Starter Pack to the Metaverse: Small Businesses

11/11/2022 16:49

Since Facebook changed its name to Meta, the Metaverse became a buzzword. The hype around it grows daily, and cutting through this isn’t an easy task as many in the space don’t distance themselves from it.

The Metaverse – singular – is not here yet. We still lack a proper, widely accepted definition of the concept, not to mention the digital place in reality. Nonetheless many agree that the Metaverse will be an evolution of the Web as we know it. And, it’s no coincidence that the word is often used interchangeably with Web3.

It will encompass different technologies, such as Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and blockchain-based NFTs. These technologies are the main pillars of Web3.

The companies that are involved in building this new environment are sometimes born inside it, like The Sandbox or Decentraland. But, the space is also filled with big players, the giants that are pouring billions into it to build the entire infrastructure.

Meta is aiming for mass adoption of their VR headsets. At the time of writing, the sales of Quest 2 are estimated to have hit 15 million units, although there are many disputes about this, and pictures of Project Cambria, the new headset to launch on October 11, are leaked all over the place.

Microsoft and Snap, the company behind Snapchat, are also trying to dominate in the AR field. Microsoft with their HoloLens headset and Snap more broadly with AR filters. Microsoft also came out with a 68 billion dollar offer for Active Blizzard. The offer makes clear that they also have their eye on 3D modeling and animation – two essential parts of the Metaverse infrastructure.

Apart from the companies above — the “builders”— some big enterprises are entering the space not to build, but to provide more innovative offers and in the ever present struggle to stay relevant. Nikeland on Roblox and the NFT collections by Gucci and Coca-Cola are three great examples.

All the companies mentioned above are powerhouses. They can afford to experiment and lose money for years while doing it. As Mark Zuckerberg said from the beginning, it will take years before the VR business becomes profitable. And, VR was long viewed as a dirty word, driving away investors, although that tide finally seems to be turning.

The average business can’t do this, though. This does not mean that “small fish” will not, and do not already, have a say in how the Metaverse plays out in the end. Just look at Decentraland, the first blockchain-based platform, that arose as the passion project of a few developers.

But, entering the Metaverse definitely has different considerations and comes from a different perspective – in terms of resources and timeline – but also how the Metaverse will be applied for small businesses. The following questions will help you determine if and how it makes sense to you, as a small business owner or normal person, to enter and use the space.

Do I need a presence in the Metaverse?

The mere fact that the tech is there is no sufficient reason to implement it in your business. It is important to evaluate if your business is suitable for this endeavor. If your product or service can be improved by the Metaverse, you should consider it.

If your customers or prospects are likely to enjoy and have some upgraded benefit from it, you should investigate, and try a Metaverse strategy.

However, if they are getting no real advantage, it might be best to not waste your money on something just because everybody else is jumping on the bandwagon. Or, worse, because you think you can’t leave it to the big whales.

Second, consider your target audience. For example, the Metaverse so far is overwhelmingly dominated by young people. The demographics could be against such an attempt, so it might just not be worth it.

Do you have the resources?

The technologies involved in the Metaverse can be expensive. For example, 3D models and VR/AR animations need highly qualified personnel and are time consuming. This means high costs.

Although there are a growing number of no- or low-code tools out there making this more accessible, the current state of things means that white label or generic products are extremely rare, both in VR and in AR. And when they exist, they are a little too unspecific to be taken into consideration for a mass adoption. For example, Horizon Workrooms by Meta, a virtual space, hyped up with many promises, but whose real possibilities are still unclear.

So, the most viable solution for most small businesses is a tailor-made app or experience. And in this case, it is difficult to offer a price range.  

If you think you do not have the money, though, consider crowdfunding. Apart from being a quintessentially decentralized way of financing yourself, Oculus started like this. Why can’t you?

Which technology should you use?

Now you must choose the Metaverse technology that is best for your purpose.

Use AR/VR for education, training, marketing, or wow effect. In general, the two technologies allow a great deal of interactivity (both) and immersion (VR).

This means they’re excellent to build your customer or prospect experience presence. Presence will deliver your message more effectively, whatever your goal is (if you answered “yes” to the first question).

For example, Cereal Bio is a Spanish company that created a VR educational ad to give information about their product. The experience is quite old, but was still effective in creating greater presence and immersion through a digital experience. And Quadriennale d’Arte, an Italian museum, created a virtual tour of their exhibitions during the pandemic. The virtual tour has some simple interactions and was also used as a marketing tool.

NFTs, on the other hand, are a great way to create exclusivity, community, and a feeling of enhanced importance. They can typically be used to give access to special content or offers, as they work as a sort of digital VIP card or collectible. At the same time, they can be an excellent source of funding.

But don’t simply stake the future of your company on the NFTs you will mint. Their market is very volatile and mainly speculative now. So be careful if you choose this path, and remember that they should be a vehicle for expanding user-engagement….so, how will your NFTs do this, both when they are minted and in the future?  

So, what now?

While the big players are creating the space with important investments in technology and infrastructure, many small players are coming out with innovative experiences or services that are growing the space. Some world-renowned brands are trying to get ahead of the competition and go “metaversical”. Although the space is still underdeveloped, intentions and forecasts say it will grow.

But small businesses have a chance to get their fair share. Some opportunities are already here. It is up to you, to us, to find and use them.

Have any experiences to share or want to learn more? Join our Discord to talk now, or contribute directly to the Third Academy Library by applying to be a contributor below!

More like this

More Articles