Embark on the metaverse journey with SUPER - A 'First Time Right' approach
Today, many CXOs are faced with making an important and urgent business decision (sometimes influenced by a fear of missing out) for their enterprises regarding their investments in metaverse projects. When they look around, they come across a plethora of good articles focusing on how big the metaverse opportunity could be for companies across all sectors. These articles provide good insights into the “first movers” companies and their business use cases in the metaverse. While some highlight the upside of investing early along with the associated business and technological risks, there are few that discuss how CXOs could take the first steps into commissioning metaverse projects or build a roadmap for scaling them up.
Based on our interactions with senior executives, founders of startups and transformation leads from several companies from within our ecosystem, we understand that many CXOs have either proposed or received approval from their boards to begin the metaverse journey. Therefore, they are now evaluating options on how to proceed.
In this blog, we are presenting a pragmatic approach called SUPER (strategy, use cases, platform and partner, experience, and risk and execution) that will help you plan and start your metaverse journey. The framework can be applied sequentially or in parallel, depending on the context.
SUPER is a pragmatic approach to de-risk your metaverse journey in a systematic way and achieve good results on the first try.
Disruption and ambition drive the metaverse strategy
A CXO’s first decision revolves around the positioning of their business, which is largely determined by where their company is on the spectrum of disruption due to the metaverse. On one end of the spectrum, there are companies which are less impacted by the metaverse (immersive experiences, gaming and digital representation of the physical world). However, they continue to embrace immersive ways of interacting with their customers in order to be future ready. In contrast, there are companies that are impacted by this disruption and often see new technology entrants trying to eat into their revenue share. In the latter scenario, there is great urgency to embrace change, adapt to emerging business models and seek the right partners.
Outpace competition through metaverse use cases: Choose wisely
The next critical decision is about setting the business goals, such as building a dominant competitive advantage through the metaverse in emerging segments, enhancing the customer experience and building a reputation as a digital savvy organization among customers (especially among traditional industries).
The American heritage brand Ralph Lauren, for instance, introduced immersive digital products to cement its market position. It partnered with Roblox to launch a winter-themed sportswear world. Players can try and buy exclusive and gender-neutral collections for their avatars. Similarly, Gucci launched an immersive shopping experience — Gucci Garden — via Roblox’s platform to promote its products, which helped boost the brand’s popularity and struck a chord with Gen Z’s perspectives on virtual goods.
Based on our analysis of 50+ use cases and associated business drivers in the metaverse space across most verticals, we found interesting insights for CXOs to consider while zeroing in on the most pragmatic use case for their business.
The use cases must be completely aligned with the business and with a sound business case, while being simple and easy to use for the target customer segments. The selection of use cases is also influenced by the degree of immersive experiences you choose to offer to your customer. This is an important aspect to consider given that head-mounted devices have low adoption and their absence can restrict the immersive experience.
Lastly, the use case should be easy to implement, and the associated technology hurdles should all be easily achievable.
An ambitious plan with high technology challenges would be a riskier proposition in the early stages of the metaverse evolution.
Our research suggests that most use cases deployed by the early adopters across industries are related to boosting customer and employee experience (including training), and secondly with brand advocacy and customer engagement over social media.
With today’s technologies, these are the biggest opportunities and easiest to achieve.
Most early metaverse use cases are designed to boost customer and employee experience, brand advocacy and customer engagement. These are the biggest opportunities and the easiest to achieve with today’s technologies.
Platform: The springboard for your metaverse journey
Following the selection of the most relevant business use cases, the next big challenge is to finalize the enabling metaverse platform. Most enterprises are incapable of building their own infrastructure, because it requires highly specialized competence. Hence, after assessing your in-house capabilities, you must quickly decide whether you want to build or outsource the platform services.
Choosing a good partner is determined by your ambitions (strategy and business requirements), functionalities, and the features you wish to introduce in your first metaverse offering. To speed up the progress, it would be beneficial to hire a consultant who can advise as a business technologist besides only the core technology-partner.
The platform must be seen as a long-term choice, while easier said than done, and must be chosen diligently based on its offerings. The capabilities of a platform service provider to keep in mind are personalization, immersive experience, interoperability, integration, blockchain/decentralization, data privacy, cryptocurrency and wallet framework, and visual design aspects, etc.
