CEO & Founder of UneeQ, a platform for the creation and deployment of AI-powered digital human technologies.
You’d be forgiven for feeling behind in the race to the metaverse. It’s been less than 12 months since Facebook changed its name to Meta, effectively firing the starting pistol for brands to jump aboard the hype cycle. That very week, interest in the metaverse exploded from almost nothing to near-peak popularity, according to Google Trends.
That’s not to say the metaverse is all hype and no substance—quite the opposite. According to a recent report by Veritone, around 1 in 3 brands say they’re allocating 10%-20% of their marketing and innovation budgets to the metaverse. A further 17% said the metaverse was a “priority investment.” In what’s predicted to quickly become an $800 billion market, the metaverse is on a lot of businesses’ minds.
But leaders shouldn’t feel late to the party. We’re not late; we’re exactly where we need to be.
That’s to say that the metaverse is still in its embryonic stages of testing, trialing and learning. In Web 2.0 terms, we’re even before the Myspace era. Tom from Myspace is still drawing on his whiteboard and hardly has any friends. By this comparison, Facebook, the company that would go on to dominate the Web 2.0 generation, doesn’t even exist yet.
No one has built an experience that reaches anywhere near what Web3 will become. The defining company of the metaverse era might not even exist yet. No one is truly ready—and that’s OK.
To help with FOMO, let’s call this time we’re in “Web 2.5”—a steppingstone toward what’s to come.
And yet we shouldn’t take this time for granted either. Brands all around the world can start preparing for the future of the internet—the future of their business—in a digital world that’s about to get much more immersive and interactive.
It’s OK to not be ready for the metaverse. But it won’t be for long. So let’s look at productive ways to spend our time in Web 2.5 before Web3 truly rolls around.
1. Get hands-on in today’s metaverse realities.
Perhaps the best way to start preparing for the metaverse is to explore what’s already being created.
Pick up your controller, fire up your gaming console or computer of choice and drop into Fortnite or Roblox. Video games are some of the earliest metaverses, allowing us to see what sets them apart.
If you’re not up for the competitive element of these games, attend one of the scheduled events that see musicians put on virtual concerts or spectate an esports competition in-game. It’s a great way to see what keeps hundreds of millions of people coming back every day.
For a more commercial view, there are plenty of major brands who have created metaverse experiences in browser or mobile platforms like Decentraland and The Sandbox. This includes everyone from JPMorgan to Duolingo.
You might not be blown away by what’s currently out there, but that’s actually a great way to see what’s missing and not currently being taken advantage of.
Your hands-on research might also introduce you to Web 2.5 opportunities—brands, technologies and channels today are stretching the definition of Web 2.0 to its limits.
2. Get better at interactive digital experiences.
What makes the metaverse enticing and exciting is the ability for mundane digital tasks to become fun, interactive and engaging.
A recent McKinsey survey found that 47% of respondents could describe the metaverse “with vibrant clarity, using terms such as ‘immersive and interactive.’”
And yet, brands today tend to do this very badly. Marketing teams have spent the past decades investing in social media, websites, podcasts and other media that speaks at their customers. Very few of their channels are able to speak with their customers in the way people expect of the metaverse.
For example, filling out an online mortgage application form might no longer be the most frustrating, complex and unengaging task in existence. It might be highly informative, engaging and interactive within a metaverse setting, with AI-powered avatars and digital humans providing personalized assistance throughout the process.
Again, this is an opportunity for some Web 2.5 thinking. Brands need to get better at interactive digital experiences today in preparation for the metaverse.
3. Acquire a metaverse mindset.
You’d be forgiven for wanting to jump straight into creating a metaverse strategy for your brand, allocating resources and getting internal buy-in from your team. But ask yourself if you’re ready to start that process yet.
When we polled the attendees of one of our recent webinars at UneeQ, 24% said they have a metaverse strategy. A further 32% said they were actively working on it, while the remaining 44% were either waiting to see what happens before starting or simply weren’t convinced the metaverse was relevant to their business.
So don’t feel rushed to create a strategy. Instead, work on creating a metaverse mindset—a way of thinking that will make your future metaverse projects more likely to succeed.
To start, consider this: What could your customers do with you in the metaverse that they simply couldn’t do today?
Don’t think about replicating your storefront in the metaverse, for example; think what your store could be if you didn’t have to abide by the laws of physical reality. Don’t think about putting your chatbot into a metaverse channel, but consider how cool it would be to re-create your celebrity ambassador to give your followers a one-on-one interactive experience. Don’t put up a billboard in Decentraland; make your brand mascot a living, breathing billboard (a la Duolingo).
And again, don’t be afraid to start at Web 2.5—current tech that pushes the boundaries of Web 2.0. Because if the past 12 months have shown us anything about the metaverse, it’s that no one is truly winning the race. We’ve barely even begun.