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Opportunities & Risks in the Metaverse for small businesses

The Metaverse has become one of the largest buzzwords in blockchain and crypto in recent months, thanks to its promise to deliver a more immersive, interactive, and interconnected experience than the internet has delivered to date. It has captured the imagination of big companies like Meta, which has led to some thinking about it as an avenue for multinational conglomerates to display their technology-driven inclinations or a new frontier in gaming development.

In reality, the Metaverse is a whole new world, full of new opportunities and risks for both consumers and businesses. While the current Metaverse ecosystem is populated with large corporations, for widespread adoption, small companies although play a monumental role in mass onboarding, will have to transition in the future. To understand the adoption of new technologies such as the internet, mobile payments, and more, we can look at historical patterns.

According to Facebook's Connect 2021, the Metaverse is imminently approaching, but it will take at least a decade for it to be widely adopted. According to Pew Research, more than half of leading technology innovators, developers, and businesses believe that by the year 2040, the Metaverse will be an intrinsic aspect of daily life for half a billion or more people around the world.

As the Metaverse is not an immediate concern, businesses must keep an eye on it. By using resources now, an organisation can enhance customers' experiences in the future. To understand what opportunities and risks the Metaverse offers, businesses must comprehend its infrastructure. Jon Radoff, CEO of 3D gaming company Beamable, categorised it into seven layers:

  1. Infrastructure: Semiconductors, material science, cloud computing, and telecommunications networks make up this layer. It is the infrastructure that enables other layers to function.
  2. Human Interface: The human interface layer includes everything from mobile devices to VR headsets that will be used to access the metaverse.
  3. Decentralisation: Everything must be built using a permissionless, distributed, and democratised structure.
  4. Spatial Computing: The software in this layer allows hardware to interact with 3D objects. It is important for creators to be able to create Metaverse projects and monetise them.
  5. Creator economy: This layer includes software that enables users to discover the experience.
  6. Discovery: There are multiple ways to discover the experience.
  7. Experience: Users can engage with games, social experiences, live music, and other activities.

In all likelihood, many small businesses will be involved in delivering Metaverse experiences to their consumers. According to Cointelegraph, Metaverse has the potential to disrupt the market. Naveen Singh, co-founder and CEO of decentralised data management network Inery, said:

“It is no longer a question that the Metaverse would be a major disruption for the digital economy. The real focus now is for which industries the Metaverse would be the most significant. As a gateway for a new digital economy, the Metaverse opens new possibilities for several domains.”

“The industries that are most likely to undergo transformation and feel the immediate impact of the Metaverse are gaming, fashion, entertainment, media and retail. At the same time, for the Metaverse to unleash its full potential one of the most defining properties would be interoperability across its fabric.”

Metaverse technology is frequently a pioneer in the adoption of cutting-edge technologies, and the same is true for gaming. Many gamers see Metaverse as the next frontier in gaming. Developers say that current games feel lonely. Metaverse, on the other hand, offers a whole new level of immersion and community.

Metaverse projects such as Decentraland, Axie Infinity, and Sandbox provide both social and financial benefits. Small businesses usually cannot afford to research and develop a Metaverse game because of their budget limitations. According to Nikita Sachdev, founder and CEO of Luna PR, real estate is another industry that may soon adopt the Metaverse. Sachdev said:

“For real estate, companies and agencies are always looking to develop ways of touring and visualising properties for pre-plan sales and foreign investors. Imagine if you can tour an entire compound before it is even developed? Investing in real-world property will become a lot more immersive and ‘open houses’ will not be necessary anymore.”

The Metaverse has the potential to impact the $3 trillion global real estate market in a variety of ways, whether it's in a positive or negative way. In addition to impacting the fashion industry, the Metaverse could also have huge economic and societal consequences.

Metaverse Fashion Week is an example of a Metaverse-based initiative that has already been held. It included runway shows, after-parties, immersive experiences, shopping, panel discussions, and more. According to Wahid Chammas, co-founder of Faith Tribe, a free-to-use design platform, the Metaverse and fashion are both about identity, and thus will probably go well together. He also said:

“People venture into the Metaverse and do all kinds of things to live and portray an identity that they may not be living in the physical realm. Wearables are undoubtedly the most conducive to showcasing your personality and identity. Having this link between physical and digital accentuates your perceived identity, we believe there will be further disruption of both the physical and the Metaverse worlds of fashion for brands that take digital fashion seriously.”

Exposure to the Metaverse can pose a higher risk to SMEs. The ecosystem is still in shape, and the uncertain and early nature of the Metaverse can mislead some companies' roadmaps. Jake Fraser, Director of Business Development at Mogul Productions, commented on this point:

“Technical expertise and knowing how to structure environments for users virtually is a fluid space and requires people to have their finger on the pulse to execute the best user experience. There also needs to be value for the user and something unique that they can’t get from your brand in another place. If there is no clear ‘hook,’ it can be difficult to drive adoption from businesses.”

However, jumping into the metaverse of the relevant company not only helps the company prepare for the future, but also makes the current product more profitable. The benefits far outweigh the risks. Aurora42 CEO George Narita said:

“The most significant risk is not getting into the metaverse world. I see a lot of opportunities, especially for early adopters, the same way it was at the beginning of the dotcom era; many didn't understand how to communicate. Just being in the Metaverse is not enough. Those who have a disruptive vision and provide experiences and emotional connections by co-creating with their followers will be ahead. Today, people do not want to be passive but to be part of the construction of this universe.”

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