While the metaverse has been a huge buzzword in 2022, customer experience (CX) has largely remained unaffected, but that may soon change. Through the use of augmented reality (AR), the metaverse will be able to expand to include the whole world, and this will have many implications for CX. Customers walking through a store will have instant access to product information and advertisements, and a simple walk down a city street will provide them with details about stores, venues, products, services, directions and more. 

Justin Hochberg, CEO and co-founder of Virtual Brand Group (VBG), a metaverse creation company, told CMSWire that as we continue to see the increasing interchangeability of virtual and physical worlds, augmented and mixed reality is becoming part of our normal behavior patterns. “We are at the forefront of creating the physical plus virtual (aka ‘phygital’) retail environment that delivers new products and more revenue faster than you’ve ever seen before,” Hochberg said, adding that as we look forward to 2023, VBG sees AR becoming essential, extremely fun and eventually well accepted like ecommerce is.

The Meta Vision of the Metaverse Is Becoming Obsolete

Gartner defines a metaverse as a collective, persistent and virtual 3D shared space, created by the convergence of virtually enhanced physical and digital reality. Meta’s grand vision of the metaverse is that of virtual worlds inhabited by millions of users, each of whom is represented by an avatar, where users are able to see and interact with other users in stunning 3D using virtual reality (VR) glasses, goggles or headsets. It’s an amazing vision that includes metaverse worlds for gaming, home life, social networking, work, education and more. Although some version of this will undoubtedly become available, there are many obstacles that may prevent it from ever being adopted by the masses. 

As a previous article discussed, the first reason for the lack of adoption is price. VR comes with a high cost of entry for both brands and consumers. The more economical VR headsets are typically limited in their functionality or are used along with high-end PCs, and the top-of-the-line stand-alone VR headsets that allow “full immersion” are still prohibitively expensive for most users. A September 2022 study by Publicis Sapient indicated that of those polled, only 8% said they own a VR device or headset.

Secondly, even for those who have the best VR headsets that are available, there are very few “metaverse worlds” that support VR. The Sandbox, a popular virtual world, does not support VR, nor does Decentraland, another metaverse world. Only a few, such as Somnium Space and Meta’s Horizon Worlds, actually support VR — and Horizon Worlds only supports Oculus headsets. 

Additionally, many of the “popular” metaverse worlds that are available are struggling to attract users. Decentraland was recently reported to only have 38 active daily users, a number they later corrected to 8,000 active daily users, which for an online game is still abysmal. By comparison, the relatively unknown Sid Meier's Civilization VI online game has 39,082 average concurrent players.

Finally, there is still a lack of compelling metaverse applications available, particularly for those who are not into gaming. For those who are, there are virtual worlds such as Roblox, NVIDIA Omniverse and the previously mentioned Sandbox and Decentraland, but for the generations that grew up with game consoles and high-end graphics, these virtual worlds can appear rather retro, with graphics that are reminiscent of ’90s gaming worlds. 

An even larger problem is that as Mark Nottingham, senior principal engineer at Fastly and leader in the Internet Engineering Task Force pointed out in a recent 2022 report from the Pew Research Center, there are no current efforts at interoperability, common standards or open governance for the metaverse. Because of this, Nottingham said that what is being developed is reminiscent of worlds we’ve already seen, such as Second Life. The report does not paint a pretty picture of the future of the metaverse as it’s currently defined, but there is still hope. The concept of the metaverse has begun to expand so that it includes the whole world.

Related Article: Can You Trust Meta’s Metaverse?

What Is The Whole World Metaverse?

The idea of participating in virtual worlds is something that appeals to many users, as it will provide the opportunity to virtually visit different areas of the world, tour virtual museums and do many things that would otherwise be extremely challenging or impossible in the real world, such as flying without a plane, going into space, diving deep into the ocean or walking up the side of a building. This could be accomplished using a VR headset or even through a mobile device. The thing that all of these experiences have in common is that they are all based on the concept of a virtual world, one that does not actually exist. 

