Limited content, static and restricted to heavy, stationary workstations. What these words evoke from times past was a novelty back in the 1990s: Web 1.0. While hardware shrank and connections improved, the mobile Internet grew. The 2000s brought about Web 2.0 and with it dynamic, interactive communication via social media and communities.
And now? We are on the brink of Web 3.0: Decentralized, anonymous Internet, built on the blockchain. The age of cryptos, NFTs, DAOs and the metaverse has begun. The possibilities? Limitless, they say.
But what exactly is the metaverse? What effect does it have on businesses? For which industries can it become highly interesting and which scenarios already serve companies as an assessment?
An outlook with Franz Wenzel, Director at enomyc.
While South Korea, China and the USA have been dealing with the idea of metaverse for several years, very few people in this country even know what it is. Therefore, the question of all questions in the first place, Franz: What is the Metaverse?
For this interview, I would put it this way: The Metaverse is the idea of a next-generation Internet. In the metaverse, we will no longer access the Internet: We will be in it - as individuals in a kind of always-on reality. The boundaries between the physical and virtual worlds will blur even further, and elements from both worlds will become our new norm. In essence, we will be able to find ourselves in a borderless world of persistent interconnectivity.
Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, calls the Metaverse "the next wave of the Internet" that would digitize places, things - even people.
Can you give examples of this?
Yes, imagine you virtually enter the office in the morning for a jour fixe - as an avatar - just like your colleagues. At lunchtime you go mini-golfing together - I started doing that two years ago with a colleague - and in the evening you go to a concert with your friends. All this and much more can already be experienced in the metaverse. Thanks to the human brain, which is very easily fooled, this is all possible. One example of this is Richie's Plank Experience. Those who have a VR headset at their disposal - hold on tight. But even without that, the impact becomes clear:
Developers have already managed to "virtualize" the physical conditions in such a way that users experience the feeling of immediate, real sense of presence. You believe you are really standing at this dizzying height on a board above the virtual city.
There are several examples of each or several of the necessary components that make up the Metaverse - or rather, enable it. Primarily, the examples concern the "visible" part of the Metaverse. I refer specifically to what have previously been referred to as gaming platforms such as Fortnight, Sandbox, Roblox, or even Metas Horizon. For all other properties, the preface of Matthew Ball's Metaverse Primer serves as a perfect introduction.
What is the other component?
A new dimension in which companies and brands can offer their products and services to an even broader spectrum of potential consumers - larger than ever before.
According to a recent survey by OMD Germany and Annalect, the idea is very well received: In Germany, 61 percent of respondents said they used Metaverse or were interested in it. What does that mean for business in practical terms?
An enormous potential! More and more people are starting to get involved with the Metaverse. And this is despite the fact that it is still extremely fragmented and in its most basic form. We speak of so-called "proto-metaverses." Some examples that are already taking hold: Artists are giving concerts on a gaming platform like Fortnight and 28 million people worldwide are participating. Polo Ralph Lauren and Nike are opening 3D stores on the virtual platform Roblox, high fashion labels like Dolce & Gabbana, Forever 21 are participating in the first Metaverse Fashion Week (MVFW) on Decentraland. And the consumers? Go shopping!
Which business application do you find particularly interesting?
To name just one: the concept of "microtransactions." For example, users participate in a game for free and buy virtual add-ons for very small amounts of money (in the form of tokens): a certain background music, looks or "skins" for their own avatar, and other various components - all for their personal experience. When such a sought-after item is offered in an environment that makes almost unlimited scalability so easily accessible, we are inevitably also talking about unimaginable sales figures.
Sounds vast, borderless, and highly complex. From an entrepreneurial point of view, how can we develop a better imagination - and perhaps also rethink initial negative reflexes?
A look into the past and into the future is a good starting point: If we think back to the 1990s, to Web 1.0, we know: Since its invention, there has been no turning back. Business-as-usual? That was unthinkable even after Web 2.0. We are already seeing that "digital transformation" and "Industry 4.0" are becoming yesterday's buzzwords. It has always been about optimizing the digital culture of a company, about networking processes. The overarching goal has always been - even today - to make the core business and all related areas more flexible, dynamic and "controllable" with the help of data.
