Organizations looking to conduct new ways of engaging with their customers and employees have turned to the metaverse to establish collaboration and connection through virtual spaces. Employers developing ways to provide better engagement with their employees have utilized internal metaverse experiences called intraverses, while also using the metaverse to improve their business relationships with their customers.
The metaverse can also help organizations protect and grow their brand, attract and retain top talent and grow revenue. In the near future, large organizations are expected to grow the use of Web3, spatial computing and digital twins in metaverse-based projects that can increase revenue.
So far, the metaverse has largely been about potential and possibilities of what can be done in the virtual environment. The vast business potential of the metaverse is in the billions of dollars and will remain an important enabler going forward.
Estimating the business potential of the metaverse
According to Shyam Enjeti, Executive Vice President for Digital Business at HCLTech, there are billions of dollars’ worth of potential within the metaverse that could cross over a trillion by 2025. Every enterprise has its own set of use cases where the metaverse can be leveraged.
The HCLTech Metafinity platform helps bring brands and companies of all industries into the metaverse by creating a new virtual world consumer experience channel for social networking, real estate management and retail. It places different digital technologies, such as Human Interface, blockchain, NFTs, or 3D content creation, in one place.
“Today, we live in an omni-channel world and the metaverse adds a whole new dimension to what omni-channel really means,” says Enjeti. Professional services organizations, for example, can leverage Metafinity to improve employee engagement and collaborate better in the virtual world.
“The opportunities are endless,” Enjeti said, “from financial services to heavy industries to professional services and retail.”
Heavy industries, or manufacturing organizations, believe that the metaverse has the potential to help them become more sustainable, as well as quickly open up business models to create sustainable products.
“A good example is if you pick up a simple washing machine on Electrolux with about 4,000 different parts,” continues Enjeti. “Using digital twins for diagnosis could save hundreds of dollars in service costs and an engineer can be sent to just fix the one part that they know needs to be fixed versus going in blind.”
The future of customer experience
Remotely troubleshooting problems with electronic hardware is just a small sample of how the metaverse can impact a customer’s experience with any given organization.
There’s an art and science behind how a company designs customer experience, how it measures the experience and takes feedback from the metrics it collects because no two users are the same. According to Enjeti, the metaverse is able to learn based on previous interactions a customer may have had.
“We think that customer experience can be improved significantly to decrease frustrations of today,” says Enjeti. “The amount of time you have to spend every single time to get to what you’re really looking for. Now, all those things that are challenging today become non-existent in the metaverse.”
Enjeti says that customers will essentially create their own version of the metaverse, with their own avatar, which has their own preferences in the virtual worlds that organizations create and can monitor as the metaverse improves.
Challenges to improving customer experience in the metaverse
Technology challenges, ethical challenges, data security, privacy and social interaction are all current challenges to the proliferation of the metaverse.
In terms of technology challenges, an expensive, high level of compute is required to provide unprecedented immersive experiences. Additionally, from a network standpoint, the potential of the metaverse is realized sooner, rather than later, in countries with available network capabilities. A gap in skills to develop the metaverse has also emerged, increasing the challenges in growing the metaverse.
“With any new technology, there is obviously always a skills gap,” explains Enjeti. “The number of technical and creative people that you need to accelerate the development to improve the adoption is always a challenge and this is true with any new technology.”
Security is also a challenge that impacts every new piece of technology. Ensuring security for the metaverse, which is an extremely data intensive space, is difficult to accomplish. Enjeti says that organizations must be careful around security and privacy controls and the ethics involved as it’s very easy in a new technology framework to impersonate and create threats within the framework.
Other challenges involving the metaverse stem from mass adoption. For example, VR headsets to utilize the metaverse today are not economic or easy to use. It takes time and effort to learn to navigate the metaverse—whether that’s making purchases from companies or interacting with fellow users. Cost is another driving factor for mass adoption as VR headsets and the price for such hardware. Creating a high-performance, convenient headset has also been a slow journey.
On a Meta earnings calls in 2021, CEO Mark Zuckerberg spoke about the challenge in creating hardware for the metaverse and what it’ll take for mainstream adoptability.
“In augmented reality, you’re going to really need a pair of glasses that look like normal looking glasses in order for that to hit a mainstream acceptance,” he said. “And that is going to be one of the hardest technical challenges of the decade. It’s basically fitting a supercomputer in the frame of glasses.”
Technologies with long-term viability to support the metaverse
A functioning metaverse requires many moving pieces coming together and working seamlessly to create a virtual experience. Blockchain, for example, is foundational to how one would make transactions in the metaverse.
"There are lots of new capabilities and a reduction in time to market because of the services that are being provided by the hyperscalers and public cloud providers,” says Enjeti. “They have created services, especially leveraging AI, machine learning and cognitive services which help the avatars in the metaverse to be more human-like.”
Digital twins will continue to play a vital role since the metaverse is trying to replicate everything in the physical world, from assets to machines to infrastructure and even the people. The work in the digital twins’ space is being applied towards bringing out new capabilities, such as sensors for haptics.
Enjeti adds that there’s also innovative work happening in specialty areas such as spatial computing and shared experiences.
Adopting these new technologies to benefit an organization can help companies not only improve the business potential of the company, but also improve customer experience for users.
“Similar to the mantra that we have at HCLTech, I think the metaverse provides the opportunity for us to look into the future and design how we want to operate as a business,” says Enjeti.
The metaverse provides an opportunity to reimagine business models, define the future goals of an organization and help businesses continue to serve their stakeholders, while taking care of the communities they operate in.