What Does Zuckerberg’s Metaverse Mean for Ecommerce?

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The Zuckerberg beast has returned to his old tricks. It wants to eat your eyes with Oculus and absorb your thoughts through Facebook data collection. The Zuckerberg plans to create a metaverse by hiring 10,000 people for the job. The shift is just beginning with Facebook’s new name, Meta.

In case you were wondering, the concept of “metaverse” was first coined by Neal Stephenson, a science fiction author. The story is set in a dystopian virtual world where a dictatorship corporation runs everything. The citizens are mostly broke and controlled by the corporation. Zuckerberg is a fool for using this term. It is not intended to invoke images of community, but separation, not individuality, but depersonalization and not equality, but servitude.

Let’s not forget to give him the benefit-of-the doubt. Let’s assume that his grand plans will not destroy humanity. It is a great technological idea, but how do you know if it will work? It could help in medical procedures or make society more democratic.

Let’s be serious… the big question is: Can it help people make more? What does the metaverse mean for entrepreneurs, small businesses and big businesses?

It’s likely to be disappointment for the majority of us.

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Even though “the next big thing” may find some success, it is a red flag in my mind when it has to do with big tech. This is especially true when the main hype comes via larger-than-life CEOs or celebrity endorsements (hello NFTs). When headlines start to appear like “Companies are investing money in X,” “X is coming, it’s a big deal”, or “Facebook, Microsoft and other tech companies claim X’s the future,” it almost feels like we have a crystal ball.

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My mind swirls with visions of Juicero and WeWork. Investors love the hype and journalists are drawn to it by sensationalist headlines.

What makes companies such as Microsoft and Facebook so reputable today? People won’t be excited to allow Mark Zuckerberg to consume more of their lives through a metaverse.

It is nothing to see big brands flocking to a hot space. This tactic is used by wannabe-rockstar CEOs as a way to team up with actors, astronauts, and athletes to get naive investors to invest.

But, I believe that the dust eventually settles and we are left with something unexpected, often not as revolutionary, as we were originally told.

Google Glass is a great example of wearables. We thought we would all be wearing Ironman-like supercomputer glasses. But, in the end, Google Glass serves a much more niche purpose in fields like logistics and medicine. While the average person is simply using a wrist watch that tracks your heart rate, steps, and heart rate (both of these things were very simple to do with other tools, they just digitalized them). While wearables can be useful, they are not as scientifically-based as the hype suggests. They’re more like glorified pedometers.

What can I expect from these metaverse claims given all this? An in-between outcome is what I expect, considering that we have already seen some levels of metaverses in gaming and ecommerce (Fortnite and PokemonGo, NFTs…Even Brave Browser contains elements of a Metaverse because it has its own currency for browsing content creation and browsing). These are very specific use cases, and not at all similar to any where the entire society could put on a headset and log in to an alternate world.

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It seems that the closest thing we have to a metaverse is gaming and NFTs (nonfungible tokens). However, these are smaller communities in which people spend a lot of their time in digital realms.

This is not something that the average person cares about. Take a look at the pandemic. Zoom was the closest thing to a digital world that most people have experienced. At least, in my circle, not one person would prefer a Zoom call to a face-to–face meeting or even a phone call.

Jack Hanke’s metaverse theory is what I am leaning towards. He states that technology should not replace the human experience but enhance it. As with wearables, history has shown us that we have not yet seen a generation that is all-consuming of tech. I don’t think we will ever.

Ecommerce is a great way for brands to be involved in the NFT-like and gaming metaverses. A Disney princess outfit, an NFL-branded Jersey, or a Porsche Carrera can all be purchased within a game, or as digital collectibles.

Big corporations will be the dominant force in any metaverse. These corporations have the resources, time and money to run these campaigns. This is evident in how Doordash shows fast food chains dominating screen space, or how Google Maps recommends McDonald’s and Starbucks when you’re driving. How can a small or medium-sized ecommerce store compete with large companies for visibility?

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Overall, we know that Mark Zuckerberg was born with prodigious programming skills. They forgot empathy, reason, or that feeling that lets you know when to stop. Even if he was crowned King of Hawaii, he would still look at Midway Island with an emotionless eye, and maybe even conquer some natives.

Zuckerberg is aware that a metaverse is a risky idea. However, he’s getting people excited because it attracts investors, makes headlines and gives him validation that’s never enough.

