According to research by Gartner, by 2026 one hour will be spent in the metaverse every day by at least 25% of us. And Bloomberg reports that metaverse technology platforms could become an $800 billion market by as soon as next year. FOMO (fear of missing out), anyone? If you have put off educating yourself and your employees about this often-mysterious sounding digital realm, buckle up. It is essential to understand what the metaverse is and why the metaverse will matter for customer experience.
First, What Exactly is the Metaverse and How Does It Work?
The term “metaverse” was originally used in the early 1990s in sci-fi writer Neal Stephenson’s dystopian novel Snow Crash, in which the wealthy could escape into and interact with each other in an alternate 3D world. Decades later the idea is no longer fictitious (nor is cost such an issue). TechTarget’s Mary K. Pratt offers a succinct definition of today’s evolving metaverse: a “3D digital world where people work and play experiencing the blend of the physical and virtual world in a way that feels real and permanent”.
Sounds like a video game, right? It is, sometimes. Social gaming platform Roblox emerged in 2006, letting users play and program games created by other users; Pokémon GO, which went beyond the typical gaming experiences by combining augmented reality games and the real world, was released in 2016; and by 2019 Epic Games’ Fortnite had 250+ million active on its platform, many of them Gen Z. Fortnite is known for creating exciting experiences for customers including in-game concerts by popular singers such as Travis Scott and Marshmello.
Meanwhile, the more universally visited Google was adding Street View to its maps feature and eventually developed Google Earth, one of the most comprehensive 3D maps currently available. And in 2021 the metaverse idea took a big leap forward when Facebook rebranded as Meta and shared an optimistic and far-reaching (if somewhat vague) vision for its own place in the metaverse.
Virtual Reality (VR) headsets allow users to enjoy virtual experiences that can mirror those in the real world, doing everything from interacting and working to playing and shopping (major design brands such as Gucci and Louis Vuitton are enjoying revenue growth as users try on and buy items for their avatars, allowing personal experiences in real life to translate to their digital identities). Headsets generally come with controllers that allow users to move around, enjoying 360-degree views and 3D audio. But a headset costing hundreds of dollars isn’t always necessary. Many virtual worlds along a customer journey can be accessed directly on a smartphone and/or computer. They offer a less immersive experience, however. In other words, you’ll still be able to move your avatar around and take various actions, but you won’t feel as much like you’re “them”.
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How Can You Include the Metaverse in Your Brand’s CX Strategy?
A recent Forbes article shares that “CX is the number one priority for companies increasing their technology spend during 2023, with 65 percent of companies planning to do so–by an average of 24 percent.” Another states that time spent in the metaverse should “elevate and extend existing service experiences as a bridge to creating a new model for interactions.” Businesses are under more pressure than ever to deliver memorable, interactive experiences to their customers, both in person and online, ones that offer them a break from their daily lives. And preferably, ones that are technologically advanced.
So, armed with the knowledge that CX is a huge priority for the many companies spending more on tech this year and that possibilities exist for new ways to strengthen our relationships with customers—delivering even more of those all-important personalized experiences—it’s time for us business leaders to consider how we might build bridges to the metaverse into our own brands’ CX strategies. Following are some real-world companies across industries, doing just that:
- VOLVO Reality test drive: With the combo of an app on their smartphone and Google Cardboard (a disposable VR headset), users could test drive a Volvo XC90 and enjoy 360-degree views while driving through the mountains; they could also check out the car’s interior.
- IKEA Place: No headset needed for this app; customers can place true-to-scale models of furniture and fixtures in their own homes and be guided in selecting the best pieces based on size, function, and style.
- Matterport: Virtual real estate tours have come a long way. Matterport’s 3D virtual tours are immersive and realistic as prospective buyers move from room to room and around the grounds; this level of technology can help agents be more competitive. No headset required.
- London Natural History Museum (NHM): All you need is your laptop to enjoy interactive education without leaving home as you stroll through the museum via 3D technology accompanied by Sir Richard Attenborough’s narration; available at Google Arts and Culture.
- Merrell: For the launch of a new hiking boot, this retailer of outdoor clothing and footwear created Trailscape, a higher-level, pricier VR experience for adventurous users willing to invest over $500 for the necessary Oculus Rift headset; while on a challenging trek through mountainous terrain, “hikers” experience simulated tactile sensations (via haptic technology) for everything from rope walkways to landslides. They can even get lost! Augmented reality (AR) takes it to the level of 4D.
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Technologies and Industries in the Metaverse
Technologies creating this new world—which some are calling the next version of the internet—include artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, and virtual reality (VR). All familiar terms at this point and some with reported downsides, such as the potential for blockchain (the technology behind cryptocurrency) to increase everything from greenhouse gas emissions to pollution and noise.
Major companies across industries that are investing in metaverse possibilities include Washington-based Microsoft, which in 2021 introduced a virtual collaboration platform called Mesh. The following year, German engineering firm Siemens (which prides itself on bringing together the digital and physical worlds) and Nvidia (a global AI hardware/software designer and manufacturer) formed a partnership on the industrial metaverse. The medical field is another arena where the metaverse will likely be enormously helpful, for educational and training purposes including the virtual practice of riskier surgeries.
The Future of CX: Preparing Your Team for Extended Reality
Despite all the investing and innovating over the past couple decades there isn’t one interconnected, interoperable metaverse quite yet, but physical space and digital environments are overlapping more—and more quickly—than ever. With customer expectations for best-in-class customer service at an all-time high, the quality of metaverse customer experience will need to mirror that of non-virtual environments, with all customer touchpoints considered. Educating your customer experience employees about the metaverse is not optional. It requires a proactive approach, and it will ultimately become part of your CX training. Consider sharing this general overview with your team, even challenging them to bring fresh ideas on leveraging current CX expertise within this new technological frontier to your next meeting. Employees who feel engaged and appreciated often have the most creative, innovative thoughts to share.
Episode 106 of the CSRev Podcast – World Class Leadership – Coaching Culture
This episode is from a presentation by Brittni Walker, Customer Experience Consultant with The DiJulius Group, presented at the Customer Service Revolution Conference in Cleveland on Nov 7th, 2022. The title of the presentation is World Class Leadership – Coaching Culture.
Great coaches motivate teams and maximize their performance – both on the field and in the workplace. Learn how to cultivate a coaching culture in your organization by changing the leadership playbook to one that empowers and engages both coaches and their teams.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“To serve really means to leave people happier than you found them,
to leave a person more at peace than when you first met them.
I live because I want to positively improve people’s lives”
CX VIDEO CLIP OF THE WEEK
We ARE in a Recession
Our 2023 Class of our Customer Experience Executive Academy (CXEA) that started in January sold out. So instead of waiting till 2024 to start a new class, we are starting a new class in September ’23. We expect this class to also sell out. Don’t delay and register now!
Are you in charge of your brand’s customer experience? Are you currently on track to be your company’s Chief Experience Officer (CXO)? It’s time to start learning the methodology applied by world-class companies to create consistently memorable moments that lead to happy customers and happy employees. The Customer Experience Executive Academy (CXEA) is the Harvard of Customer Experience, featuring:
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- How to develop a strong Customer Experience Action Statement that brings purpose and meaning to your employees and organization
- How to recruit and develop a team with high customer service aptitude that aligns with your core values
- How to build a culture that always goes above and beyond what is expected during interactions
- How to develop tailored experiential standards for each customer, in each interaction they have with your company
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