Some think it's the new exciting online world: a dream, the next big idea!
Others warn that it might be a Utopian dream for now, but it could just as well feel like a mall if we don't watch out.
What is the Metaverse exactly?
And what opportunities does it offer for jewelry businesses?
In easy words, the Metaverse is an outstretched online universe of spaces and platforms. The movement between one space and another should feel seamless and smooth.
According to an article in HBR reviewing three books* on the Metaverse, this is what counts for people:
What people will have in the Metaverse, what really matters to them, is to have a unique online identity. They also may feel much more like a member than a consumer. Crypto and NFTs are the online versions of money in the bank and owning possessions. And here is where jewelry brands, designers, and many others have a commercial opportunity.
Theoretically, one can have an online identity that shows up for work right after an online party in Decentraland, an immersive gaming session, or after jamming virtually with a group of friends. Sounds exciting!
We have seen leg-less Muppet-like personalities in Mark Zuckerberg's Metaverse presentation. It's still early, but many young people are already deeply involved in creating digital clothes and accessories. And there is a whole excited, creative community ready to take not just the early- adaptors but all of us with them in the limitless possibilities of the online virtual world.
Brands in the sports and fashion industry are hurrying to remain relevant and invest deeply in Metaverse's possibilities for their brand. Undoubtedly, exciting. Nevertheless, there is a real chance of feeling pushed into dressing a certain way and owning certain NFTs.
The Metaverse could turn into what we might not like about the natural world or social media and loses its magic. After all, the idea is to escape daily reality. Instead of the promised freedom, we might be right back at status through ownership of money (crypto) and objects (NFTs). And thát doesn't sound so lovely to me.
The Metaverse is very different from the internet with its social media platforms. These platforms, where we all spend too much time, are ad-based models that thrive because of the consumer data they collect and sell.
The Metaverse is different as it's based on ownership.
My 14-year-old son expects nothing less from the games he plays than to have a say in his experience in games and platforms. "What the community wants" is the idea. He shares with players on platforms such as Reddit his views and feedback on his desired online experience in games such as Minecraft or ForzaHorizon. Ownership: you own your data and have a say in your experience.
It's, however, not just about the gaming experience and having a say in the matter. People can use decentralized apps (dApps), creating NFTs and selling or buying them. It's all part of the feeling of ownership.
Yes, the old internet, the one we use today, has grown to be a little bit of a monster. The trade seemed innocent enough, but we traded our privacy for the use of free apps, social platforms, and search engines. To keep us engaged, we stepped into deep rabbit holes where some lost their way entirely. Conspiracy theories and damaging content serving the agenda of whomever it suited got the better of people.
Perhaps you have seen The Social Dilemma on Netflix? If not, please do watch it. Polarization didn't happen because of the internet, but the internet spread it at high speed and intensified it. It's terrifying, really!
So, will the Metaverse be the dreamlike landscape of hopping from space to another space for individuals who are happy to escape their daily life for a moment? Where can they be a hero/monster they created or an animal-shaped figure? Will it feel diverse and open-minded? Will it have inclusivity and fun? Will we meet our peers or clients and colleagues for meetings, webinars, and training?
And who monitors who? Who is an admin? Who is going to take care that the experience is positive? The first case of virtual sexual harassment has already taken place.
For the jewelry and watch brands, as well as for jewelry retailers, there are numerous opportunities. You can hang an NFT painting by Reena Ahluwalia on your wall; she does impressive NFT work, painting gemstones and selling them as NFTs. But why not think about creating your NFT jewelry collection? A painting? Why not open a store where a virtual person can try out jewelry and get them delivered in real life to their doorstep? Why not host parties where you allow consumers to play with your jewelry and offer the possibility for an NFT or a real-life jewelry acquisition? Possibilities to explore, even if the ROI will probably not meet your expectations soon.
If the Metaverse becomes the new reality, which may or may not happen in the form currently depicted by Meta and others, it's not sure how it will look in a few years. What we want from it and what the investors, the tech giants of today, want from it might not come together. We'll use it if it's easy (I am a gadget lover, but those virtual reality glasses look clumsy! NB. you do not need those glasses per se to enter a metaverse experience)and suit our needs and wants.
Let's check in again in 5 years :-)
Books on the topic:
Sources for this article: Linkedin, HBR. Images are created with Canva