The platform should provide for accessibility and inclusivity, as it could make or break certain experiences for some of your participants. Its services should be scalable, reliable and affordable (i.e., pay per use with minimal fixed investments).
Acclaimed technological partners on the current market include Decentraland, The Sandbox, Nvidia’s Omniverse, Microsoft Mesh, Roblox, Fortnite, Axie Infinity and Horizon Worlds, just to name a few.
3D content and customer experience: A big differentiator
The user experience is a key differentiator for any immersive experience, therefore, the metaverse platform must continuously feed engaging content to its users. Hence, integrating high-quality 3D material must be planned according to the volume and magnitude of experiences. We recommend identifying a suitable partner to help you develop and integrate fascinating features, especially if you want to use content from existing IT systems.
Managing metaverse menaces
It is important to acknowledge and understand the legal implications of managing business in the metaverse. Due to its highly evolving and unpredictable nature, project leads must look to minimize the potential risks to current business.
We have identified four major risk categories: legal, data privacy and security, technological and operational. Arguably, there are more uncertainties in legal and data privacy aspects due to the lack of global standard definitions, and common legal and regulatory frameworks.
A metaverse business domain could be seen as an extension of e-commerce, besides the new dimension of virtual or value-tokenized assets. For want of better frameworks, most e-commerce legal frameworks, such as incorporation aspects, trademarks and copyright protection, transaction protection and privacy issues should be properly understood, to minimize liability.
The metaverse collects massive amounts of personal information. As a result, new challenges arise across cybersecurity, privacy rights, regulatory compliance, brand reputation and anti-fraud efforts. It is recommended to build stronger security layers at the service as well as storage levels. The zero-trust approach is the most effective way for controlling data security and privacy. AI-driven cybersecurity tools could also be used to protect data. An emerging paradigm called “confidential computing” ensures data protection at rest, in transit and in use — making it suitable for the metaverse.
In the metaverse, users not only consume content, but also create it. Therefore, privacy and IP protection, full control over their creations and ensuring a no-discrimination policy based on their content or participation must be enforced. While checks and balances of a healthy community would prevail; special consideration should be given to the physical safety aspects in a mixed reality social interaction.There are some boutique law consulting firms, such as Bird & Bird in Europe and Finlaw Consultancy in India, that help design control mechanisms for potential “what-if” scenarios.
The major technological risk emanates from the interoperability of various technologies in the metaverse. Therefore, major investments are made in company-specific metaverses with limited use cases. Atos’s scientific community has coined the term “microverse” for such scenarios. Microverses are the first step towards larger, all-pervasive metaverses. Therefore, it would be prudent for most CXOs to start with a limited set of “high business impact yet achievable” use cases where technology hurdles are manageable with the help of a reliable partner. Things to avoid at this stage would be too many integrations with its existing systems and keeping the architecture simple and efficient.
Last but not least, important risks are operational aspects within the metaverse. It will help to have the right combination of process simplification and automation, AI for analyzing user behavior and feedback, and knowledge management.
Quantify your success for your sponsors
Metaverse projects will not be too different if compared to any other digital transformation projects. However, it is critical to measure success using tangible criteria to show progress to sponsors. We recommend a three-fold approach to measure success around business KPIs, experience KPIs and project management KPIs, as illustrated below:
The success of the first few metaverse projects is crucial for an enterprise to demonstrate its ability to innovate. In any transformation, it is important to maintain steady communication with the target audience so that they understand the overall picture.
Because the metaverse is a new experience for most participants, they will need handholding and training on operational aspects. Given its uncertain and evolving nature, many experts advise against abandoning previously established business practices until the new metaverse processes are fully accepted by your audience.
A winning formula for the metaverse
To conclude, we would like to share our checklist for success in your metaverse initiative:
- Align your metaverse strategy with your business strategy
- Actively engage your business community in selecting use cases
- Finding a good technology partner and consultant in a timely manner defines a significant part of the overall success
- In addition, stay open to working with new or “unknown” partners
- Keep the architecture simple — possibly on a single platform with minimal integration to reduce complexity
- Ensure a continuous feed and integration of high-quality 3D content
- Creating a simple, seamless and hassle-free customer experience is a great differentiator
- Ensure that customers trust your data privacy and protection measures
Using the SUPER framework is meant to act as a north star to help you stay on course and achieve the right results on the first try.