Zuck, stop thinking about the metaverse. It is terrifying to think about a fully-functioning metaverse. Although bits and pieces of a metaverse may seem promising for online businesses, they are already in motion. Why not retire, Zuck! Facebook, why are you still here? You don’t have to be a “work-until you die” type. Why not start your own company instead of constantly buying new companies? You know, actually innovating instead of creating a dystopian nightmare on top of your previous disaster.

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The metaverse is finally here. Or, at the very least, a vision of the metaverse.

The newly-named ‘Meta’, also known as Facebook, posted a YouTube video of Mark Zuckerberg promoting their metaverse proposal on October 29th 2021. This “embodied internet” will let us interact with spaces we cannot see through a screen, at least theoretically.

This shiny introduction to the metaverse got everyone talking, whether it was floating in spaceships with our avatar friends (the ‘new profile photo’ according to Zuckerberg), or attending concerts by our favorite artists.

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Is the metaverse going to replace the internet? What does this mean to existing online-only areas like ecommerce?

We will be diving into the newly created metaverse and some of the ways that electronic commerce is already harnessing the principles for virtual connectivity.

What is the metaverse?

It is understandable that brands and consumers are having difficulty understanding the metaverse. The reason is that the metaverse doesn’t exist as evangelists like Mark Zuckerberg imagine it.

As with many emerging technologies there is no one universal definition of what the metaverse actually.

The metaverse is not a single innovation. It’s an extension and expansion of many existing technologies that consumers have taken up at a rapid pace.

It is the combination of these innovations – AR, VR and cryptocurrency, as well as social commerce and blockchain – that creates what some call the metaverse . This network of 3D-rendered virtual space that functions not only as an additional selling channel but also as an economy .

The metaverse can be described as the ultimate blank canvas. The metaverse is more than a place where brands can reproduce what is already in the physical world. It’s a place where brands can address new needs and pain points unique to digital spaces.

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The building blocks of the metaverse

Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality

Although AR/VR may still seem like science fiction, it is already well-integrated in consumer shopping habits. More than half of consumers (61%) say they prefer to shop on sites that use Augmented Reality technology.

Because of its many applications, AR/VR is fast becoming a necessity for merchants who sell products that are otherwise difficult to purchase online. High return rates are common for home furnishings, fashion, cosmetics, footwear and other products due to the difficulty in judging whether a product is suitable online.Warby Parker’s Virtual Try-On App allows customers to try every pair of frames from their product catalogue.

AR’s product visualization capabilities allow consumers to make more informed purchasing decisions and feel more confident supporting brands. Studies show that consumers will pay up to 40% more if a product can be tested using AR.

Summarising, AR and VR technology is gaining popularity in ecommerce, helping brands tap into the power the metaverse. This allows customers to interact more effectively with product offerings within digital spaces.

NFTs

It’s not surprising that the Collins Dictionary selected it as their word for the year 2021, despite all the hype around Non-Fungible Tokens.

These digital assets, which are blockchain-based, have been used to create everything from fashion to memes to sought-after collectibles. And there are many more developments that will surprise us.

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NFTs may be a complicated innovation but it is the foolproof way they provide for authenticating ownership that makes them an important building block of the metaverse. Both consumers and brands can use NFTs for transactions, or to create digital goods that enhance their value proposition.

Gamification

Video games are the most common way we think about immersive digital environments. Gaming is not a realistic activity, but because of the methods used to keep us engaged.

This is called Gamification, and designers use our natural competitiveness as motivation to make us spend more time doing an activity. Gamification uses both rewards and risks to attract consumers. The more we progress, the greater the risk and the higher the rewards.

It’s no surprise that gamification will play a significant role in the future, given the success of this model. Gamification is key to creating immersive brand experiences.

Where is the metaverse at ?

Each new technology goes through a phase we call “gimmick” or “glitch”. This is when technology is used to its utmost rather than for its genuine value.

When Microsoft’s Mesh For Teams’ functionality was revealed, tech commentators raised eyebrows. This allows users to replace their webcam with personalized avatars in Teams meetings.

Microsoft claims this is the first step to allowing companies to create their own metaverses where staff can interact with each other and host events. The general conclusion is that Mesh For Teams is a solution searching for a problem.

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Furthermore, the reports on the so-called Zoom fatigue and the increase in unnecessary meetings during the pandemic suggest that workers prefer to have fewer virtual interactions at work.

