How the metaverse will affect UX design and customer experiences

With the metaverse's potential to change the way businesses interact with their customers, here's what you need to know.

Following the launch of Forrester’s The State of The Metaverse Report in March, many commentators have suggested the metaverse will bring about colossal changes in the way businesses interact with their customers. Although there is no metaverse today, companies are planning for future opportunities whilst tempering expectations and investments.   

Here I’ll share my thoughts on how the metaverse will affect UX design and digital customer experiences. 

Design thinking and digital customer experiences 

Although the metaverse is in its infancy, my colleagues and I regularly monitor any trends that may shape or affect our customers’ consumer experience.

From a research perspective, we are exploring ways our platform can enable consumers to conduct research in an immersive virtual world, recruit and incentivize participants, and identify which research methodologies are the most suitable to garner the best insights.

From a design perspective, we consider how designers can co-create, evaluate, and validate consumer needs around web3 experiences, blockchain-based payment (cryptocurrency), and digital assets, such as non-fungible tokens (NFT), that have cross-operability across various platforms: OpenSea, Horizon World, Forte, Ripple, and Decentraland.

We have several customers actively exploring parts that would make up the eventual metaverse and are actively researching how NFTs, cryptocurrency, and web3 experience can benefit their consumers. 

Various reasons drive research on these efforts around digital customer experience, albeit brand perception, new channels, or potential new revenue streams.

An upcoming trend is cryptocurrency, a digital currency, where companies like Microsoft, Overstock, and Home Depot have invested in allowing payment methods. A Harris poll showed that 28% of millennials own or have owned cryptocurrency in 2021, and this trend is likely to increase over time.

The advantages for retailers in this space include the ability to conduct real-time payments, lower transaction fees, and greater security. The most significant benefit for companies is accessing untapped markets where access to bank accounts or credit cards is limited. Cryptocurrency allows those consumers to participate in the market economy.

NFTs - which are digital assets representing real-world objects like art, music, and videos - are a billion-dollar industry with an established retail marketplace and $25 billion in sales in 2021. The benefits for companies are their marginal cost in creating virtual goods which require no inventory or supply chain. Various brands like Mcdonald's, Adidas, and Manchester City Football Club have begun issuing their own NFT to capitalize on brand loyal consumers' desire for digital status symbols or VIP privileges.

Why are brands moving to the metaverse? 

Recently, on Roblox - an online platform and storefront where users go to play games, with 42 million active global users, 70% of which are under the age of 16 - a digital Gucci bag sold for $4,000. Brands know that a segment of brand-loyal customers will pay anything to align themselves with their brand in the physical and digital realms. Generation Alpha is not growing up digital - it's now fully immersed and will expect these types of experiences. 

Retailers such as Vans, Forever 21, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Burberry, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton have taken the full plunge into creating immersive experiences in the metaverse. Retailers like Nike have built their own storefronts, like the NIKELAND Showroom on Roblox, to allow users to shop for a virtual collection of Nike shoes, clothes, and accessories.

Samsung embarked on creating an immersive experience in Decentraland that re-created the brand's high-tech flagship store in New York City. Estée Lauder, Dolce & Gabbana, and 70 other brands hosted fashion week, showcasing new styles in Decentraland.

It is safe to say that companies are taking a proactive approach to identifying and predicting consumer behavior and future opportunities based on these trends.

Exploring digital customer experiences in the metaverse

We consult and train brands on the best methods for conducting discovery and exploratory research regarding the metaverse.  We strategize on building foundational insights to drive decision-making and investment related to the metaverse and showcase the impact on business KPIs. 

Innovation is an opportunity, but it's the work of knowing rather than doing. Retailers, media & entertainment, and manufacturing organizations need to expand their view of consumer behaviors outside of brick-and-mortar and digital experiences. They need to treat the metaverse as a new channel to add to their omnichannel experience. 

Brands should be conscious that the metaverse and web3 will impact their digital customer experiences. The best advice is to be proactive and keep abreast of the changing landscape and industry trends.

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