The world of technology is buzzing with some new and some not-so-new words: Meta, NFTs, and crypto. Google Trends shows that interest in the three topics peaked last year, dipped a considerable bit in the first three months of 2022, and has now remained steady (see Figure 1). Of course, there was plenty of hype around these terms a few months ago. In September 2021, El Salvador became the first country to officially adopt Bitcoin as legal tender creating a new milestone for crypto; in October 2021, Facebook rebranded to Meta; and in November 2021, NFT artist Mike Winkelmann (better known as Beeple) sold “HUMAN ONE” for $28.9 million, thanks to having an earlier NFT of his work, “Everydays — The First 5000 Days” sold for $69 million which firmly placed him under the NFT spotlight. Beeple holds the record for the first and second-most expensive digital art pieces sold at a public auction. It appears as if a new paradigm of life is emerging around these new technologies, competing for our time and attention. How will they shape our future?
Trying to predict the impact of meta, crypto, and NFT on how we work, play, and learn is a big ask. Who can genuinely predict, with confidence, how these concepts and technologies will intersect and what they will give rise to? To begin to find out, I’d suggest attending a gig like the one by hip-hop artist Quavo in early April hosted by Second Live and Innocent Cats. The concert was billed as the biggest metaverse concert ever, and entry was free for Innocent Cats NFT holders. In my younger days, we stood in line at the box office to buy tickets that were printed on paper, wore our hippest t-shirts, and trooped into dusty stadiums to listen to Deep Purple or Roger Waters. Then we tried to get our tee shirts autographed by our music heroes. I will miss those days, but I can’t deny that I eagerly look forward to the new experiences at the hands of these new technologies.
Today, we believe the metaverse will transform social connections, our workplace, education, entertainment, and shopping, through immersive environments. That has been the trigger for Meta to invest $10 billion to develop AR and VR hardware. It has driven Microsoft to pump $69 billion into the metaverse and Google to invest US$39.5 million in a metaverse fund. The world’s top technology companies are working on building the software (systems), the hardware (3D displays), assets (content), and marketplaces driven by crypto transactions and NFT-based products and merchandise.
Shopify, the platform that enables anyone to set up an online store — and has millions of customers — is already into the metaverse game. Merchants on Shopify can turn their product catalogs into 3D and use AR. The outcome has been eye-popping: Retailers using 3D content on Shopify saw an average lift in conversions of 94%. The platform has also opened an NFT marketplace for people to buy and sell tokens via its e-commerce platform.
We can see the initial impact of these technologies on brands like Coca-Cola and Nike. The beverage giant did a charitable auction of NFT collectibles and raised $ 575,000. Nike launched Nikeland, a game zone inside Roblox, the massively storied 3D immersive space. Nike fans can now create their avatars and play in the virtual space. In addition, Nike has digital NFT shoes. My guess is that you can buy the digital shoes that your digital avatar can then wear in digital Nikeland — because being well-dressed is half the game won! However, I hope you can also wear those digital sneakers to work when your business opens its doors in the metaverse. Perhaps you gave up wearing your spiffy Oxfords and Derbys in the work from home (WFH) model. But be warned, your footwear bills will go up with the metaverse.
Gartner says that 25% of us will be spending at least an hour each day in the metaverse, and 30% of the organizations in the world will have products and services ready for metaverse by 2026. Strategy Analytics predicts that global transactions for the metaverse will cross $ 42 billion in 2026.
Amidst all these big-number predictions, I am sure about one thing: A loyalty program near you will soon turn up with an address in the metaverse and feature digital wallets and NFTs you can redeem. A loyalty program is a safe place to experiment, test, and evolve new processes. Keep a watch out for this development. Ultimately, the metaverse is an immersive and convenient way to interact with citizens, customers, and users. Crypto makes the world of transactions frictionless. NFTs are a new tradable asset class. These will set new benchmarks for convenience, engagement, and innovation. We will, for sure, live in a better world.