"Metaverse" may seem like the latest buzzword and online trend. Ever since Facebook changed its name to Meta and announced a massive investment in metaverse technology last year, everyone suddenly wanted to know what this new phenomenon meant for the future.
As a small business owner, you may be initially skeptical and even asking, Should small business embrace the metaverse? While there is still much unknown about how it will develop over the next generation, there are opportunities in the metaverse that you might want to consider for your business.
We chatted with some experts in the field about how brands enter the metaverse and what small businesses can do to take advantage of the opportunities it presents.
What Is the Metaverse, Anyway?
There are many ways to describe the metaverse. In simple terms, the metaverse is the “intersection of the virtual or online and the physical world.” That's according to Jerry Eitel, Chief Metaverse Officer at Prager Metis.
It’s considered the future of the internet user’s experience, bringing the two-dimensional aspect of the internet into 3D reality. Another way to look at it is “...an online space with an immersive environment that creates an illusionary experience that the user feels part of the environment,” says Professor Nir Kshetri from the University of North Carolina.
One of the key things to understand about the metaverse is that it’s not singular. “The metaverse is a handful of virtual platforms, including The Sandbox, Decentraland and Mirandus,” explains Eitel. If you want to enter the metaverse, you need to first create an avatar, which you can custom design to look however you like.
Then, Eitel says, “You can use the map to teleport to another location, play games, meet new people, explore NFT galleries, learn about businesses and much more."
In this way, the metaverse is also tied into some of the other buzzwords of late that you’ve likely heard: NFTs and cryptocurrencies. “To actively participate in the metaverse, users will need to own a crypto wallet if they want to buy or sell something like an NFT,” says Eitel.
How Many People Are Actively Using It?
While it’s burst onto the scene in the last six months, you might be wondering how many people are actually using the metaverse before you consider embracing it for your business.
“Metaverse technology is still a generation or more away from reaching maturity despite all of the excitement,” says Jeff Mains, CEO of Champion Leadership Group.
However, there’s still been a rapid uptick in people using the metaverse in the past few months. For example, according to Forkast, Decentraland, one of the most famous metaverses, hosts around 300,000 active users per month, while The Sandbox has around a million active users. So far, these major players in the metaverse are largely gaming platforms, but that’s not to say that things aren’t moving quickly.
“Technology companies are developing metaverses focusing on diverse areas such as fashion, virtual concerts and performances," says Kshetri. "The metaverse is also being used in capacity-building activities such as training and education.”
The huge expansion of the metaverse is happening right now, with endless potential for opportunities beyond the gaming world.
Three Metaverse Small Businesses Opportunities
With the astronomical growth and expansion of the metaverse comes plenty of opportunities for all businesses to get involved early. However, a big question surrounding the uncertainty is: Should small business embrace the metaverse?
According to the experts, there are three main opportunities that the metaverse presents small businesses:
One of the biggest opportunities that the metaverse offers for small businesses is the chance to grow and expand in a new space.
“Businesses can leverage the metaverse to increase their business and scale there,” says Eitel. The huge growth of these metaverse platforms with their users spending hours online means that there is a potential to reach new customers and scale your business in a new field.
For example, one of the most popular gaming platforms, Roblox, had a total of 10 billion playing hours of its active users within just three months in 2021, according to data collected by Influencer Marketing Hub.
At the same time, its players spent $652 million on the site’s virtual currency. This represents a huge new marketplace to tap into and get new customers’ attention.
2. Branding and Marketing
Similarly, the metaverse also opens doors for a wider branding and marketing strategy. Mains says, “Brands will have a greater degree of visibility…and increased exposure in the virtual world.”
This offers a different avenue for marketing your products. With the already incredibly competitive world of marketing, the metaverse offers a space to push boundaries in terms of innovation, especially now that it’s still in its infancy.
One of the key ways the metaverse will impact marketing? According to Winston Robson, founder of WeMeta, the answer is, “New opportunities for buyers and sellers to connect in new ways.” The interactive capacity of the metaverse means you can make your marketing strategy more personal.
You will be able to make your online shopping experience more immersive, with people able to interact as they would in the real world without even leaving their homes.
3. Monetizing Intellectual Property and Virtual Goods
The final major opportunity that the metaverse will offer small businesses is the ability to monetize intellectual property and virtual goods. This presents a whole new array of products that you can sell in the online marketplace.
As mentioned above, the metaverse is expanding well beyond the realm of gaming. The biggest developments in the last few months have been within fashion, virtual concerts and performances.
According to Bloomberg data, metaverse revenue is projected to approach around $800 billion in 2024, with live entertainment, advertisements and gaming leading the charge. However, one of the biggest developments impacting small businesses has been in the fashion space.
According to a study by YPulse, 41 percent of 13- to 39-year-olds have purchased virtual clothing for their avatar. This presents a whole new retail category for brands to tap into and sell products.
According to Kshetri, “The metaverse may even replace the current online market to sell things online,” making it an important space for small businesses to navigate.
How to Prepare for the Metaverse
After you consider the opportunities the metaverse might present your business, there are some important things to keep in mind. As mentioned already, the metaverse is still in its early stages of full development. Small businesses, as Mains suggests, “may wish to treat metaverse investment prospects with greater skepticism than they would otherwise.” As with any business investment, there are risks and rewards associated with it.
However, with so many major brands and companies already investing in the metaverse, it’s obvious that it’s here to stay. In this case, there are some important things as a small business owner that you can do to prepare for the metaverse and incorporate it into your future business plan.
Tips for Preparing for the Metaverse
Spend time researching and learning as much as you can about how the metaverse works.
Speak with people already using and actively engaging in the metaverse at different levels.
Explore the different metaverse platforms to figure out which ones might work for your business.
Map out your business goals and objectives for the metaverse.
Lay out a clear plan for entering the metaverse so that you have a course of action.
Embracing Future Opportunities
While the metaverse may seem like a foreign concept right now, the reality is that it’s fast becoming the new online world of the future. As a small business owner, major shifts and changes like this may seem daunting, but there’s lots to learn and embrace about the opportunities in the metaverse.
Armed with a bit more knowledge and understanding about how the metaverse can work for your business, you’ll be able to plan and prepare for the future of the online marketplace. That's why Incfile's Business Resources & Tools library is here to power your next big ideas and prepare you for the future of doing business.
Jenna Scatena is a writer and content strategist with a love for stories that have never been told before. More than a decade of working with prominent magazines and brands informs her approach to impactful storytelling. Her stories have reached more than 30 million readers, won multiple awards and been anthologized in books. Jenna's work has appeared in Conde Nast Traveler, Vogue, Marie Claire, The San Francisco, BBC and The Atlantic. She's the founder of the editorial consultancy, Lede Studio.