might not be easy to encourage your whole team to take the leap into the metaverse, but if you work hard on encouraging a gradual transition then you’ll soon notice the rewards.
Making the metaverse work for you
I hope this guide has made clear that the metaverse needn’t be seen as a threat or a disruption to your business processes. Take the first step now by choosing to pursue just one of the areas outlined above. And remember, by acting proactively and creatively, you can seize this exciting opportunity to accelerate your business growth.
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Originally published Jan. 27, 2022.