The metaverse could be a revolutionary development for media, telecoms and technology organisations who are looking for the retail and customer experience platform of the future.
The top reported business challenge in the last year, according to a study on the CEOs’ Most Important Business Challenges In 2022 by Forbes, Covid-19 continues to concern business leaders. Other worries such as rising inflation, labour shortages, supply chain disruptions and changing consumer behaviours were also external factors that CEOs think will have the greatest impact on their businesses this year globally. More specifically, companies are struggling to provide a consistent and holistic omnichannel experience for their customers while blending remote and in-person work.
For many organisations, improving the management of customer data is their top customer experience (CX) priority over the next 12 months. This is because they recognise that creating the immersive, personalised, and compelling experiences customers expect comes from integrated customer data systems, improved uses of customer data to generate insights, and the combining of legacy technology with modern, cloud-based solutions.
What is the metaverse and who is using it?
This is where the metaverse comes in. It is largely a virtual world that represents the data that companies collect about their customers – and, of course, customer data is a top CX priority for executives.
Many notable companies are already venturing into the metaverse, such as Sky, Disney, Meta (formerly known as Facebook) and Nike. However, getting started on the journey is a struggle for many businesses, who are often challenged with getting executive buy-in and with aligning internal leadership teams to support the adoption of what is a more holistic platform and accompanying strategy.
How can you make the metaverse more immersive?
Three of the key elements to consider when starting out on your metaverse journey are augmented reality, 3D assets and 360° video file creation and avatars.
1. Augmented reality
More and more businesses are capitalising on the increasing popularity of augmented reality (AR).
However, the technology needs specialised equipment and software to create the illusion of an object added to the real world, such as smart glasses or headsets. And these in turn need cameras and sensors in order to create a smooth and seamless AR experience, not to mention 5G and enough power to process real life images and create the AR object which will be superimposed by the projector (which is also required, at an expense!).
2. 3D assets and 360° video file creation
Another option for retailers is to create 3D assets and 360° video files, which can be served as an NFT (non-fungible token). For example, AR specialists London Dynamics built a product configurator for road-racing bicycle manufacturer Colnago that enables the customer to design their bike. Once the user has purchased this bespoke bike it can take up to six months for the physical product to be delivered. While they wait, the customer is served with an NFT in the form of a 3D asset and 360° video of the exact bike they configured; this can be kept in a digital NFT wallet or can be uploaded into the metaverse. NFTs also provide insurance as they can be used as a virtual receipt.
And in another project, for Virgin Media, London Dynamics solved a customer use problem by using a 360° interactive view of an internet router to show users how to plug in and set up their wi-fi. The use of 3D and AR dramatically reduced customer service calls and saved Virgin Media millions of pounds.
3. Avatars – 3D digital characters
As customers increasingly look to self-service channels for choice and convenience when it comes to interacting with companies, the use of ‘chat’ is a popular option. Research carried out by the marketing and digital services agency 99 Firms found that live chat is the number one service choice for shoppers between 18 and 49 years old, and that by 2022 85% of businesses are expected to offer live chat support to customers.
Traditionally when a customer interacts with a chat bot online, it’s been through automated messages, an often impersonal and sometimes unempathetic and frustrating experience. 3D avatars instead offer the customer a digital character to engage with, empowering companies to connect more authentically with their audiences.
Modern avatars can show emotion and empathy through their facial expressions and speech patterns, powered by audio-driven speech animation technology. They can even react to sentiment from the customer, all of which combines to give a more meaningful interaction.
Will there be major changes to CX in the metaverse?
Consumers can definitely expect to see familiar services tailored to suit the metaverse. One defining characteristic of CX in the metaverse is that it will be a more interactive and potentially more complex version of its real-world counterpart.
Service provider brands have several key points they should consider, including: know your target audience; make sure you have the technology needed to operate optimally in the metaverse; prioritise creating virtual-first experiences that truly are virtual; and conduct studies and testing to learn more about the buyer’s journey, so that you can appropriately modify it to fit into the context of the metaverse.
However, a word of warning. Companies should avoid adopting virtual CX and then forcing it to become something that it’s not. They should instead focus on building a metaverse channel that can be used to meet individual customer needs efficiently and with empathy in a whole new space.
Many brands, particularly from the e-commerce and retail industry, have become early adopters of this exciting new technology – and there is no doubt that companies who are able to dive into the metaverse have an opportunity to strengthen relationships with their loyal supporters and to gain new fans.
Find out how you can innovate your customer experience today in preparation for future metaverse environments, by attending Capita’s virtual roundtable Make Way for the Metaverse: Planning for the new CX Universe on 28 June.
Register for the virtual roundtable