However, this doesn’t mean that the metaverse is worthless. In its brief history, the ecommerce industry has pioneered immersive experiences that are being brought into mainstream culture.

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The metaverse and Ecommerce: What does the metaverse mean for merchants

It doesn’t take long to see examples of how ecommerce has taken advantage of the potential of the metaverse. Although VR headsets for mainstream consumers are still far off, many brands are embracing this new digital frontier. Their goal? Their goal is to create seamless and engaging shopping experiences that reduce friction and increase customer loyalty.

Breaking down silos between online and offline channels with virtual shopping

Since omnichannel became the hottest retail buzzword, brands have been striving to create consistent experiences across ecommerce and brick and mortar.

This is not an easy task. To cater to all possible shopping experiences, you need a sophisticated tech stack and the unification of all data points – something that even major retailers struggle to do.

Some brands have decided to create new digital stores that integrate the best of both online and offline.
Virtual shopping has changed ecommerce. Instead of static product catalogues, it allows consumers to ‘walk’ through a store and enjoy 3D-renewed store displays powered AR/VR technology. This is a great first step in bridging the gap between physical retail’s immersiveness and online shopping’s convenience.

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In 2020, Charlotte Tilbury opened its first virtual store to serve COVID-19 orders. The beauty brand has now created a fully functioning metaverse in 2021.

You can shop online just like normal. Charlotte Tilbury’s virtual beauty gifting wonderland offers virtual beauty consultations. There’s also a Shop With Friends feature that allows you to bring together groups of people via integrated video. The store embraces game activations such as allowing customers to explore the various ‘islands’ to discover three secret keys that unlock a special lipstick shade.

Providing more personalization

Brands that want to build customer loyalty are quickly embracing personalization. 80% say that they are more likely to purchase from a company that offers tailored experiences. Three-quarters of consumers consider the idea of ‘living customer profiles’ valuable in the shopping experience.

Personalization in ecommerce often ends at the point where product recommendations and discounts are made. While this might increase conversions, it does not encourage customers to explore your brand’s ecosystem or participate in the culture behind your product catalogue.

Nike is a long-standing innovator in digital connectivity and innovation. It’s no surprise that they have been the first to invest into the metaverse. Nike has filed a few trademarks for apparel and sneakers that can be used as virtual sneakers, and so is announcing a future release.

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NIKELAND was launched by Nike on Roblox in November. Roblox is a 3D gaming platform that allows users to create and participate in games. You can also win medals that you can use to purchase Nike apparel and accessories.

NIKELAND doesn’t just exist online. Customers can activate a Snapchat lens at Nike’s House of Innovation New York City, which superimposes NIKELAND onto the store environment. Nike allows customers to add their personal brand slice directly into the offline experience. This helps build stronger emotional connections.

Stronger community engagement

Ecommerce brands can benefit from investing in community-building initiatives, as social proof and recommendations by fellow consumers are more effective than any other marketing method. You can create a more harmonious relationship with your customers by allowing them to participate in the brand’s activities.

The metaverse is a new way for brands to reach more customers. Instead of relying on PR activations or influencer events, brands can now rely on the metaverse. It’s possible to offer immersive brand experiences to everyone, even though events used to be limited by geography, logistics and, more recently, public health restrictions.

The 3D-interactive funhouse featured five rooms for customers to explore. These included a loft for beauty lovers to network, a family room with roundtable discussions with brand founders, tutorials and masterclasses for makeup, and a backyard party featuring celebrities and influencers. Participants can also participate in quizzes and games to win products, or to purchase the entire Experience Kit.

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Sephora has been able to render this virtual space in a way that allows them to present new and existing content (videos podcasts, tutorials, etc.) in a more engaging and immersive manner, which drives consumer engagement with their offline products.

What is the future of the metaverse? It is still not clear if we will ever be able to ‘walk’ into another world and exist in the metaverse. The future of the metaverse will depend on companies like Meta being able to develop the infrastructure necessary to create an open-source standard. Virtual experiences created by Nike and Charlotte Tilbury are likely to remain closed-source.

The COVID-19 pandemic, the desire to interact more with customers online and the rise of virtual shopping have all contributed to the growth in digital shopping and gamified experiences. While Ready Player One is still far away, it’s possible to expect the experiences that inspired them to play a larger role in eccommerce.