The metaverse has rapidly become one of the most discussed innovations in recent years.
From Facebook’s parent company, Meta, having already spent more than US$100 billion on research and development on its metaverse projects, to consultancy McKinsey saying the metaverse has the potential to create up to US$5 trillion in value by 2030, it’s not hard to see why interest in these digital worlds is sky-high.
Countless different definitions of the metaverse exist, but it can be best characterized as an emerging 3D ecosystem that makes use of virtual reality, augmented reality, spatial computing and many other digital innovations.
When it comes to the customer experience (CX), the metaverse is beginning to transform long-standing strategies. Businesses are increasingly looking to integrate these metaverse innovations into their CX plans, in part due to shifting consumer expectations.
“We see the metaverse transforming customer service, commerce, marketing and digital interactions.” – R ‘Ray’ Wang
According to a survey published by global digital CX company TELUS International, 72 percent of respondents believe that metaverse brand interactions will replace brand interactions in the real world at some point, or that brands will adopt a hybrid approach of metaverse and in-person interactions.
For R ‘Ray’ Wang, Principal Analyst and Founder at Constellation Research, a technology research and advisory firm based in California’s Silicon Valley, the metaverse is best viewed as the ultimate digital immersive experience.
“Brands and enterprises need to be where their customers are, and that’s the first principle,” Wang tells The CEO Magazine. “As part of the customer experience strategy, we see the metaverse transforming customer service, commerce, marketing and digital interactions.”
Entering a technological ecosystem that is rapidly developing is no easy task. By taking a holistic approach toward the metaverse, businesses can effectively incorporate the metaverse into their CX strategy and ensure customers remain at the center of the vision.
1. Constant experimentation
At this relatively early stage in the evolution of the metaverse, few one-size-fits-all rules exist. This gives customer service leaders the ability to experiment and discover what works best for their organization.
For Wang, the first step in any CX strategy should be to get immersed and participate in the different worlds available, as well as seeing what other brands are doing in the space.
“In the digital world, every choice is a demand signal. You have context such as time, location, customer journey, sentiment and weather. That coupled with what an individual chooses provide clues over time of preferences and proclivities,” Wang says.
These signals enable firms to serve up the next best actions and conduct many A/B tests to allow for experimentation, eliminating unsuccessful elements and refining what works.
2. Omnichannel experience
Enterprises of all sizes have been working to build true omnichannel shopping experiences for today’s consumers, who expect both a unified and personalized experience. Thanks to the augmented and virtual reality focus of the metaverse, it is positioned to bridge the divide between physical and digital.
Establishing seamless integration between channels could result in clients ordering at storefronts in the virtual world and receiving products in the physical world.
Salesforce’s 2021 ‘State of the Connected Consumer’ report found that 76 percent of customers prefer to use different channels to interact with businesses, depending on their exact needs or queries. Companies that don’t embrace the metaverse as part of their CX strategy will fail to meet their customers where they feel most comfortable.
3. Track customer sentiment
Due to the very nature of the metaverse, change is expected at all times. New digital worlds, use cases and technological breakthroughs will require any CX strategy to adapt.
Businesses with a presence in the metaverse would benefit from keeping a pulse on customer sentiment, in order to identify potential improvements that can be made in their CX strategy and their customers’ metaverse experience.
“Partnering with an experienced customer experience partner can provide valuable expertise and insights on the possibilities and opportunities that the metaverse offers.” – Michael Ringman
“This can be done through surveys, feedback forms and analytics tools,” explains Michael Ringman, CIO at TELUS International.
“In addition, partnering with an experienced customer experience partner can provide valuable expertise and insights on the possibilities and opportunities that the metaverse offers.”
4. Resource allocation
Entering the metaverse without a well-defined budget and timeline will mean that businesses miss out on a crucial element in the planning process.
Sitecore’s ‘2022 Perceptions of the Metaverse’ report found that half of marketers are on track to allocate more than 10 percent of their budget to the metaverse in 2023, with 81 percent believing that widespread metaverse adoption is expected within the next five years.
“Brands must act quickly to start exploring the endless potential of the metaverse and planning how they will stake a claim in the new digital world.”’ – Michael Ringman
“Businesses need to assess the resources required and set realistic budgets and timelines for implementing metaverse initiatives. This includes not only financial resources, but also technological capabilities and infrastructure requirements,” Ringman adds.
5. Stakeholder involvement
With the metaverse set to impact virtually all areas of business – including sales, IT, marketing, PR and HR– all relevant departments should play a role in the planning process if the CX strategy is to be successful.
Without involving stakeholders, it is likely that a fragmented approach to the metaverse will be created that lacks cohesion.
“This collaborative approach ensures that all stakeholders are engaged and their inputs are considered, resulting in a more comprehensive and effective metaverse customer experience strategy,” Ringman says.
There is seemingly no end to the CX use cases made possible by the metaverse. House buyers could view several potential options in 3D and see how they feel in each home.
Carmakers could offer customers the ability to build the exact vehicle they want in virtual reality, and clothing retailers could transform the shopping experience through augmented reality where shoppers can try on as many items as they want in the digital world.
The metaverse is no longer a futuristic concept but rather a real innovation available to those forward-thinking enterprises that are ready to embrace the next generation of technology.
“To keep up with increasingly demanding consumer expectations and a growing number of digital savvy consumers, brands must act quickly to start exploring the endless potential of the metaverse and planning how they will stake a claim in the new digital world,” Ringman concludes.