How the Metaverse Will Change Everything

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IThe Innovator’s Dilemma, author Clayton Christensen defines disruption as “a concept, product, or service that either disrupts an existing market or creates a completely new market segment resulting from new technologies or new business models.” Think for a moment about how Apple disrupted BlackBerry, how Netflix disrupted Blockbuster, how Amazon disrupted Borders, how Uber is disrupting taxi services, how Tesla is disrupting the car industry, or how Airbnb is disrupting the hotel industry.

At the core of each of these industry disruptions is technology, which is why great companies understand that to stay in the game they must transform. About half of the S&P 500 companies will be replaced in the next decade because of disruption. That leaves companies with a choice: Leverage technology to help you transform or become the next Blockbuster.

I am currently tracking my top eight disruptive technologies: digital communities, artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML), Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, metaverse (VR/AR/XR), low-code/no-code, 5G mobile communications, and quantum computing. While AI is generating huge buzz for many good reasons, including ChatGPT, the metaverse is unique in this list. Yes, the metaverse is a new technology platform on which metaverse apps get built, but more importantly the metaverse is an entirely new sales, marketing, and customer/field service channel (the last new channel we had was the internet, when websites for general use began to appear in the early 1990s). This has profound implications since the new metaverse channel has already begun to change the way business is conducted.

The metaverse is a virtual, 3-D immersive environment, where you can explore virtual worlds, meet, and communicate with others, attend dedicated meetings and events, be creative, learn, and have fun. You access the metaverse using either virtual reality (VR) headsets, augmented reality (AR) glasses, mixed reality (MR) devices, or traditional 2-D devices including PC/laptops, smartphones/tablets, and game consoles.

The forecast calls for strong metaverse growth: 70 percent of all brands will be present in the metaverse by 2027. Twenty-five percent of consumers will spend one hour daily in the metaverse by 2026; Gen Z will spend 50 percent of their time there by 2030.

Spending and investments in the metaverse are staggering: In 2021, users spent $110 billion on digital goods in the metaverse. In 2022, venture capital funding for the metaverse surpassed $120 billion. This year, South Korea opened Meta Seoul, becoming the first country to create an entire virtual city to better serve its citizens. The virtual city enables visitors to take virtual tours of historic sites, attend concerts and festivals, and shop at virtual stores. Meta Seoul also offers a range of games and sports; it even houses a university campus.

Leading metaverse applications, other than gaming, include these:

  • Medicine.Leading neurosurgeons change their surgical approach 24 percent of the time after viewing the tumor using metaverse technology; they also operate with the metaverse goggles on.
  • Training.All types of companies (including the Mayo Clinic) increasingly are leveraging metaverse technology for onboarding personnel, where they are documenting up to a 60 percent improvement in content recall and retention.
  • Sales, marketing, customer/field service.I see these CRM applications as driving the explosive future growth of the metaverse (e.g., companies are showing savings of up to 75 percent in field service).

In prior CRM magazine columns, I’ve written about how companies are currently leveraging the metaverse to sell (e.g., Warby Parker’s Virtual Try-On app), to market (e.g., Lockheed Martin’s approach to marketing the Orion spacecraft to NASA), and to service customers (e.g., Boeing’s use of the metaverse’s remote assist functionality to service customers globally). To learn more, visit ISM’s Metaverse Resource Center, where you will find these and more than 150 additional use cases along with dozen of videos and articles.

So how will the Metaverse change everything? Here’s my forecast for 2033:

  • VR and AR hardware and software will reach ubiquitous status.
  • Metaverse-based collaboration will be a common feature of office work, much as Zoom is for communications today.
  • Businesses will evolve from accommodating work-from-home to remote work/online collaboration as a competitive advantage.
  • Support services will evolve to AI and AR-supported “do it with me.”
  • Cryptocurrencies will stabilize and three of them will become more widely accepted.
  • Trade shows and conventions will operate as hybrid events with increasing value drawn from digital attendees.
  • Broad audiences will gather for massive multiplayer games and professional sports, leading to creative, secure, personalized ads and services during the event.
  • All businesses, from small businesses to global enterprises, will have metaverse-based experiences as part of their go-to-market approach.

I recently returned from CES 2023 (wow!), where I was a speaker on its new metaverse track. I suggested businessmen and businesswomen have a decision to make. Will you be a pioneer that welcomes the metaverse and learns all about how it can impact your company’s future? Or will you put your head in the sand and hope the metaverse will soon pass as another technology fad? On a more personal level, will you read books about dragons in hardcover to your children and grandchildren? Or will you all wear VR goggles and watch the dragons come to life and fly magically all over the room? Will you buy a painting and hang it in your dining room for you and your friends to admire, or will you place your artwork in the metaverse for millions to admire? Gen Z does not hesitate to respond positively to each of these questions since they are leading the metaverse charge. Where do you stand? 

Barton Goldenberg (bgoldenberg@ismguide.com) is president of ISM. Since 1985, ISM has established itself as a premier strategic adviser leveraging leading-edge technologies—the metaverse, digital communities, and CRM—to create and implement customer strategy with a focus on sales, marketing, and customer service. He is a thought leader and in high demand as a keynote speaker (www.bartongoldenberg.com). He is also the author of three business books, including The Definitive Guide to Social CRM.

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