I was fascinated with the concept of the Metaverse when I first read Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash in the 90’s. At the time, I was the CEO of The Imagination Network, the top online social games company, with a remarkable team that, inspired by the book, built one of the first 3D virtual worlds—a Metaverse called CyberPark.
CyberPark had most of the components that are emerging in the market now—fun filled environments with avatars, currency, and merchandise. In my latest Web3/Meta keynote, I have a slide comparing what we built—decades ago—and what companies, like Facebook, Roblox and many others, are prototyping now. Whether at a public conference or a large internal corporate event, the audience looks at the then and now slide and says: “ I can’t see much of a difference…visually.” Even the industry leaders who can tell the difference will admit that the march to building mass-market 3D virtual Worlds has been long and slow, and still consists of lucrative niche markets.
That is all about to change, as we experience a perfect storm of enabling technologies and platforms adopted and powered-by by the next-generation of people and Web3 organizations. It will take longer than most forecast, not look like the promo-reels, and go through multiple phases of development over the next 10 years. As organizations, big and small, begin to place their bets, knowing when to invest is as important as where. What I’m asked most often is: what should my company do now. Let’s call it the NOWverse to do list.
What the Zuck is the Metaverse
People get excited about new technologies that are often over-hyped in advance, but not ready for mass-market consumption. Meta + Verse (from Universe) = Metaverse, is just the next one.
If you Google it, hundreds of definitions pop up, that most find confusing or dictate an unachievable perfect-world. There are lots of misconceptions about what you need to experience it properly, like VR/AR headsets, or massive screens, etc. You don’t—it should be device agnostic.
As an insider, I like Matthew Ball’s definition, because he digs into the critical components required for Web3 + Metaverse: “A massively scaled and interoperable network of real-time rendered 3D virtual worlds that can be experienced synchronously and persistently by an effectively unlimited number of users with an individual sense of presence, and with continuity of data, such as identity, history, entitlements, objects, communications, and payments.”
Too long? Try this: It is the Internet’s next evolution towards immersiveness.
Who is Web3?
You are. To understand the Metaverse’s enabling fundamentals, lets look at how the Internet may evolve.
Web 1.0, the first iteration of the internet that continues to be the foundation of what we use today. It was mostly read-only static content and with old media business models. At launch, we touted it as The Information Super Highway. What I said back then about the first iteration of the Internet can also be used to describe Web3 – Metaverse:
‘The future vision of what technology could feasibly provide, which will continue to change in size, scope and promise, as more viable capabilities emerge that are grounded in human demand and desire.’
Web 2.0 consolidated power with centralized landlords and business models that are monetizing the masses with more social sharing, creation, and enablement platforms.
Web 3.0 promises to take us to a democratized, creator/owner phase of the internet, where the power shifts from the big tech oligopolies to individuals. Rather than using platforms in exchange for data, users should have full power, governance, and control over assets, where they can be participants, owners, and shareholders—with peer-to-peer transactions.
The capabilities and timing of a Web3 world are as uncertain as the original wild-west land rush, with thousands of companies developing enabling pieces of a multi-layer ecosystem. From the big tech Web2 players, like Google and Apple, who don’t want to lose control in a Web3 transition, to innovatators like coto by Eve and dentity, the enabling platform market is moving rapidly.
PLANNING: The 6 P’s
When leaders ask me, should we hire a Chief Metaverse Officer, I usually say no. But, depending on the industry and company, most will be better served by making it core to the Chief Marketing or Digital Officer capabilities—and then hire and invest accordingly.
Before jumping on the Metaverse wagon, organizations from McDonald’s and Starbucks to CVS and Unilever are taking a step back and planning out what is best to do now, while brands like Nike—who will soon have produced over $200 mil in revenue from the category—are claiming it as a more significant part of their future business model optimization.
To help organizations prepare, let’s look at the NOWverse 6P’s that may help plan and invest into a more robust Web3 digital strategy and a Metaverse evolution.
First, Prepare and develop longtail, situational plans for next-gen platforms and partnerships, and understand the array of different business models. You should also consider Protecting your assets, data, and information. The Metaverse creates new scenarios to anticipate and mitigate risks around; and not just secure, but proactively expand your patents, trademarks, IPs, services, products, and ventures.
Organizations can Produce IDTs, what I call (Iconic Digital Twins) or NTF’s for existing and future products and services, while working towards enhancing your brand’s Positioning, by providing OBEs – (on-brand experiences) for in-person, online, and virtual environments. Don’t use a one-size-fits-all approach; align with your brand’s promise, and keep the experience relevant, realistic, and reliable. When looking at go-to-market, you must Promote and sync purposeful branding experiences to meta-phases, get Personal, and leverage technologies.
PERSONALIZATION: The 5 E’s
With all of the Web2 solutions available, it is table-stakes to provide customers with personalization Wether online or IRL, consider the 5Es to get started. Companies have been deploying some of these in both old and new media—but now it must be at the core of any digital transformation strategy.
Traditional and new media advertising (and ecommerce) business models need a reboot. Besides selling something, there are smarter opportunities to connect with Web2 and Web3 consumers.. You can Entertain and Educate, by providing them with simple, fun gamification to watch, play, and experiment with—while delivering on-point, useful content. Help to build brand credibility and loyalty when providing Engaging brand experiences and conversions that get customers involved and Excite them by delivering helpful, actionable assets unique to your brand. Lastly, e-comm. To get consumers to buy, it helps to get personal and provide meaningful experiences at each stage of their journey, which often makes the transaction, and follow-on loyalty development easier.
Making Web3-3D Moves in a Web2-2D World
Smart organizations are seperating the hype from the roadmap, and planning around the fact that the mass-market will be living in a Web2-2D world for a while longer. As a user and teacher of technology transformation and trends, at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, I like how Gartner breaks out the evolution with a ten year roadmap—however there will be other forecasts. Additionally, Revieve published a Metaverse Playbook, with details of what companies can consider doing now and next—you can get it here.
As organizations navigate toward Web3—while operating in a Web2 world—and testing platforms and technologies that are part of consumer journies into the Metaverse, they will learn to meet the mass, and more often niche, audiences where they are along the way.