“Metaverse will allow people to replicate or enhance their physical activities. This could happen by transporting or extending physical activities to a virtual world or by transforming the physical one." - Marty Resnick, VP Analyst at Gartner
Ever since Facebook’s rebranding to Meta, forward-thinking entrepreneurs have been wondering whether they can use the metaverse for business. Not surprisingly, an array of tech vendors are now adding metaverse development services to their portfolio, looking to cement their place in the emerging technology market and help their clients ride the wave of the metaverse hype. But what is the metaverse exactly? How does the metaverse work? Most importantly, what are the metaverse business opportunities? Read on to find that out!

Metaverse for business: the basics

A metaverse is a device and vendor-agnostic collective virtual open space that merges the physical and digital worlds. In that space, users can interact with each other through 3D avatars. Additionally, they create and purchase digital assets — often in the form of nun-fungible tokens (NFTs).
metaverse for business
In case you’re wondering how to connect to the metaverse — it’s quite simple. You only need an extended reality (XR) device like a high-end virtual reality (VR) helmet, augmented reality (AR) glasses, or an inexpensive headset that turns your smartphone into an XR gadget. The level of immersion, however, will depend on your gear’s functionality — and the amount and quality of 3D content in the metaverse applications you’re accessing. Although the metaverse term began trending in the fall of 2021, the concept was in fact introduced thirty years ago by Neal Town Stephenson, an American novelist. Some early metaverse examples include video games like Fortnite and Roblox, virtual exhibits, such as Gucci Garden, and virtual reality shopping solutions implemented by Macy’s and Alibaba during the Singles Day back in 2016. The primary goal of Meta (formerly known as Facebook), Microsoft, NVIDIA, and other companies working on activities that take place in isolated virtual environments is to ultimately blend these realms into a single one — i.e., the Metaverse. Currently, the technology is still at an early stage, and the impact of metaverse on business remains unclear. By 2026, however, a quarter of the world’s population could be spending at least one hour a day in the global metaverse for shopping, education, work, and entertainment.

Why metaverse could be the next frontier for business

Through 2020, digital content consumption increased by up to 30%. Streaming services continue to oust cable TV channels and drive people out of movie theaters, causing major film studios to double their production efforts. By the end of this year, Meta is expected to pay content creators more than $1 billion through new bonus programs.
In other words, the media and entertainment industry is booming, but it’s also starting to show the first signs of fatigue. As the Internet’s massive expansion has reached its peak, users are beginning to wonder what could possibly come next.
According to Ernst & Young, 41% of consumers are now worried about the impact of the Internet on their well-being and mental health. The user attention span for video content on social media is estimated at only two seconds. And independent content makers, tired of waiting for another viral hit on social media, are moving to platforms like Substack and OnlyFans to monetize their articles and videos directly. The creation of a global, interconnected virtual space enabling realistic interactions between users could breathe a second life into the Internet as we know it, fuel the creator economy, and enhance work from home, remote education, online commerce, and brand-customer interactions. And that’s where the metaverse business opportunities are hidden.

What you should know before stepping into the metaverse for business purposes

The metaverse definition we gave earlier can be misleading — simply because “metaverse” is a multitude of things. First, it is a virtual realm that can be an exact replica of the real physical world or a brand-new immersive environment with its own landscape and forms of creative expression. Second, it is an independent digital consumer-to-consumer economy enabled by digital currencies and non-fungible tokens. Finally, it is a set of technologies that alter the very notion of place. When we visit a website or load an app on our mobile devices, we don’t get a feeling of actually going anywhere. Inside a metaverse, users will be transported into a virtual space with its own architectural and spatial logic.
No matter how you define metaverse, one thing is certain: it is the next iteration of how people interact and do business on the Internet.

How does metaverse work under the hood?

Technology-wise, extended reality — i.e., augmented, mixed, and virtual reality solutions — is the cornerstone of metaverse applications. Other technologies, such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and the Internet of Things also provide a foundation for virtual content creation, content mapping, and life-like interactions between users. However, as IT experts argue, some of these infrastructure components either do not exist yet or cannot be used to the fullest extent, which might prevent businesses from creating compelling and truly immersive virtual environments. This is especially true for quantum computing, stable cryptocurrencies, and mature blockchain platforms. And the biggest challenge is, these technologies could take years to blossom; after all, Red Dead Redemption 2, a Triple-A computer game that can be classified as a metaverse, spent eight years in development.

