How is the metaverse shaping the virtual world? We ask an expert

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The metaverse, Web 4.0 - How much do you actually know about these latest techno-buzzwords and their implications on businesses and consumers today? With Tech Titans like Facebook throwing their weight behind the metaverse and pandemic conditions, these technologies are rapidly gaining traction among many pioneering brands and users. 

Elliott Danker & Ryan Huang spoke with Nina Xiang, Co-founder and CEO, of China Money Network, about the current state of the metaverses and differing conceptions of the metaverse across corporate and national lines.

Elliott Danker: What's your perspective of the current state of the metaverse?

Nina: Let's first talk about what really is the metaverse, exactly?

I think currently there is no consensus on what it means. The CEOs of Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple all have their own definitions, not to mention Chinese tech companies, people in the blockchain industry - they have their own visions for the future too.

We're really at the stage where we have used the term 'metaverse' to describe a rather vague and disputed concept. Tech giants in different countries are trying to build the metaverse with what they already have in their empire.

Facebook, already has this giant social media platform but there is, for example, the blockchain community who are really championing the Web3 concept and envisioning a completely different metaverse. Basically, everybody has their own ideas and we're unsure of how the whole thing is going to evolve.

Elliott: Is it possible for us to understand what the target audience is here? Would it be going for online shoppers first because they're used to going online? 

Nina: I think there are two major applications of the metaverse: 1) for businesses and 2) for consumers.

A consumer-orientated metaverse would be a "Mark Zuckerberg's version" of the metaverse where a large number of people will be wearing headsets and experiencing this virtual fantasyland all day long.

However, I'm personally more optimistic about the business applications of the metaverse. I feel they will have a more robust future because they can genuinely create value in a lot of different situations.

For online shopping, where in the future, perhaps we can wear a headset and see how something looks on us more accurately and thus lower the return ratio for online bought items.

However, I would say that's a natural evolution of how the internet they're going to evolve - into the next stage of being virtual, immersive, three-dimensional, and thus more engaging and intimate.

Aside from that, I doubt it's going to increase the current e-commerce market size other than the creation of a sizeable, additional market for the transaction of virtual goods.

We already have a pretty high penetration ratio for online shopping, particularly after the Covid-19 pandemic. The people who are going to shop online have already done so.

If we are talking about going to shop for our shoes, dresses etc. in the metaverse, well I'm already doing that now so in that sense, the new metaverse technologies are not going to enlarge the existing e-commerce market size significantly, especially in countries like the US, China and Singapore where online shopping already have high penetration rates.

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Elliott: What's your observation in terms of what brands are doing to prepare for the metaverse and what do you think brands can do better to embrace this future that's obviously on the horizon?

Nina: We have seen lots of brands entering the metaverse and trying new things. Different luxury brands are setting up shop on the different major metaverse platforms like Roblox, Decentraland or The SandBox. That's a new location where they can engage their potential audience in a brand-new way. They're going to effectively engage audiences who are really young, dynamic and willing to try new things.

For brands, I think that if they start doing different types of promotional activities or user engagement in the metaverse, they're going to see a very significant benefit as it's something that people are really excited about.

You'll be able to establish your brand as a pioneer of this new emerging technology, so I think we're going to see every brand embracing it.

Elliott: Speaking of engagement, how big of a role do you think gamification/gaming will play in the metaverse?

Nina: My view is that gaming is going to be the starter and the main dish of the metaverse banquet.

It's going to be the first experience with the metaverse for a lot of users and it will be a very important and sizeable market for metaverse applications. We're talking about more than half of potential revenue, user engagement or user count which are going to be related to gaming.

Gamification is also going to be a very key element for companies when they expand into the metaverse. Creating an immersive, gamified virtual world will easily attract customers. For example, if you have an online shopping portal which incorporates some gaming elements, not only users will feel more engaged and more likely to continue shopping, they're also going to have a better experience.

For the full conversation on the metaverse, listen to the full podcast anywhere and enjoy more features on Awedio: SPH's free digital audio streaming service: Download the podcast.

This article was first published in MONEY FM 89.3.