What Does The Metaverse Mean For eCommerce?
Remember 1989? Pre mobile-phone ubiquity. Pre World Wide Web. Pre a lot of things that have been woven into the fabric of our everyday lives. It’s almost impossible to remember what life was like before we could buy virtually anything we wanted through a computer or phone screen and have it arrive at our doorstep.
Yet, here we are in 2022 and a new version of reality akin to the Matrix has arrived. A digital livingscape where we can buy luxury cars and fill them with petrol. Troll around outdoor shopping malls and meet up with friends. Buy customised trainers––both a physical pair and an NFT version. How cool.
If that sounds far out, it is. But it’s also right at our doorstep. As ecommerce website specialists, we know it’s high time for our clients –– Shopify and other digital store owners –– to get up to speed on exactly what the metaverse is, how it works, and what it means for your business.
In this article, we’ll discuss what you need to know about the metaverse. But first, we want to clear up a misconception:
Are Web3 and the Metaverse the Same Thing?
Web3 and the metaverse are not the same thing. While they both rely on blockchain technology, their purpose is different. The terms are used interchangeably because they both envision a new (better) iteration of the Internet.
However, the metaverse is a bit less clear than Web3. It points to a somewhat formless, “3D immersive world that is synchronous, persistent and unlimited in concurrent users” (1).
Web3 is far more specific in that it’s being developed as a solution to all the problems of our current World Wide Web.
What is the Metaverse?
The metaverse has (arguably) already existed for a couple of decades through what we could now refer to as more primitive VR. But as experts suggest, through recent revitalisation by way of trading bulky technologies for more innovative ones, it is being used to refer to the crypto metaverse that lives on blockchain. The old metaverse has indeed reached its tipping point.
It’s still vague how exactly the revitalised metaverse will work. As a mixed reality, it uses augmentations of a hybrid virtual-physical online world. In short, it’s a 3D version of our current Internet. Indeed, one source conceptualises the metaverse “as the internet brought to life” (2).
How does it work and what can we expect, generally?
Several existing technologies have converged to create the metaverse, such as AR, VR, cloud computing, cloud mapping, game design, cryptocurrency, blockchain, and social commerce. As these technologies grow in sophistication, the metaverse will continue to expand towards becoming its own economy. It’s not just a 3D reproduction of the physical world but rather a uniquely performing paradigm that addresses the problems specific to digital spaces.
In his seminal essay on the metaverse, Venture capitalist, Matthew Ball, writes that the metaverse will “be a fully functioning economy – individuals and businesses will be able to create, own, invest, sell, and be rewarded for an incredibly wide range of “work” that produces “value” that is recognised by others” (3). He also describes it as a consistent, real-time living experience.
What the Metaverse Means for eCommerce
This new mixed reality could irreversibly alter how we see and interact in the world, which makes its implications for ecommerce seem rather trivial. But rest assured, digital consumerism helps feed the lifeblood of our modern economy, so the way in which the metaverse will impact it is far from insignificant.
The metaverse inspires a whole new reality of ecommerce, with virtual products, entertainment, and gaming at the forefront of a massive economic development. Experts suggest that these three offerings in the revitalised space could represent as much as 82 billion dollars within the next three years (4).
The convergence of our virtual and physical worlds create a whole new paradigm that has the potential to enhance our daily experiences. We can anticipate greater access to material goods, entertainment initiatives, and more, without the constraints of time, space, and location. Nearly anything you can imagine will likely appear in the ecommerce metaverse, and probably sooner than you think. It is indeed meta.
As it evolves both in form and concept, new devices are necessary, as well as libraries and assets to meet the increasing demands of online consumers. That means new forms of ecommerce, rather than extensions of what currently exist. For example, fully customised experiences free from the barriers of the physical world will be available on demand to consumers. Whatever you want, whenever you want it, anywhere in the digital sphere. We’re no longer just telling or imagining stories; we’re creating and living within them.
So what practical relevance does that have for you as an ecommerce owner?
This mixed reality is projected to achieve a compound annual growth rate of 54% (5). One source suggests that merchants who combine physical and digital products in the metaverse will have a greater advantage (6).
In short, you’ll need to design unique retail experiences to stay competitive. If that sounds like a huge mountain to climb, rest assured, it won’t feel that way for long. As innovations develop at lightning speed, the intelligence to build innovative digital shopping experiences will become much more accessible (and we can help).
As Shopify experts and ecommerce website specialists, we can lend you practical, qualified advice and guidance for moving forward with your ecommerce development in the metaverse. We offer free strategy sessions for any ecommerce owner with any question, issue, or challenge. Contact us to book your call today.
January 11, 2022