Metaverse business models and opportunities

The metaverse could fuel the creation of new business models, such as play-to-earn, create-to-earn, and learn-to-earn, turning fun and recreational activities into proper work. But the metaverse business opportunities stretch far beyond consumer-facing operations. Brands like Microsoft and NVIDIA, for example, leverage metaverse apps to make online meetings more engaging or simulate complex processes like industrial manufacturing. Some of the activities that users will be able to perform in metaverses include:
  • Buying digital land, constructing virtual homes, and decorating them with digital art and collectibles
  • Purchasing outfits and accessories for 3D avatars
  • Interacting with digital humans for employee onboarding, customer service, sales, and other business operations
  • Participating in a virtual social experiences, such as online classes, work meetings, and entertainment events

Metaverse economy and NFTs explained

Selling digital products is one of the key metaverse business opportunities. To facilitate this activity, content creators and buyers need to protect virtual assets. Here’s where blockchain solutions in general (and non-fungible tokens in particular!) come into play. A non-fungible token is an asset (think images, videos, audio clips, virtual real estate, or event tickets) that has been created using digital media. Such assets bear marks of uniqueness, which include the date of creation, the tools that have been applied in the process, and the artist’s name, among others. These properties can be recorded in an NFT card driven by blockchain technology. Through tokenization, creators protect metaverse NFTs from being tampered with and can easily track their unauthorized usage. Grimes, a popular Canadian musician, has recently earned a whopping $5.18 million in mere minutes by selling ten digital images and videos from the WarNymph collection. The Nyan Cat creator turned the original meme video into a one-of-a-kind piece of digital art and sold it for an equivalent of $590,000 in cryptocurrency. And Jack Dorsey, co-founder and former CEO of Twitter, sold his first-ever tweet, which dates back to 2006 and basically reads “just setting up my twttr”, for $2.9 billion!
By using NFTs in the metaverse, creators can monetize their content, solve possible intellectual property disputes, combat digital piracy, and eliminate intermediaries in digital trade. Not surprisingly, the NFT economy is picking up pace, serving as the backbone of early metaverses.
For example, in virtual spaces like Somnium Space and Decentraland, users purchase NFTs like clothing items and digital real estate using custom cryptocurrencies. Cryptocurrency, in turn, can be managed through special wallets, such as Mycelium and Exodus. Non-fungible tokens are typically distributed through dedicated marketplaces; the latter include Axie, OpenSea, and ThetaDrop, among others. According to Financial Times, the growing adoption of NFTs in the metaverse could be the starting point for a new economy based on social contracts, independent ownership, and free markets. With 2.7 million unique wallets and a trading volume of $24.9 billion, 2021 turned out to be an excellent year for NFT pioneers — and it’s only the beginning of a brighter digital future.

Key reasons to use metaverse for business

Contrary to popular belief, the metaverse concept does not revolve around ditching our reality in favor of a unicorn-populated world. Instead, it is an opportunity to escape the real world’s boundaries and enhance certain activities we perform online. Early adopters have already unlocked some of the metaverse business opportunities — even though they’re experimenting with immersive technologies on a shoestring budget, mostly resorting to augmented reality. The reported benefits of metaverse include:
  • A more engaging and realistic online shopping experience. Some early metaverse examples in retail include AR-powered interior design apps from IKEA and the Home Depot, virtual try-on metaverse applications from L'Oréal and Kohl’s, and industrial augmented reality solutions for order assembly and quality control. And Sotheby’s, a leading broker of fine art and collectibles, created a digital replica of their London gallery in Decentraland. By enhancing traditional shopping apps and websites with extended reality features, retailers could potentially remove the uncertainty involved in purchasing expensive products like home appliances online and reduce product returns, which are a $550 billion problem for US businesses.
  • Futuristic digital marketing. Just like the physical world, metaverses have dedicated spaces like billboards and LCD screens for promoting products and services — but the competition would be less fierce there. Brands can also open virtual brick-and-mortar locations in a metaverse, selling NFTs to tech-savvy users and offering product trials to casual browsers. And emerging technologies like motion tracking, facial recognition, and haptic feedback would allow marketers to personalize and measure the effectiveness of their advertising campaigns, not to mention the greater traceability of products and payment transactions. Additionally, possible impact of metaverse on business lies in the synchronization of MarTech systems. For example, your company won’t need to launch separate applications, websites, and online events for different locations and time zones, which simplifies marketing analytics and results in major cost savings.
  • Enhanced collaboration and user interactions. By the end of 2022, 25% of all US jobs will not require on-site presence, and the trend will be going strong through 2023. Given that the pandemic is not going away and remote work has become the new normal, metaverse could offer great business opportunities for companies looking to conduct employee training, hold effective meetings, organize conferences, and revamp business development activities. Microsoft, one of the metaverse driving forces, has recently added a new feature to Teams. Powered by the Mesh platform, the solution supports the creation of 3D avatars, allowing teams to mingle, collaborate, and train in virtual environments. The feature has already been tested by Accenture, who ordered 60,000 Oculus VR goggles for employee onboarding in the metaverse.
  • Risk-free modeling of business processes and operations. Whenever companies develop new products, implement new technology, or revamp manufacturing and supply chain processes, they’re assuming the risk that the novel solution will not take off —and, possibly, leave a glaring hole in their corporate budget. Robotic process automation projects, for instance, fail in 50% of the cases while hardware components of an IoT device could spend anything between six months and two years in various design and development stages. Digital twins — i.e, replicas of real-world objects powered by sensor data, extended reality technologies, and artificial intelligence — are an essential component of metaverse applications. And they have the potential to solve most of the innovation-related problems companies are facing. For example, Cityzenith, a technology startup that offers visualization software for IoT and smart city projects, is building a metaverse hosting a wealth of data on carbon emissions from individual buildings, urban areas, and entire cities. The solution could assist governments in determining where exactly carbon emissions could be reduced and limited without investing billions of dollars into complex IT infrastructure. And the good news is that most of the technologies required for digital twin development and implementation are already provided by the leading cloud vendors, including Amazon, Microsoft, and Google.

