Article | 5 min read

Are brands ready for us to start shopping in the Metaverse?

By Matthias Goehler, Zendesk CTO EMEA

Published July 18, 2022
Last updated July 18, 2022

Watching your favourite football team play (and hopefully win!) is one of life’s great joys. That’s why football stadiums around Europe routinely welcome close to 40,000 people on match day. But with more supporters than space to accommodate them, and a hefty price tag for tickets, there’s usually more than one disappointed fan missing out.

But what if another 800,000 people could watch that same match – in 3D – in the virtual world. How would it compare and what experience could the club give those fans? How could they still soak up the atmosphere and feel part of that collective excitement, chants and all? And not just for the duration of the game, but before and after it too, should they want to stick around. The Metaverse is starting to raise exactly these sorts of questions across a whole range of industries.

Computers can now transport people, through what is now termed Web3, to a digital world of real-time, virtual experiences that people are increasingly keen to immerse themselves in. While brands are still very much trying out this new space, they are now routinely appearing alongside gamers, with H&M to Heineken recently hosting product launches there.

Before long, we will no doubt be able to buy and sell in the Metaverse too, and this is set to open up a whole new world of innovative branded experiences. Take travel agents as an example. By creating 3D models of destinations in the Metaverse, they could showcase state-of-the-art, virtual representations of accommodation, country attractions, transport options and more. This would be of huge help to consumers planning holidays, simplifying the path to purchase by reducing the hours they currently spend on research to understand whether an area is worth visiting. In the same way, estate agents could soon offer 3D tours of properties, so prospective buyers don’t have to travel to so many in-person viewings.

However, to ensure these new ways to shop are more than just a passing trend, it will be just as important for brands to consider the customer service strategy that supports them. But how do you plan for something that hasn’t quite happened yet? Here are a few areas to think about:

Where do service agents fit in the Metaverse experience?

The big draw of the Metaverse for people is being able to lose yourself in it. So, once you’ve entered it, you don’t want to have to leave again if there’s a problem, to use conventional support channels like phone. As the Metaverse becomes more popular, customer support will become increasingly important to provide a consistently great experience.

As the Metaverse becomes more popular, customer support will become increasingly important to provide a consistently great experience.

Gamers, who have long been using in-game chat integrations, can attest to that, and the significant advantages of having in-platform support on hand. Conversational service or avatar agents, will likely prove similarly integral in the wider Metaverse, as we learn to navigate this new space. And if it’s done right, those early adopters to the space will soon become brand advocates.

How will the path to purchase affect customer service?

The way we purchase products or services virtually may be quite different to what we’re used to in the real world. For example, stock-free experiences could become the norm, where you can virtually try before you buy, giving consumers a greater ability to comparison shop. Take buying a car. Shoppers could visit just one dealer to view a variety of brands and virtually explore, preselect, and preconfigure the cars they’re interested in.

But how then will customer service need to adapt when products are being sold through a third-party distributor? How do you make sure that brand service agents are available at the right time, if a buyer wants to know more? Considering how this will work in practice, as well as any potential knock on effects on how that same stock is bought in the real world, will ensure that service in the Metaverse is set up in the right way from the beginning.

How will brands become discoverable?

How will we search for brands in the Metaverse? Virtual worlds are going to pave the way for people to start researching and understanding products differently – much like the arrival of Amazon’s Alexa did a few years ago. It will not only cause a shift in the way we connect with brands but also allow us to circumvent them altogether, using a third party – just like we can do with Amazon on the existing web. By studying the digital shifts that have already taken place in recent years, brands will be better placed to plan smart for this next one.

In many ways, the arrival of the Metaverse is the next phase of our digital transformation – a new version of the internet if you will.

Research shows that businesses must prioritise customer service as if their growth depended on it and sooner or later this will include customer service in the Metaverse too. The time to start planning for this is now, especially given that less than a third (30%) of organisations across Europe have already added conversational customer service into their mix. In many ways, the arrival of the Metaverse is the next phase of our digital transformation – a new version of the internet if you will. It is on track to be a major disruptor, opening up a whole new world of commercial opportunity that will be difficult to ignore. Better to get ahead of the curve than end up behind it.

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