Do we still need to care about the metaverse?

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In between the chaos at Twitter and the meltdown in the crypto market, you may have missed news of layoffs at Meta. 11,000 staff or 13% of Meta’s workforce will be let go. This downturn comes just over a year since Facebook rebranded and announced that it was committing its future to the ‘metaverse’. The question on many people’s lips is whether the trouble at Meta stems from wider challenges in the tech industry – Amazon, Stripe and many other big players have announced similar redundancies – or is it a symptom of Zuckerberg gambling on the metaverse and losing? His statement on the matter provides plenty of insight – blaming overly optimistic projections for consumer spending for the layoffs and doubles down on metaverse R&D spending. So, should businesses have faith in Meta that they will be successful and usher in a new era for consumer content and engagement or should they consider the metaverse nothing more than a pipe dream?

This is of course, not an academic question. The answer to it has real implications on business strategy and investment over the next few years. Making the correct move now could enable a new generation of marketing. 

The first thing we need to understand is that the metaverse does not live or die by what Zuckerberg does. In fact, the metaverse is better defined as the ultimate goal of a whole suite of virtual and augmented reality propositions that will change how we interact online. In fact, if Meta’s metaverse comes into fruition, it is highly unlikely to be the only one. So rather than simply thinking about the metaverse as lifelike avatars chatting to each other in virtual worlds – we should instead consider use cases such as fully immersive online stores.   

From that perspective, the metaverse is all about the whole host of new channels businesses can develop VR and AR content to engage and convert consumers. In that case, the direction of travel is much clearer. The sheer investment and number of companies committed to developing the technology that underpins these experiences means that AR and VR is going to become a major channel going forward. Whether it is in the form of a ‘metaverse’ as we think of it now is essentially irrelevant because the approach businesses need to take will be the same. The key is to start considering what tech infrastructure your company will need to create, deliver, manage and analyze content on virtual platforms.

CMS technology is currently geared towards a 2D world of emails, websites, apps and electronic billboards. The best new tech enables marketers to create, manage and update campaigns on multiple channels with minimal interaction from developers or IT departments. In recent years, these solutions have been expanded to take into account data-driven personalisation and more exotic channels such as IoT devices. However, no matter the channel, the core concepts of delivering copy and imagery remain essentially the same. The metaverse is a whole new kettle of fish. It will require the creation of a new generation of 3D CMS solutions which enable completely different ways for brands to interact with consumers. 

The goal of these martech solutions will be to enable the creation, maintenance and modification of virtual, augmented and other immersive content. In practice, imagine going into virtual shops where every product and marketing message is tailored exactly to your needs. The crucial element of the 3D CMS will be that it will integrate with existing marketing channels. Marketers will be able to make instant changes on any channel – IoT, social, email, virtual store – without the need for longtail development projects. In essence, it will make virtual as adaptable and manageable as any other communication output. The challenge is that the only limit to the form these metaverse marketing experiences take is the imagination of a brand’s communication department. Add to this the way each experience can and will be personalized and, at their best, will enable a number of different interaction scenarios and you can see just how complex it will all get. 

To put it more simply, 3D CMS solutions will need to leverage a huge amount more data than current systems and they will need to enable the creation and management of a mind boggling number of customer journeys. At the same time they need to be easy enough to use so that companies don’t have to dedicate a crazy amount of resources. They will also need to be secure, integrate (where possible) into existing systems and be able to track effectiveness and essentially do everything the best CMS systems do now. 

According to our own survey of more than 200 retail and ecommerce professionals who manage CMS systems, 20% are already extending their CMS to display content into metaverse environments to showcase their brand. This early experimentation is crucial – because it will provide important insights into the limitations of existing systems and provide a roadmap of where to invest. 

In the current economic climate it can be difficult to look too far ahead and even consider how your business can make investments. However, the prudent and cost-effective option is to look at how your CMS and marketing infrastructure functions. If it is already outdated or cumbersome, the reality is that your business will quickly fall further behind with the advent of AR and VR and the cost of catching up will grow considerably. Making an investment today will increase your marketing efficiency and also enable your business to begin experimenting with new cutting-edge engagement techniques. When we get through this recession you will be in a much better place to enter the metaverse.

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Thomas Peham

VP of Marketing at enterprise CMS Storyblok

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