Meet Me in the Metaverse

Researcher explains how virtual reality is changing the consumer experience

The metaverse is a broad term for digital reality platforms that allow people to have real-time experiences and interactions across extended distances. No longer science fiction, the metaverse has become increasingly common and is expected to grow exponentially. Julie E. Kendall, professor of management at Rutgers University in Camden, researches the profound impact the technology could have on businesses and their customers in the years ahead.

“As many as one in 10 organizations already have products and processes in the metaverse in 2023,” said Kendall. "Whether through augmented reality, virtual reality, or avatars designed to carry out collaborative tasks with virtual teammates, people are interacting, working, learning, and playing in the metaverse.”

Julie E. Kendall, professor of management

Julie E. Kendall, professor of management

Current applications that would be familiar to most people are immersive games or design tools that allow users to visualize furniture in their homes while still in the showroom.

Market researchers estimate that by 2026, 25 percent of people will spend at least an hour every day in the metaverse—whether they are engaged in work, shopping, education, social activities, or entertainment—and 30 percent of companies worldwide will have metaverse-ready products and services.

“Businesses as diverse as health care, the performing arts, and the restaurant sector have all begun venturing into the metaverse,” said Kendall. “For example, physicians and scientists are collaborating to create a 'digital twin' for patients with mysterious or challenging illnesses. This virtual, digital replication of the patient’s relevant biological systems can be precisely modeled to evaluate the reactions and interactions of different therapies. When the model demonstrates that the treatment given to the digital twin is effective, the patient can receive it and reap the benefits.”

This is a seismic shift for organizations and businesses, especially when it comes to successfully managing the customer experience. Because the metaverse is an emerging technology, preparing for the coming changes might seem overwhelming or premature. However, forward-thinking organizations should begin planning now for customers who will eventually migrate to the metaverse.

“Businesses and nonprofits need to weigh the risks and benefits of participating in the metaverse, as they might for any other IT decision,” said Kendall. “However, the scale, interconnectedness, and security ramifications of the metaverse distinguish the calculation from other routine IT decisions."

Kendall emphasized that because of its complex and collaborative nature, choosing to develop a presence in the metaverse is different from deciding to develop a more extensive website, expand one’s customer base through social media, or deploy a chatbot to provide post-sale customer support. Therefore, she believes it should be handled with an increased level of understanding and consideration.

While the consumer market has been the first to move forward in this space, opportunities exist for other areas and industries. Because of the nascent nature of this emerging technology, businesses should think broadly about how to incorporate it, in anticipation of a time when we will all be able to meet in the metaverse.

Video by SHVETS production

Video by SHVETS production

Creative Design: Beatris Santos

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