Retail giant Walmart has been spotted silently moving into the realm of virtual shopping with digital currencies. Earlier this year, CEO Doug McMillon stated “We are continuously exploring how emerging technologies may shape future shopping experiences.” Walmart's move into the metaverse (proven by a slew of new patents and filings mentioning “virtual goods” and “digital currencies”) might be exactly what he's referring to.
Many Fortune 500 companies are already dipping their toes into eCommerce through the metaverse.
Amazon has also started experimenting with its own metaverse applications, including its newest AR shopping tool “Room Decorator”. This allows you to use your phone or tablet to place furniture or décor directly in your home.
Other companies dabbling with similar ideas include Nike, Mercedes Benz, and even luxury-fashion brands like Ralph Lauren and Bape.
What is the Metaverse?
The metaverse is an amalgamation of several tech innovations that operate and integrate seamlessly. The featured tech includes NFT's, augmented reality, and virtual reality. The combination of these three brings technology out of the digital world, and into our physical world.
Following the announcement of the metaverse and the NFT boom, the concepts seemed jarring to most. At first, the applications of this new playing-ground were uncertain, but now businesses are starting to realize its potential.
Blurring the lines between online & offline shopping
In the metaverse, E-commerce is almost certain to become huge in the coming years. As the technology and general appeal of augmented and virtual reality grow, so will the e-commerce world inside of it, as it merges the appeals of both offline and online shopping into one.
Augmented reality allows customers to be confident in the quality and sizing of items when buying online (of which sizing is currently a big issue). From a merchant point of view, AR will also help broaden your customer base, as you can utilize new levels of product discovery and personalization. Putting the customers directly in the store, the metaverse will be an experience that allows shoppers to find exactly what they want, through a completely customized experience.
Breaching the divide: Social Media
Together with e-commerce, social media is also evolving inside the metaverse. Social media is already a core aspect of e-commerce, in the metaverse, this statement will only become even more prevalent. Brands will be able to take their marketing beyond just basic star reviews and Instagram posts. In the metaverse, engaging communities can be built where customers can interact with other fans of the brand.
Where do we go from here?
As the world is now fully acclimated to social distancing, the evolution of online shopping is inevitable. In the coming months, you can expect most of the world's leading retailers to start developing their metaverse presence.
Beyond e-commerce, other applications for the metaverse include improved workplace productivity when combined with existing cloud-meeting applications. In the education sector, metaverse tech will allow interactive and engaging gatherings outside of the classroom. Real-estate, travel and many more industries are re-thinking their approach to accommodate the metaverse.
Potential risks inside the metaverse
It's hard to ignore the glaring risks associated with the metaverse, these include addiction, privacy concerns, and mental & physical repercussions.
Facebook (who already landed in trouble regarding user privacy) is the metaverse's creator and plans on persisting targeted advertising within the metaverse, raising further worries related to the spread of misinformation and loss of personal privacy.
Some also fear that the metaverse will have negative effects on users who suffer from things like depression and anxiety – giving them an option to ‘escape' from reality in an unhealthy manner.
The Reality of Tomorrow is Virtual
AR and VR tech has been around for many years, however, it has always suffered from being overly expensive and quite lackluster. Suffering from causing users motion sickness or just general inaccuracy, development on fixing these issues will soon prove to be vital for everyday use. As time goes on sensors will become more and more sophisticated, with their ability to reliably and accurately measure depth while using minimum battery power being the end goal.
While the virtual reality territory is still somewhat uncharted by most of the world, there doesn't seem to be a limit to the number of uses the metaverse will have. We are living at the forefront of innovation, there’s no telling how far we can reach.