How to get into the Metaverse and reap its benefits faster?

“The best thing you can do is keep one eye on it and hold a bucket of salt. I think anyone … saying 'it's going to be this' might be proven wrong. It is genuinely going to be decided by market factors.” - Tom Ffiscke, Immersive Wire XR newsletter editor
Before metaverse systems dominate the business technology landscape, we’re likely to be going through a lengthy period of trial and error. ROI perspectives might be vague at this point. Even Meta, the company that kickstarted the metaverse movement, does not expect a major return on their $10 billion investments in the next 10-15 years. In part, this can be explained by a lack of technology standards and regulations governing the responsible usage of extended reality. To help companies unlock the metaverse business opportunities, governments and prominent tech vendors alike should address the following issues:
  • Ensuring a single point of entry to the global metaverse created by different companies and individuals, so that it would become possible to use metaverse for business at scale
  • Enforcing a set of metaverse implementation and content creation standards to provide a seamless user experience
  • Regulating metaverses to avoid online toxicity, unauthorized personal data usage, and cybercrime
  • Minimizing the metaverse’s environmental impact (minting a single NFT reportedly produces more than 200 kilograms of planet-warming carbon dioxide, which equals to driving a standard US gasoline-powered car for 500 miles)
On the bright side, businesses don’t need a massive IT budget to start experimenting with metaverse applications. Shopify store owners, for example, can integrate AR functionality into their websites using special plugins and out-of-the-box platform features. And virtual reality development tools like Unreal Engine and Unity have long been present on the tech scene. So, what does your company need to start using metaverse for business purposes?
  • Closely watch your competition — particularly, if they’re already testing the metaverse waters
  • Analyze your product or service strategy — i.e., how it is presented and seen by your clients, how it’s purchased, and how it is eventually used
  • Consider how doing business in the metaverse could help you reach your short-term and long-term goals
  • Conduct expert and focus group surveys to determine what percentage of your customers are willing to enter metaverses — and how much time they’re likely to be spending there
  • Carefully plan your entrance strategy — i.e., how exactly your brand should show up in a virtual environment and when it is the right time to take action
  • Identify the technology, privacy, and security risks specific for this decentralized virtual environment
  • Start small (e.g., by incorporating XR into one single app or process), but devise a long-term metaverse implementation plan
  • Incorporate gamification into your metaverse apps
  • Collect user feedback and make the necessary changes to your IT systems along the way
  • Keep your finger on the pulse of the metaverse technology to learn where the market is heading
And remember: even if using metaverse for business seems too futuristic at the moment and is unlikely to drive immediate value for your company, you should not let the technology go off your radar. Who would have thought Netflix would one day oust Blockbuster from the video rental market and disrupt the entire entertainment industry?
Should you have any questions about the business opportunities hidden in the seemingly elusive metaverse, feel free to contact our team! We know how to get into the global metaverse, tap into its benefits, and ensure faster ROI.