The past few days I have been in the metaverse. When Facebook initially made its announcement, I was intrigued. I also had some burning questions. What does it mean? What does it mean for the future of vFairs, and for all such businesses? I started reading up on it. Digging deeper and deeper, I found a wealth of information on metaverse.
The world has far moved on from ‘the internet of things’, ‘the cloud’, ‘Web 2.0’. Now the new buzzword on the block is ‘metaverse’. So here I am, sharing all that I learned about what it is, and what it means for the future of business.
What is the Metaverse?
The metaverse is a fully-realized digital world that goes beyond the analog one in which we live right now. Mark Zuckerberg himself drew the inspiration for Facebook’s rebrand to ‘Meta’ from the Greek word meta, which means ‘beyond’. The pandemic led to a sharp shift to virtual experiences, environments and assets. When everything moved online, these virtual worlds gained momentum. This all paves the way for what the internet will become next.
Video games have metaverse tendencies where players can build their own world. Additionally, cryptocurrencies are part of the metaverse experience. Virtual and augmented reality are metaverse adjacent too. So if you’ve ever experienced any of these, you have experienced some part of the metaverse.
Simply put, the metaverse is the next big thing. With heavy investment and interest from leaders worldwide, it could be the future of the internet.
Who Is Interested In The Metaverse?
As of now, there are two major players in the metaverse.
Epic Games and so many of its avid users say that Fortnite is already a metaverse. Here is what Mr. Tim Sweeny the Chief Executive of Epic Games has to say about the metaverse and what it is: “The metaverse is not an App Store with a catalog of titles. In the metaverse, you and your friends and your appearance and cosmetics can go from place to place and have different experiences while remaining connected to each other socially.” Epic Games has always been keen on the metaverse and has aspirations to develop further on it.
Online multiplayer games are not exactly the metaverse but do have a few things in common. Fortnite has already expanded its product, hosting concerts, brand events, and more inside its own digital world. This further gave context to Mr Sweeney’s vision for the metaverse and the future.
Then comes Facebook, the most important player in this new world. According to Facebook, the metaverse “won’t be built overnight by a single company”. They aim to collaborate with others in this mission. It has recently invested $50m (£36.3m) in funding non-profit groups to help “build the metaverse responsibly”. But Facebook still believes that the true metaverse will take another 10 to 15 years to actualize.
The biggest ball drop moment so far has been Facebook’s rebranding. Completely changing their name from Facebook to Meta is the biggest pledge to the future so far. This name is in line with their goals and aims. At its core, Facebook will always be a social networking site, however now they’ve set foot into making the move from social media to creating immersive experiences. In essence, it is the evolution of social networking.
According to Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote “The defining quality of the metaverse will be a feeling of presence — like you are right there with another person or in another place. Feeling truly present with another person is the ultimate dream of social technology”. Meta means beyond, and as per Zuckerberg, there is more that they can build. With Meta, they’re building a more immersive environment where you’ll be able to do almost anything you can imagine — get together with friends and family, work, learn, play, shop, create.
To sum up, the metaverse is an alternate digital reality, a virtual collected space, where people work, play and socialize. It is a very big deal for the near future.
Now, it is time to address a few other potent questions around the metaverse.
What Can You Do In The Metaverse?
From playing games with friends to architects building life-like models, to shopping, networking, working, virtual concerts, and so much more. So anything from taking a simple video call to the next level where you interact with your colleagues virtually to even taking trips online and trying on clothes digitally for purchase. The possibilities are endless with what the metaverse can allow you to do.
“A lot of the metaverse experience is going to be around being able to teleport from one experience to another,” Zuckerberg says.
It opens up a ton of opportunities for businesses, in how they conduct themselves, how they reach out to their consumers, and how they market themselves. Speaking of virtual events specifically, it has huge implications for it as well.
Let’s see what it means for businesses, marketing and the events industry individually, and what each of these streams can do in the metaverse.
Metaverse – Impact on Businesses
The pandemic has been a catalyst for accelerated growth for many businesses around the world. Previously, only a handful of companies were open to adopting a digital way of operating. However, with the pandemic, things took a turn in weeks and businesses were forced to move to the digital world to continue the business.
Businesses have shifted into the work-from-home model during the pandemic, and many are now adopting a hybrid approach. The next level of this work-from-home involves helping people work and collaborate in a virtual reality experience. For this Facebook’s, Horizon Workrooms, an avatar-based collaborative workspace, is the newest technology facilitating it. It is Facebook’s first step into creating a full virtual reality experience designed specifically for people to work together. Horizon Workrooms fit in perfectly in Facebook’s goals to build the so-called metaverse.
Moving beyond workrooms, in the business metaverse, corporations will have absolute control over their own meta worlds, and what exactly happens there. From having their own dress codes to selling products inside the platform, businesses can formulate their own little worlds there.
