The future of customer experience (CX) in the metaverse is on the horizon. As per 2022 Gartner research, 25 percent of people will spend at least an hour every day in the metaverse by 2026 – engaged in work, shopping, education, social activities, and entertainment.
Indeed, it also predicts that 30 percent of companies worldwide will have metaverse-ready products and services by 2026, which begs a fundamental question – what will the future of CX look like in a metaverse environment?
What Is the Metaverse and What Does it Mean for CX?
The metaverse refers to an integrated virtual environment built on a blockchain architecture, which users can access through virtual reality (VR) and other interfaces. It aims to recreate lifelike interactions in a digital world using 3D user avatars, 3D renditions of physical surroundings, spatial anchoring, realistic navigation, and artificial intelligence (AI).
Companies will enjoy an incredible degree of flexibility in the metaverse. For instance, they could create a simple storefront that reflects their retail outlets in the real world, recreated with exacting accuracy. Or, they could all out and reimagine the brand experience as a themed VR amusement park that can break the laws of physics. As such, brands can execute any CX strategy that they envision inside the metaverse, no matter how futuristic.
Currently, a few metaverse platforms are available to consumers, such as Decentraland, The Sandbox, and Roblox. Bloktopia and Meta Platforms’ official metaverse offering are two of the most awaited products in this segment. Despite its infancy, brands are already taking advantage of the virtual real estate available on the metaverse to engage with customers in new ways. For example, Nike has its own Nikeland virtual world on Roblox, which is essentially an innovative brand activation campaign.
For more of the fundamentals of the metaverse, check out our video interview with Alex Black, Chief Technology Officer at Enghouse Interactive.
Implications of the Metaverse on the Future of CX
The metaverse may influence customer experiences in the following ways.
1. Breaking Down Global Barriers
The metaverse may break down the barriers between more and less mature economies and negate international brand outreach restrictions.
For example, customers can log into a metaverse platform to discover, experience, and access whichever brand they want. Such accessibility may revolutionize purchasing journeys.
2. Turning Experiences Into Products
Large-scale efforts like Disneyland illustrate how profitable it could be to weave an experience around a brand, product, or service. In the future, it will likely have an enormous impact on customer loyalty, far outpacing short-term wins.
The metaverse provides every business with the opportunity to envision and productize experiences. Not only will this change the value of CX, but it will also drive long-term outcomes.
3. Blurring the Line Between Self-Service and Contact Centers
Already, technologies like conversational AI allow self-service to closely resemble human agents and in-person support. Customers can type in their queries as natural language questions, and the AI can synthesize the input to provide a prompt response.
The metaverse will blur the line even further as AI-powered digital humans attend to customer issues, face-to-face and in-person.
4. Increasing Competition from Disruptors
Unlike the real world, the metaverse is a fully democratized environment, where anyone can purchase a stake and have a say in its operations. This places small, mid-market, and large brands on a level playing field.
For instance, a brand may access a coveted piece of real estate in the real world using their networks and influential contacts. Such disparities are non-existent in the metaverse, so the competition to deliver engaging experiences will be fierce.
5. Bolstering the Customer Engagement Channel Mix
In many ways, the metaverse is the newest addition to the CX channel mix, and brands may wish to expand their digital footprint accordingly.
Just like customers now expect availability and responsiveness on social media, they will soon come to look for a VR storefront, a 3D customer executive avatar, metaverse-ready services, user navigation through VR controllers and voice, and much more.
6. Furthering the Remote Revolution
One could argue that the movement restrictions during the pandemic acted as a launching pad for the rise of the metaverse, which is why platforms like Decentraland have increased exponentially in value.
Indeed, this period has changed how we work, play, buy, and engage in social activities, and the future of CX in the metaverse takes off from this trend. It will allow remote customer experiences that mimic in-person interactions’ engagement and intimacy levels.
Challenges of CX in the Metaverse
Any new technology comes with its teething challenges, and the metaverse has its fair share of issues. To begin with, the technology is still in its infancy, and there is no guarantee that companies’ investments in a VR-first CX will pan out (barring forward-looking predictions).
Second, VR adoption among consumers remains low, well below the average internet penetration and telephony reach. As such, even with suitable investments, companies will be able to engage with a relatively small audience, at least in the beginning. The upside is that engagement levels will be much higher, thanks to the hands-on and immersive nature of VR to compensate for a smaller audience.
Finally, the launch of a metaverse-friendly CX requires significant investment and technical skills. It is no coincidence that the companies currently venturing in this direction include stalwarts like Nike, Warner Bros., Disney, Hyundai, Gucci, Sotheby’s, and Louis Vuitton. Despite the platform’s democratic nature, there is a barrier to entry regarding technical skill and risk appetite.
The Bottom Line
The metaverse has the potential to reshape future customer experiences. Still, for now, it is poised to become an addition to the channel mix, not a replacement for digital and human-driven CX as it exists today.
Itching to delve deeper into the metaverse? Check out our sister publication XR Today, which provides fascinating insights into the arena.