The smartphone changed everything. The way people engage with each other. How we buy products. Our expectations. It resulted in the single most significant change in brand and consumer interaction. But could the metaverse have just as big of an impact? It looks like it could.
The metaverse is quickly becoming a playground for brands.
People can play ‘the floor is lava’ in NIKETOWN or meet up with “Wendyverse.” Coca-Cola has auctioned off virtual ‘loot boxes,’ and Chipotle gave away $1 million in free burritos during its Halloween’ Boorito’ promotion. The brand creativity and engagement we are seeing on platforms like Rolobox and Decentraland is inspiring, not to mention really cool.
The interest from brands to stake out some space in the virtual world makes sense.
Rolobox alone has 50 million daily active users. With potentially $1 trillion up for grabs from things like social commerce and events, brands are betting big on the metaverse (and hiring ‘like crazy‘ to fulfill metaverse ambitions).
The metaverse platforms, too, are getting ready. Second Life, for instance, recently hired its first-ever CMO to market the opportunity for brands in the virtual world.
The Brand Opportunity in the Metaverse
Brand presence in the metaverse is moving beyond gimmicks, campaigns, and games. There’s a digital economy booming, a place where goods and services are bought for consumption in both the digital and physical worlds. Ralph Lauren, Forever 21, and PacSun are brands selling digital apparel for people to customize their avatars.
Several iconic fashion houses, including Selfridges and Giuseppe Zanotti, held the first-ever metaverse fashion show where fans could buy physical items (to be shipped in real Life) and virtual objects in the form of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) at the stores. It’s not just retailers. On Spotify Island, fans can now buy virtual merchandise.
But as more brands set up shop in the metaverse, what does this all mean for customer service? How will customer and brand relationships change in the virtual economy?
Customer Experience in the Metaverse
As soon as brands start staking out a presence in these worlds, there will be a new kind of support needed within these virtual universes themselves. But, of course, with any new behavior, questions arise. Add commerce on top of it (both virtual and products delivered physically in real life), and complexity and questions only rise more.
Keeping People Engaged
As we’ve learned from major gaming publishers, in-app and in-experience support is key to keeping people engaged and lowering the chance of churn or attention shifting elsewhere. For brands, the metaverse is all about eyeballs and attention. Offering support at the exact moment of relevance is the key to success, capturing short-term attention and long-term loyalty. How will this be scalable and possible? With AI.
Programming Brand Avatars
Within these virtual shops and lands, brands will have 1:1 personal shoppers and “in-store associates,” much like in the real world, to answer questions about products, recommend items, and even help track the status of items bought virtually and shipped in real-life.
So, for example, if a customer comes back to the virtual store asking to return a pair of sneakers they purchased, brands will need to be able to provide the information that customers need effortlessly, when and where they want it.
This will take programming brand avatars to tap into back-end systems and carry on interactions with people leveraging conversational AI like we’re seeing today in the form of chatbots and virtual assistants.
Customer Relationships 2.0.
In a few short years, the metaverse will be its own burgeoning economy – a combination of digital and physical worlds that will bring about some of the most exciting changes to consumer behavior since the smartphone. The bar is even higher in the metaverse because it’s an “opt-in life.”
I would encourage brands not to get caught up in the shiny new object that is the metaverse but think holistically about the customer experience.
So, in addition to focusing on the engineering, merchandise, and creative aspects, thinking through how the entire customer journey can be supported in the metaverse will be critical. After all, the most intimate, profitable, and exciting customer relationships are at stake.