For example, if you’re a retailer with a virtual reality store, you can display all your products on shelves. Your consumers can pick up products, look at them and click to buy. The physical item can then be sent to their house.
3D Digital Twin Technology
Another force to completely transform the way a business operates and consumers’ experiences, interact and analyze the built world is 3D digital twin technology. This technology creates an immersive 3D virtual and dimensionally accurate model of any building or space. This means businesses will be able to create accurate replicas of physical locations, which will then operate as separate entities.
While consumers, on the other hand, can use digital twin technology for trying on clothes virtually and checking out new shops before it even opens up. They can even visualize and confirm whether new furniture would fit before making a purchase for the home, all from the comfort of their couch. While augmented reality has made this possible in recent years, this evolution of the internet and technology is sure to take consumer experiences to the next level.
Even in the construction industry, for instance, engineers can virtually visit locations, plan challenging and invasive construction work remotely and accelerate construction schedules. This is bound to streamline project management and decision-making.
This is just one industry that we’re talking about here. Finance, education, healthcare and so many others will also undergo major transformations as the metaverse begins to materialize.
I don’t know about you, but my mind is blown till now. This is an exciting time for us.
Metaverse: Impact on Events
Coming to the events industry, the pandemic already shifted many gatherings online. Cultural festivities, family reunions, weddings, and graduations all flocked to Zoom or to more immersive virtual platforms. It is safe to say that online social events have become mainstream. Geographical boundaries are shrinking and the metaverse is another step into bridging those geographical gaps.
Let’s reverse back to April 2020 and take a quick peek into the entertainment industry. Travis Scott, a rapper, hosted a virtual concert in Fortnite, drawing over 12 million players. People didn’t need to do it, they wanted to do it. It was deemed historic and unprecedented. This set an early tone for how things would change for the events industry. A more recent example, however, is of the Swedish group ABBA. They announced the launch of a digital experience featuring their “ABBA-tars” that will perform at a physical location in London.
Don’t know about you, but we’re ready and excited for this new era of experiencing entertainment and events.
The future of events will be the metaverse. Isn’t that a huge claim? But not without reason. Already various event technology companies are shifting the way they operate in anticipation of the metaverse. vFairs Spatial Connect already offers something resembling the start of the metaverse. vFairs Spatial Connect is a virtual environment where participants can collaborate, work, and even play virtual games or music together. It also features spatial audio, i.e. participants can speak with people automatically once they reach certain proximity within the virtual room. This allows you to move around and go and meet people in the space. It offers an immersive networking space that can be customized to any setting.
Why do we mention this here? Exactly because the whole idea is to enable connections between people within the metaverse. This is what Zuckerberg also wants to create, and all the other ‘metaverse enthusiasts’ are aiming to create: a place that goes beyond the current level of networking and communication, into something that is at a deeper and personal level.
Implications for Virtual Events
We asked event profs what kind of events they would be interested in planning in the metaverse. The response isn’t surprising:
Even with virtual events, this ethos — enabling connections — is consistent across the board. Although virtual events were gaining momentum before COVID-19 hit, after it, they became a way to bring people together. The metaverse is just another medium to do exactly that – bringing people together.
The future of live events, that previously took a turn to hybrid, a bridge between virtual and physical worlds to connect people. Now it is on to the next phase – the metaverse.
It is definitely going to be a great place to meet people for events. It will facilitate business, social and entertainment events. However, with all the possibilities that it offers to connect people at a greater level, it also depends on what the people want, what you’re trying to do and where you’re based.
While virtual platforms and the metaverse are the new venues for events, we can’t help but wonder who would want to attend. Going back to the virtual concert on Fortnite, no one really needed to attend, but 12 million people did. This is huge. Then again, no one is forced into it as an organizer, but it is best to prepare for it, understand and explore it.
The biggest transformation, however, is what an attendee can do at a virtual event. Virtual attendees won’t just be able to talk to brands, speakers, exhibitors like they do now, or on social media. They will be able to interact with them in 3D or holographic form. Can you imagine walking up to a keynote speaker, or an industry giant located on the other side of the planet and asking for advice, or just chatting with them? This is revolutionary for the world of virtual events.
There’s lots to consider, and we’re only just wrapping our heads around all this.
Long before the word metaverse gained popularity, vFairs has been committed to creating immersive life-like experiences for their audience. Be it the 3D animated virtual lobby, or the rest of the virtual environment. Emulating the real-life event space into the virtual event is our forte. We want your users to believe they’re at the venue, talking, chatting, networking with other humans rather than sitting on their couch at home.
The metaverse is also bound to change the way brands market themselves. Let’s explore this in some detail.
