May 17, 2022
From virtual worlds to digital currency, companies are increasingly looking toward the technology of the metaverse to meet the present and future needs of their customers. With such a novel and broad concept, however, small business owners may seek further information on the topic before diving headfirst into the metaverse.
As part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s inaugural Tech Forward event, leaders in the metaverse sphere share their insights on industry trends, including the metaverse, and how businesses can leverage them to future-proof their operations.
The Metaverse Is a Convergence of Our Virtual and Physical Lives
Cathy Hackl, Chief Metaverse Officer and CEO of Futures Intelligence Group, has been dubbed the “Godmother of the Metaverse” for her longstanding expertise in the field. Hackl notes that the rapid growth of technology has brought about a new evolution of the internet, moving from the current “Web 2.0” to the future “Web 3.0” — including the metaverse.
“The metaverse is not one technology, and it is not one single company,” Hackl explained. “The metaverse is enabled by many different technologies, like VR, AR, AI, 5G, voice cloud computing, edge computing, and blockchain [...that] enable this future successor state of today’s mobile internet.”
Hackl notes that the metaverse can be better understood as a blend of virtual and physical interactions. In the metaverse, people can interact with many of the people and brands they do in-person but in a new virtual way.
“Think of the internet breaking free from our phones and being all around us, immersing us,” she continued. “It is a further convergence of [...] our virtual lives with our physical lives.”
Investment Company Fidelity Created a Virtual World to Connect With Its Customers
One business working to converge the virtual and physical worlds is Fidelity, which recently launched into the metaverse.
“The timing for [our] metaverse came directly out of what we saw during the pandemic,” said David Dintenfass, Chief Marketing Officer and Head of Emerging Customers at Fidelity. “We realized [in] talking to some of these younger customers is that we had to be where they were.”
Throughout Web 2.0, Fidelity has stayed active on social media platforms like TikTok and Reddit, where younger consumers are increasingly turning to for valuable financial information and advice. And now, with the rise of Web 3.0, Fidelity has built out its own educational metaverse experience: The Fidelity Stack, through the 3D virtual platform Decentraland.
“We’ve had to learn a lot — we are exploring, we are testing our way into this,” Dintenfass added.
One feature The Fidelity Stack has explored is a teen-oriented program for children of Fidelity customers. Through the Youth Account program, teenagers can begin investing and learn about finances in a safeguarded virtual platform.
“What we found is that these teenagers loved that they were actually learning something by doing something,” said Dintenfass. “To the extent possible, these virtual worlds create a much more immersive educational experience than just reading an article.”
Community, Authenticity, and Distinctiveness Are Key in the Era of Web 3.0
While small businesses may not have the resources to build out entire virtual worlds, they can still leverage technology and aspects of Web 3.0 to stay relevant and grow. Dintenfass and Hackl both encouraged business owners to explore gaming platforms and other technologies and partner with influencers and community partners in the sphere.
Beyond using the right platforms and connecting with the right people, however, what matters most is how businesses are engaging in these spaces.
“Community and authenticity are kings in this future we’re going into, and you’re not going to be able to build without community and being authentic in the space,” stressed Hackl. “Find ways to promote what you’re doing, have people visit your experience, but [consider] how [you can] leverage community.”
“Distinctiveness might be the other factor,” added Dintenfass. “Just like any business, the more distinctive you can be, the easier it is to drive word of mouth.”
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