It’s Not Too Early to Get Excited About Web3 and the Metaverse

Metaverse technology world concept, vector illustration

By Julian Marchiaro, Technology Strategy at Merkle

Buzz around the next iteration of the internet (Web3), decentralization, and the Metaverse can be very polarizing as well as loaded with speculation, making it difficult to see through the hype and understand their value. However, the foundational technologies have been going through a long incubation period, and many Metaverse behaviors already exist today.

There are many use cases and real-world applications that have been maturing rapidly sparking innovation across industries:

  • French grocery store chain Carrefour partnered with IBM Food Trust blockchain to implement a global food traceability standard. Consumers have been receptive and early results include improved sales performance as a result of increased transparency.
  • BMW has partnered with NVIDIA to create the factory of the future leveraging digital twins, augmented/virtual reality, edge computing, and AI to power the world’s largest custom manufacturing company.
  • Huawei and Fujian Medical University and Suzhou Kangduo Robot Co., Ltd. implemented the world’s first remote-experimental animal surgery powered by 5G in 2019!
  • Companies like ThreeKit are paving the way for the integration of AR, 3D modeling into commerce for engaging product experiences that build consumer trust and confidence showing 40%+ increases in conversions and site visits.

Although Web3 and the Metaverse are not here yet, the building blocks are available now, and the early movers are going to play a critical role in building the foundation, defining the new rules, and reap the benefits.

Where should you start?

For business leaders, now is the time to start defining a Web3 and Metaverse strategy to develop an experimentation roadmap focused on innovation, key to long-term sustainable growth. It’s important to use this exercise as an opportunity to positively position your brand in the future, aligning your vision, brand experience, and offering to the needs and expectations of today and tomorrow’s customers and communities.

Emerging technologies can be a catalyst for innovation, which is why this dialogue will lead to uncovering opportunities, however, rushing to obvious applications implementing new technology without a broader strategy won’t deliver much value.

If you’re thinking about how these new tools can benefit your organization, the first step is to research and educate your team, as its important to identify the most relevant opportunities for your brand.

Many new technologies contribute synergistically to the vision for the next iteration of the web, which remains a moving target loaded with uncertainty and risk.

A 5-step plan to gain momentum:

  1. Invest in research and education relying on partners, your innovation team, or center-of-excellence.
  2. Start articulating a strategy and an experimentation plan focusing on principles over technology.
  3. Assess your organization’s readiness and define modernization requirements.
  4. Start work to identify use cases and applications.
  5. Develop a roadmap for a crawl, walk, run approach.

Bet on principles over technology

As an industrial-engineering consultant for one of the big four firms, my father worked with some of the largest manufactures in the world to inform investments, optimize production, and drive innovation. Although the problems he’d solve for involved nuts and bolts, just like the work I do today, it was all about understanding systems and finding creative solutions to new challenges. As you can imagine, Web3 and Metaverse have been a subject of conversation and debate in our exchanges. Despite being a generation apart, him having never experienced virtual or augmented reality first-hand nor bought much online, once we got to the essence, we found that although we don’t equally buy into the Web 3 and Metaverse technology, we are aligned to the new values and principles being formed.

What are these new principles?

  • Openness and inclusiveness at the core of collaborative communities.
  • Authenticity and transparency for reduced friction and increased trust.
  • Human-centricity as the foundation for immersive, inclusive, human-centered experiences.
  • Elevated user-utility promoted by the revision of the value-exchange for products and experiences that deliver positive experiences.
  • Redefined ownership, spanning to new types of ownership and opportunities for meaningful participation.

Future-proofing your strategy

While it may be difficult to make predictions on which blockchain or cryptocurrencies are going to prevail, or whether NFTs are the future of loyalty, by betting on and integrating the driving principles you can future-proof your brand’s strategy making room for opportunities within Web3 and Metaverse.