Metaverse: Impact on Marketing
We’ve already established that there will be a shift in the business mindset. With the revolutionary technology of virtual reality, we are able to step out of our real world and into virtual worlds. This virtual world has its own economy, environment, currency and behaviors.
With this new world, how can marketers prepare for it? With the evolution of the internet and advances in mobile technology, we saw how marketing shifted from billboards and magazines to social media and SEO.
Again, the metaverse will impact the way brands carry out their marketing activities. They will need to change and adapt to new technologies, just as with the internet marketers had to shift focus. They will be where the consumers are and will need to know how they’re going to be ‘found’ in the metaverse.
Chief Metaverse Officer, Cathay Hackl explains how brands will have to adapt to the metaverse, “Brands will need to rethink their narratives in three dimensions and …marketers will need to embrace emerging technology at a faster speed. In the metaverse, everyone is a world builder, including brands.” Quite simply, if a brand wants to stay relevant they will have to adopt the changes that come with the metaverse.
The metaverse will also affect how brands carry out their SEO efforts. Eric Enge, the author of The Art of SEO and co-founder of Pilot Holding, says: “One of the key aspects of the Metaverse is the big role that image processing plays. Virtual reality, augmented reality, and visual search all rely on it. Deep content is at the heart of any SEO Strategy. If the content serves a user’s needs, the better it will perform in SEO rankings and organic search traffic. Additionally, images are a highly effective form of content. As Google gets better and better at understanding the content and quality of images, the bigger a factor this will become.”
Opportunities for Brands
As of now, brands are inserting themselves into the virtual world via games. Here they can natively add themselves into the experience, rather than interrupting it. They have recreated their services to build branded characters of arenas within the games. When they add to the user experience, they have a greater top-of-mind recall. Again, a very visible example of this is Fortnite. They have over the years slowly introduced advertising in their games, creating a space for their brands.
The metaverse has also created a space for luxury brands, which are a natural fit for collectibles and non-fungible tokens (NFTs). NFTs are digital assets secured via the blockchain. When someone purchases an NFT they purchase a unique token (entry) on the blockchain ledger that proves they uniquely own the digital asset.
Brands are selling digital versions of their goods for more than their physical price. Emma Chiu, the global director at Wunderman Thompson Intelligence says, “Gucci selling a digital handbag for more than its physical value really shows what the metaverse economy could potentially be”. This is also a reflection on what the brands could possibly do in this metaverse since they’re able to connect with an audience and engage with them fully.
She elaborates on it by saying, “A lot of luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Balenciaga and Gucci are creating digital possessions that can be bought in-game, dropping limited-edition NFT collections and even making their own branded game worlds. These are very exciting and interesting examples of brands not only moving into games, but creating digital third spaces for people to gather, hang out in, and create new experiences together.”
This is more than the brands marketing to them. Brands are playing with the consumer and that only adds value to the overarching community. It is a different ball game altogether.
Again, when we see what virtual event platforms offer brands today is inspirational. Platforms like vFairs allow brands to showcase their products, services and other collateral. Not just that, sponsors of a virtual or hybrid event can gain extra explore but placing brand logos all over the event, hosting activities, running specialized webinar sessions, sponsoring games much more. This helps the consumer resonate with the brand, as there is not direct selling, but engagement with the attendees in a fun and interactive manner.
When Can You Enter The Metaverse?
According to industry experts and their predictions, the metaverse is still about 10 years away. Right now it is more about immersive entertainment experiences, however, the metaverse is much bigger and more complex than that.
Early adoption is the key for brands who want to be a part of it. Understand the space, the subcultures and the communities before you start advertising everywhere. This also means stepping out of the realm of what your brands are offering right now. Brands can set themselves up for success by moving away from current offerings and thinking creatively about their products and services according to Nick Pringle, Senior Vice President and Executive Creative Director at R/GA London.
Breaking barriers, getting in early, learning and supporting the growth of the metaverse has one advantage: brands will be seen as credible and will be able to buy allegiance from the community growing within the metaverse.
Nick thinks Gen Alpha is ‘metaverse ready’ all because of Fortnite and Roblox. Brands that are already adding value to the current and new virtual spaces have a good chance of becoming well-loved.
Mass adoption will take some time and will bring some challenges with it. Technological capabilities, closed wall systems, IP issues and law frameworks are some of the current hindrances to mass adoption of the metaverse. Moreover, once everyone has the hardware, adoption will become easier. Tech giants still have a considerable amount of research and development to do.
While organizations like vFairs are already creating immersive environments for their audience, safe to say the next 10 years will be interesting, exciting and full of opportunities for the tech world, for the events industry, for businesses, operations, marketing and basically everyone who wants to stay relevant. How to make use of this new opportunity and what is next in the metaverse, only time will tell.
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