The Metaverse is everywhere. From Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber playing to digital audiences, to South Korea investing directly in metaverse projects, it’s hot. Small wonder, then, that according to analyst firms and tech pundits, the emerging digital universe is one of the top emerging trends.
The topic is already packed with hyperbole, such as Mark Zuckerberg's reflection that the Metaverse might be the next best thing to physical teleportation. But if even a portion of the promise becomes reality, we’ll be meeting on new digital plains to socialize, shop and work in coming years.
Tapping into this emerging demand are a raft of businesses designing digital shopfronts, products and experiences to meet customers on emerging Metaverse platforms. Beyond this initial investment, companies must fundamentally re-examine their customer support and expertise in the emerging digital world. The Metaverse can potentially provide a high-touch support channel in which consumers submit requests for help that are then conducted in a virtual environment—in a sense, adding a new channel to omnichannel strategies.
And for many businesses, high-quality customer experience (CX) in the Metaverse will serve to lure customers onto their platform, into their digital shop, and to consume their digital products.
Success in the Metaverse demands far more than aligning the right pixels for a digital billboard or linking an existing app to a new platform; it's about creating a compelling digital experience. To ensure customers have a high-quality experience and trust the digital environments created in the Metaverse, business leaders must develop new and innovative support functions.
Regardless of where they stand on their metaverse journey, there are three critical actions leaders must take to ensure CX success:
Regardless of industry or business model, the customer journey in the Metaverse is likely to be manifestly different than it is on more traditional routes; new digital touchpoints create new forms of friction that businesses must work to smooth.
Conventional, more predictable customer journeys in a physical retail or e-commerce environment follow simple pathways: browsing a selection, honing that selection, and then moving to purchase. In the Metaverse, consumers have the option to move seamlessly across environments in ways traditional routes cannot allow.
This brings a challenge. Interoperability across platforms doesn't exist, so support functions will inevitably be platform specific. This throws up challenges like the consistency of experience across platforms—assuming the business plans to operate on several. Or issues mapping customer journeys as they bounce from one platform to the next.
Take a car showroom as an example. Consumers' current options are centered around browsing fixed images on a website or visiting a physical showroom. By using augmented or virtual reality (AR/VR) in the Metaverse, consumers can more intimately engage with data on the vehicle in a digital environment. With the car projected in front of them, they can better understand the vehicle's size and storage capacity.
Understanding how these new journeys flow and organizing support functions around them is critical to success. But as in real life, consumers will rarely settle on the first vehicle they see. They may browse several showrooms or meet friends to kick some digital tires. These new variables stir in new questions. What if the brands the consumer wants to peruse are on different platforms? What if they struggle to meet their friends in the existing showroom because of technical difficulties? Planning for and solving this friction is critical.
Finally, leaders must understand their support obligations along the customer journey. Some platforms will offer unique support capabilities in core areas as a differentiator. Mapping out the value chain and where support capabilities intersect, or conflict is key.
This need for intuitive support models is the key to closing the CX gap in the Metaverse. Meeting customers where they are, has both literal and figurative meanings.
The Metaverse is evolving rapidly. Digital giants and hyperscalers are working on their unique vision for the space. And while many platforms are in their infancy, we expect them to continue bringing new features and capabilities to capture more market share.
Companies such as Google and Facebook have a record of tapping into consumer expectations and building models that meet their demands. While this should see the ongoing development of core platforms, it's likely to alter how consumers interact with and navigate their new digital environments.
Customer expectations and their understanding of what good service and experiences look like will also evolve as the underlying technology improves. Staying ahead of these expectations will prove a point of differentiation for leading businesses.
Keeping up with this rapidly changing space calls for a data strategy that recognizes the unique opportunities and challenges of the Metaverse, which is a treasure trove of data and insights businesses can use to analyze and predict shifting demands.
The Metaverse also presents a digital playground on which to experiment with new ideas and products. By playing an active role in the ecosystem, companies can work with partners such as platform owners to gather data that helps them smooth out rough experiences and meet customers with new and innovative support functions.
Make no mistake, though—myriad challenges lay ahead. Data strategies must recognize and adapt to the unique controversies and perspectives of the space. For example, decentralized platforms intend to wrest control of user data away from businesses that may use it for analysis and hand it back to the user. Smart organizations must examine how they incentivize users to share their data.
Business leaders who want to tap into the Metaverse’s vast opportunities must focus on customer support. Human experiences in the Metaverse—including consumers’ sense of trust and safety in the digital world around them—are critical differentiators as early customers start to work their way through, and select, the platforms and environments in which they want to work, shop and relax.
While the Metaverse may be the next great opportunity, it is CX that will pose the greatest business challenge.
This article was written by Ollie O’Donoghue and Duncan Roberts, Senior Director and Senior Manager, respectively, in Cognizant Research.