These forces are the connective tissue breathing life into the vision, and while you’ll likely have to adjust, I think we can agree it is better to be roughly right without hindering innovation and experimentation than precisely wrong or stationary while your competitors make moves before you.

What does betting on these principles look like?

Let’s look at the evolution of data storage, which makes for a perfect analogy. We went from the 8-inch to the 5 ¼-inch, to the 3 ½ inch floppy disk, followed by the CD, USB, SD card to the Cloud exponentially growing capabilities. If you were the one to go all-in on the floppy disk you were likely left behind, but if your bet was on “increased data storage capacity, accessibility and portability”, you’re likely hanging out in the cloud!

To see through the hype, it is critical to take the time to synthetize key opportunities and trends to gain the clarity and vision that will give you an edge. 

Assessing Readiness

Taking the time to assess readiness after prioritizing use cases and applications for Web3 and the Metaverse technology will enable the organization to identify the foundational technology enablers and integration requirements of legacy systems. A thorough experimentation roadmap will be rooted in an understanding of today’s capabilities and readiness, as key legacy systems won’t be replaced at once and any new solution will need to be integrated to the broader technology stack.

While the unpredictability of emerging technologies makes it nearly impossible to future-proof your decisions, building in maximum flexibility and agility remains the best way to hedge against uncertainty.

Modernization requirements remain a moving target and will vary depending on the organization, but I can certainly list a few:

  • Strategy:
    • Lay a foundation for your Web3 and Metaverse strategy.
    • Develop and manage an exploration roadmap on top of your exploitation (optimization and expansion) plan.
  • Data:
    • Grow integration capabilities and transition to real-time sync to enable full support of new use cases.
    • Address new data governance challenges revolving around blockchain technology, security, and responsible artificial intelligence.
  • Analytics:
    • Develop a plan to integrate new metrics and KPIs to your measurement plan being intentional about the goals you set and how you define success.
    • Start thinking of how new data points from internet of things (IoT), haptics, facial emotion recognition, or activity in virtual worlds can advance your predictive models.
  • Orchestration:
    • Develop the capabilities to manage the convergence of physical and digital interactions to orchestrate multi-reality customer journeys and new loyalty dynamics.
    • Develop real-time capabilities to boost business agility, further enable optimization and operational efficiencies.
  • Content:
    • Line up the resources and processes to manage the creation and distribution of content at scale, while keeping up with new mediums, channels, and formats/requirements such as NFTs, live video events, virtual AR/VR experiences.
    • Master the management of user-generated content enabling customers as creators with dedicated toolkits.
    • Develop an experimentation framework to test new channels and mediums.
  • Experience:
    • Design and deliver new experiences adopting new technologies. (AR/VR, IoT).
    • Lay a foundation to develop and manage engaged communities.
    • Explore and test Web3 advertising platforms for activation.

The Takeaway

Even though applications for Blockchain, NFTs, AR/VR, IoT, Haptics, or Tokens may be hard to identify for your industry at first, now is the time to pull together your executive, creative, and technology teams to start planning for an omni-reality customer experience.

Brands are being called to deliver immersive products and services across channels and realities that deliver positive experiences. We will be challenged to adopt and master new levers of influence and insight such as emptions, and phygital (digital + physical) feedback.

As we look ahead, it is important that we understand the significance of the shift that is happening and take the opportunity to influence it:

  • Exploring Metaverse opportunities is not just about gamification but rediscovering the significance of places.
  • Blockchain isn’t just about crypto or decentralization, but an opportunity to rethink how we define and manage value. An opportunity to leverage resources more efficiently for more environmentally and socially sustainable outcomes.

Final recommendations:

  • Invest cautiously: focus on furthering the organization’s understanding and make sure to maintain alignment with the key business objectives to reduce risk.
  • Experiment and test: Embrace the new principles and define an experimentation/testing plan starting today.

“Electric light did not come from the continuous improvement of candles.”
– Oren Harari