Basically, what is starting now and will continue in the future is already very far removed from the traditional way companies operate in certain industries. In short, "Stick to what's familiar," has nothing to do with metaverse. We're talking about limitless possibilities. What a company has done in the last ten years may be very different from what it will do in the next two. Entrepreneurs who understand this know that we are now entering the age of cryptos, blockchains, NFTs, DAOs, and yes, the Metaverse.
You mentioned examples from B2C and the lifestyle industry: Here, it definitely seems worthwhile to engage with Metaverse. Is it also worthwhile in B2B and from an industrial perspective?
Absolutely. The Metaverse is here to stay and is going to continue to expand. Take as a similar example the trend towards electromobility: It has de facto forced every conventional automotive group to completely alter its strategy, investment plans and production capacities, which they had not intentions of doing just 7 years ago. And that's for trying to catch up with a Silicon Valley start-up that didn't even exist 20 years ago. If we now turn our gaze to traditional banking, we see that there is hardly a major bank in the world today that is not investing in blockchain technologies - in resources for knowledge, strategy and development. Financial institutions that want to remain relevant in the near future are taking the importance and impact that cryptocurrencies have on financial markets very seriously.
For exactly these reasons, I also strongly recommend companies to play through the how "metaverse-capable" scenarios and try to gauge: Which areas and processes could be mapped in the metaverse, for example? This consideration already has the effect of an assessment and the possibility of finding hidden talents among their ranks. By the way: Many larger companies have introduced the role of CMOs - Chief Metaverse Officers. After all, something new is happening, and it's an absolute advantage for companies to have a presence in the metaverse right from the start. That pays into perception, visibility and a modern brand image.
In addition to "blockchain" and "NFTs", "DAOs" also came up as a keyword - decentralized autonomous organizations that exist without hierarchical management. What can companies already learn from DAOs?
DAOs are being treated as the next big trend in the crypto scene. I think here, too: It's worth playing through scenarios that lean on their concept. Could your own company be decentralized and autonomously run by your own community or members? What would it take to achieve this? Could decision-making processes be made completely transparent, as in DAOs? Would smart contracts offer a decisive competitive advantage? Or would sharing in the success of the company - instead of the traditional salary - also be a conceivable salary model? This is just a small sample of the possibilities offered by DAOs and smart contracts.
Do DAOs have what it takes to completely replace conventional business models and corporate structures?
That’s definitely an interesting idea, but in my view we’re still very far away from anything that drastic. Nevertheless, shedding light on the construct and playing through the "metaversability" of one's own company can unleash a great deal of innovative potential and ultimately point the way to (a possilbe) future. Speaking of which: we have already gained one component of DAOs in the past two years: Self-determined working, flexible working models, independent of space, time and employer. The way we work has become the topic of our time.
These are highly interesting developments that will push the boundaries of our imagination even further. What developments are you currently following with great enthusiasm?
The developments being put forward by renowned players, as well as by start-ups and hidden champions - generally any company that sets new technological standards, while also making existing tech better and more accessible. Recently, I've been following along as Meta - despite its recent stock plunge - doubled down on its commitment to its vision. The company also announced plans to take Remote Work to the extreme: Its top management team will be moved out of Silicon Valley to all sorts of corners of the world. I'm fascinated.
What have you gained from your involvement with Metaverse?
The realization that it is impossible to predict what impact the Metaverse will have on society at large once it gains maturity. But if history is to be our guide, we can already be sure that the Metaverse will have a direct and significant impact on all of our lives. Ultimately, it will be as indispensable to our everyday lives as the smartphone or tablet on which we are reading this interview right now.
What final thought would you like to share?
How important it is to stay young at heart and in spirit, to keep getting excited. Because, whether in business or in our personal lives, we usually don't experience any "aha" moments if we only remain in our comfort zones or stick to what we have always done.
Thank you very much for your exciting insights, Franz.
What questions are you concerned about with a look to the future? We are here to support you in facing new challenges, so feel free to contact us. We look forward to hearing from you!