The idea of the whole world metaverse differs in that it extends the concept to include the actual world. It includes buildings, stores, streets, houses, businesses, people, animals, trees, grass, stones, and more importantly for brands, products and services. Rather than relying upon fully immersive VR headsets, the whole world metaverse makes use of augmented reality glasses such as Microsoft’s HaloLens2, Magic Leap 2, Apple’s upcoming AR glasses or even Mojo's AR-enabled contact lens. While VR creates an immersive virtual environment that takes users out of their real life (RL) element, AR allows them to remain in their actual environment while adding digital elements that they can see and interact with. This will provide new opportunities for brands to create interactive marketing experiences that actively engage the user as they go about their daily lives.

VR Headset

Learning Opportunities

OG Arabian Prince, CEO and founder of MdDAO, a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) reimagining health care in the metaverse, told CMSWire we are entering a cross between advertising and entertainment, gamification and supernatural reality, which will become the norm. “With a bridge of technology between the physical and digital world, companies will use their physical facilities to process merchandise and cater to those who remain technology challenged, while the first entrance to a digital-savvy customer’s heart will be more based on providing a 3-dimensional experience,” said Prince. “Having said that, it means that companies will be expected to attract, impress, sell and fulfill in a new ecosystem.” 

Related Article: Is It Really Time for Customer Experience Professionals to Explore the Metaverse?

How Will The Whole World Metaverse Impact Marketing?

A recent report from Sitecore titled "Perceptions of the Metaverse," revealed that consumers have high expectations for the metaverse, especially when it comes to interacting with their favorite brands. Of those polled, 87% indicated that the metaverse will play a large role in how they shop and interact with brands, and 4 out of 5 respondents expect to spend more time in the metaverse than traditional social media apps, which will create a whole new direct engagement channel for brands. Additionally, 88% expect brands will sell and advertise in the metaverse in the next one-to-two years. For this to occur, brands will have to make a large paradigm shift in their marketing strategies, because currently, less than 1 in 3 marketers (31%) said that the metaverse is part of their strategy.

Prince reiterated that for brands hoping to make an impact in this new sphere of digital experiences, their marketing efforts will need to be more focused on engaging, impressing and creating communities that develop an emotional attachment to the overall experience. “A complete mindset shift will be needed because clients well entertained will not wait around for companies to catch up,” Prince explained. “For companies, developing a new experience will be costly at first to build their presence, but the benefit is that without physical boundaries, they will be able to provide a multitude of integrated ancillary services much easier to create new experiences.”

Jason Yim, founder and CEO at Trigger XR, a full-service mixed reality agency, told CMSWire that businesses can expect the shift from 2D to 3D content, screen-based to spatial computing, and the eventual adoption of head mounted display (HMD), aka AR glasses, as inevitable. "No matter how brands use digital marketing today, those digital experiences will become 3D and spatial (AR/VR/metaverse), intelligent (AI), and persistent (5G),” said Yim. “Every company’s digital strategy will have to flow through this new ‘experiential 3D’ lens to reach its core customer."

Yim’s vision of the multiverse is all-encompassing and vastly impacts all aspects of CX. “This conversion of 2D content to 3D content, and the subsequent content consumption through XR lenses and/or experiences will be the final step of every digital service/offering from brands across nearly every vertical,” said Yim. “So every purpose — both consumer and enterprise — from marketing, commerce, loyalty programs, communications, training and productivity tools (all core components of current ‘digital transformation’ initiatives) will need to be reinvented for delivery through an XR ‘last meter’ interface.”

Related Article: 4 Ways the Metaverse Can Enhance the Customer Experience

Final Thoughts: Unique Opportunity for Customer Engagement

The metaverse, while still largely conceptual and unproven, has the capacity to change the way we interact with one another and with brands. By extending the metaverse to include the whole world through the use of AR technology, businesses will have new and unique opportunities to engage customers and create an exceptional customer experience.