What the Metaverse Can Learn from CRM and the Dotcom Bust

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A virtual, 3-D immersive environment, the metaverse is where you can explore virtual worlds, meet and communicate with others, attend dedicated meetings and events, be creative, learn, and have fun. It’s also a space where companies need to heed lessons from the past to avoid wasting time, effort, and money.

Today’s big metaverse applications include medicine (neurosurgery, oncology), training (professional sports, onboarding),  sales, marketing, and field and customer service. These applications are already producing and will continue to produce huge business impact as the metaverse moves from a $27 billion industry in 2021 to an $825 billion industry in 2030. To achieve this impressive 39 percent cumulative annual growth rate, the metaverse has much to learn from CRM and the dotcom bust.

Lessons to Learn from CRM

I remember well the visit in the mid-1990s by Tom Siebel, president of Siebel Systems, to my client, Lucent Technology. He traveled to Basking Ridge, N.J., to try to convince Lucent to purchase Siebel CRM. It was an impressive presentation until Tom began to explain Siebel CRM’s sales forecasting functionality, at which point Lucent’s vice president for sales explained that Lucent did not forecast the way Siebel CRM forecasted. He asked Tom if Siebel CRM could configure its software to meet Lucent’s forecasting needs, and the answer was: “We will take this into consideration for our next release.” While the VP voted against purchasing Siebel CRM, his colleagues at Lucent overruled him and Lucent implemented Siebel CRM shortly thereafter. Not surprisingly, a few months later, the sales department stopped using the forecasting functionality of Siebel CRM.

This story is unlikely to happen today since most CRM vendors have learned the importance of delivering flexible tools within their software, often using low- or no-code platforms, which allow customers to build their core processes—including sales forecasting—directly into their CRM systems. The ability to meet the process needs of customers is a good example of how metaverse vendors can learn from CRM. Other examples include the focus CRM vendors now place on customer success services and the simple integration of CRM technology with other systems and emerging technologies via APIs.

Lessons to Learn from the Dotcom Bust

I encourage you to read my colleague Tim Bajarin’s brilliant October 2022 article titled:How To Keep The Metaverse From Becoming a Dotcom Bust" (forbes.com), where he argues the metaverse could become the next dotcom bust unless entrepreneurs building Metaverse apps create businesses with sound business models and rock-solid business foundations. As Tim notes: “What separated most failed web apps from the successful ones is when the web apps had a solid business model behind them. The first generation of web apps did allow for some advertising revenue share, but the pot of advertising money per web app was limited and minimal at best. Without ways to create significant revenue, thousands of web apps bit the dust.”

With the metaverse industry in the second inning of a nine-inning ballgame, there will be many metaverse apps that will bite the dust unless metaverse entrepreneurs create sound business and revenue models and clear paths to profitability. Another key learning from the dotcom bust includes the importance of customer focus—think how easy it is to do business with Zappos and Amazon, how both dotcom successes have led the way in leveraging customer knowledge, and how they’re both obsessed with providing world-class customer service.

Are metaverse entrepreneurs learning these lessons from CRM and the dotcom bust? It may be too early to make that call. Right now, the metaverse industry is correctly focused on creating metaverse regulations and standards, ensuring data privacy, and looking into compatibility across metaverse platforms. For example, will we have one metaverse, multiple competing metaverses, or one metaverse per company? The good news is metaverse entrepreneurs are asking the right questions regarding the importance of making it easy to integrate processes into their apps, focusing on customer success and API integrations, building sound business models and rock-solid business foundations, making it easy to access metaverse apps, and providing world-class customer service.

Last week I had the pleasure to introduce the metaverse to my local Rotary Club, which has 80-plus members. It is always a challenge to introduce new concepts like the metaverse to a diverse audience, in this case members ranging from 30 to 80 years old. I purposely provided them with multiple metaverse success stories and videos. At the end of the presentation, one of our long-standing members who has worked with technology all her life came up to me and said: “Before today’s presentation, I did not understand why my son wanted to attend the ABBA concert in the metaverse, why my business colleague is holding meetings in the metaverse, and why my doctor is touting metaverse education. Now I understand more about the incredible capabilities of the metaverse and want to learn all about it!” I could not help giving her a shameless plug: “My colleague Tim and I created the Metaverse Resource Center to help consumers and executives learn how others are doing business successfully in the metaverse. Why not check it out?”

Barton Goldenberg (bgoldenberg@ismguide.com) is president of ISM Inc. Since 1985, ISM has established itself as a premier strategic adviser to create and implement customer strategy, supported by innovative technologies such as CRM, digital communities, and the metaverse, to drive acquisition, retention, and growth of their customers. 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 his latest, The Definitive Guide to Social CRM.

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