Lokesh Rao, Co-Founder & CEO, of Trace Network Labs has a wide experience of over 12 years in the enterprise tech space helping global fashion companies acquire and implement technologies in more than 20 countries. With Trace network Labs, he is building a technology platform that will enable lifestyle brands to launch multichain & multiverse products, using NFTs, for the ‘digital twin’ a.k.a. Avatars of users in the metaverse.
The metaverse is coming, whether you are ready for it or not…and it will arrive with some incredible opportunities for all types of businesses, big and small. It is now well established that the metaverse is expanding well beyond the realm of just gaming. Some of these new opportunities are already presenting themselves as we read this. As the industries brace for a change in the current macro environments around the world, we have noted a slow yet sure change in the manner businesses are done – with an inclination towards a more safer, secure, and more ‘in-my-bubble’ kind of transactions and interactions.
Many industries affected heavily in the pandemic, like events, movies, food & beverage, brick & mortar retail, travel and many more, are trying to explore what this new technology called the metaverse in conjunction with Web3.0 brings to the table. While there are still many areas which need a more in depth study, there are still opportunities in the metaverse that small businesses in particular must consider. We believe that the metaverse is essentially the next evolution of digital commerce and is a worthy successor to today’s mobile internet.
Here are some of the benefits that Web3-led metaverses will offer in the times to come. Needless to say, there will be a huge influence and use of the crypto assets and NFT technologies as well.
Lining up the Benefits
- Boundaryless business – One major advantage that is tied with the internet is the delimitation of geographical boundaries in doing business. Any company today can acquire a customer via the web route. However, companies in brick and mortar or in-person models will always have geographical hurdles. The metaverse however, removes this. The current meta-technologies can allow any business to open a virtual retail store which can be visited by anyone – albeit as their avatars – to avail the services or buy a product. Imagine an Indian clothing brand store or a travel store which a user can visit and not only do window shopping, interact with an in-store AI etc but also buy a limited edition digital product as an NFT that forever remains in their possession. The metaverse will break all boundaries for businesses.
- Finding New Customers – It is quite evident that metaverses will be used and traversed more by the new generation of people. GenZ and millennials are going to be the primary users of these virtual worlds. In a report published in YPulse, it was said that 33% of 13 to 39 year olds think they will someday shop for clothes and other items in virtual worlds that will be shipped to them in real-life. This opens up big opportunities for all businesses to acquire a new customer base. The metaverse hence offers small businesses a chance to grow and expand in a new space.
- Brand visibility & loyalty – Online branding is a no-brainer. Everyone has wanted it, tried it and also attained some benefits around it. However, online marketing is not focussed on an individual’s need and is mostly based on a possibility of a need. Businesses in the metaverse can make their marketing strategy more personal and utilise the interactive capacity of the metaverse to create a better outreach plan. With the use of AI, AR/VR and ML techs, this can be made possible in a more experiential way. With personalised strategies comes increased customer loyalty.
- Immersive Experiences – Meta-technologies will allow any business to create an ‘experience’ around their product or service rather than just an over-the-counter kind of transaction. Take for example, a small fashion brand store that allows a user to walk in the store, walk and look around, try different digital clothing, enable a purchase decision, buy a fashion wear, and ship the real product if the user so desires. In another example, a travel company allows the user to experience standing on the virtual Eiffel Tower at a cost smaller than actually visiting Paris.
- Monetising IP & virtual goods – A major opportunity that the metaverse will offer is the protection and monetising of their intellectual property and the virtual products and services that they offer. With the aid of blockchain, the company can protect the origins of their virtual goods. Immutability of transactions has expanded to the virtual worlds and this presents a whole gamut of products that one can sell in the metaverse marketplaces.
- New lines of revenue – The representation of digital goods in the form of NFTs will allow the businesses to create a new line of income that will come from royalties on each trade of their NFTs in the open markets.
- Express Creativity – The Metaverse allows a business complete freedom to express their ideas digitally. Fashion industries in particular can experiment with exclusive and uncommon designs or fabric before even going into production. Retail industry can create special virtual zones with out-of-the-world designs that will enable new levels of interaction.
- Practicing Inclusivity – Small businesses currently struggling with representation of the different communities, including the LGBTQs, in the physical world for want of resources can easily practice the inclusion in the metaverse.
- Operational challenges – Metaverses can help reduce operational inefficiencies in companies by getting an opportunity to give better understanding to customers about products and services via immersive interaction.
Some Challenges & Risks for the Small businesses
The above benefits notwithstanding, there are underlying challenges that the small business will have to encounter while foraying their expansion to the metaverses.
- Access to Tech – This will appear as the primary hurdle for all small businesses, as they will have limited access to the technologies that make up the metaverse. The infrastructure needed to build a 3D virtual space for one needs specialised tech and talent to create and implement. This will not be readily available for one as the talent pool is small, plus there will be inherent lack of funds to invest and build with this tech.
- Holding on to customers – Building customer loyalty over time has a huge cost that affects the small businesses. It is imperative, in order to have continuous association with a customer for businesses to have their finger on the customer’s pulse to provide them the best user experience. This is a costly affair and not many companies can afford this expense.
- Metaverse is still shaping up – The ecosystem is still new and uncertain in many ways. This is a significant risk for those seeking to explore this right upfront. Cost & technical expertise notwithstanding, the brands need to find a clear path and roadmap to drive adoption towards their brand in the virtual space.
How To overcome Challenges
The above challenges and more brings to fore the need for easy availability of a tech stack which is primarily focussed on enabling new entrepreneurs, brand and small business to ease their entry into the Metaverse domain. The businesses will need a whole array of products, services and technology stack that will do exactly that – enable any business to step into and build their markets in the metaverse. So be it building a new digital line of products, a complete virtual space / office / store in the metaverse, access to users via their avatars, self-use applications, coupled with a education and tutorials, the business can start their presence and build their business in the metaverse catering to a larger audience with global reach.
Trace’s very own MetaStack is that pool of applications and technologies that is being used by businesses with no technological background whatsoever to overcome the many challenges they face while considering the metaverse.
Stepping in with short steps
The transitioning into the Metaverse, for small businesses, may not be so urgent or immediate. However, businesses should start considering this space and technology and some peripheral exposure. The strategies have to be put in place with small steps in which they learn how to optimise their current resources and start working towards building a global digital enterprise that aims to improve not only the experience for their future customers but also build a significant and continuous line of income.