The digital world never stays still. Everything evolves, bringing new problems and eventually new solutions to resolve them. And it is quite impossible to ignore that since not tuning to the rhythm means lagging behind. What was an idea yesterday – can be essential for tomorrow. The same term of the metaverse was a mysterious thing, but now it is the latest buzzword for most digital communities.
Prior, it was hard to imagine a virtual experience to be so universal, but as the concept unfolds, shifting it all from offline to online, the answer comes as it is. And we are here not to miss out on it. So, what is metaverse, what role it plays in UI/UX design, and what is the formula for joining it? Let’s find out.
What is metaverse: an overview
It may come as a surprise, but the metaverse is not new – its background is vast. That all started back in 1838 when the concept of “binocular vision” appeared, implying the combination of two images, one for each eye, to produce a single 3D image. That idea then advanced into the development of stereoscopes, where the illusion of depth was used to create a three-dimensional scene. The first VR machine was developed in 1956, simulating the experience of riding a motorcycle by employing the same principles and audio, scents, and a vibrating chair to immerse the viewer. By the way, modern VR headsets adhere to the same approach.
The actual term only appeared in 1982 in Neal Stephenson’s novel Snow Crash. His metaverse was a virtual place where characters escaped a depressing totalitarian reality. Then, the VR machines extended to the game industry and sports broadcasting, like Oculus VR, acquired by Facebook in 2014. Then, we have Facebook rebranded to Meta and extensive adoption of VR/AR to brands in 2021. Finally, the pandemic fatigue promoted a desperate need for new solutions, bringing about blockchain and NFT as the backbone economy of a new epoch, namely, metaverse.
What is metaverse: concept
So, what’s actually the metaverse? We may say it is the result of all those changes highlighted above. To be more precise, the metaverse is a massive project that seeks to bring web development and hi-tech technologies together to immerse users into a new reality and provide them with an exclusive experience on the web.
In other words, it’s the next iteration of the Internet where users will be able to navigate through the virtual space, not two-dimensional screens. This single mixed reality will possess the following features:
universal identity: the ability to have a single identity with an avatar to help users move around numerous networks without keeping track of multiple passwords and logins.
experience mobility: users will seamlessly combine offline and online experiences using smart solutions like VR. They also will be able to neglect screen boundaries, advancing virtual overlays into the real world.
decentralized: no one owns a metaverse since it is not a proprietary block or space – but a concept users will leave in.
virtual monetized: that is the point where the latest trend on NFTs meets the vision for the metaverse economy, meaning brands and consumers will be able to monetize their virtual assets and make a profit.
Implications metaverse brings to web design and development
It’s clear that with the metaverse expansion, web design and web development will face a transformation. Naturally, that won’t eliminate digital products as we know them – on the contrary, it will force digital to adopt metaverse features and coexist with it in new, improved formats.
That also means that the corporate website won’t become obsolete, but far from it will probably be the first-mover advantage if designed to be a part of the metaverse. Thus, it is crucial to recognize the power of technology to help companies be that relevant. And business decision-makers need to consider allowing their digital teams to experiment with what might be the future of user experience on the web3. Here, we can mention AI or VR/AU that have already entered the list of development trends in 2021 and continue holding their positions. To see the newest list, you can read this article. But what about the real brands? How will they evolve within the innovative scenario? Is there a formula on how to join the metaverse?
The role of renewed user experience in the metaverse
One thing to remember – the whole concept of the metaverse is still theoretical and raw. There are no clear branding strategies or a precise plan on how to join the metaverse and do it successfully. Advancements in hardware and software are integral, but these are more like driving forces, not the core of metaverse projects. Thus, if the brand approaches those advancements and enrolls super top-notch features, it doesn’t mean it’s in the game. There is much more to be done and considered.
Brands have always crafted experiences, but now they have shifted their focus to virtual ones. And that synergy between the futuristic, immersive function and the original function of a user experience can help businesses go beyond the universal standards. Let’s say immersive experience is an essential part of the metaverse, and even early attempts to develop it are better than staying on the same level without moving, or at least trying to move toward meta.
One vivid example: real estate websites with virtual home tours have better chances to win the consumers’ attention and immerse them compared to those displaying traditional home listings. Why? VR tours allow seeing beyond the two-dimensional screens, which means deeper involvement for home buyers, thus better engagement and, as a result, higher conversions. And we can’t say these website owners know precisely how to get into the metaverse (but don’t want to share the secret) – they think outside the box and try. And what other outstanding examples have we seen so far? Well, there are many.
Brands going meta
Once again, the metaverse is yet not specified enough so that everyone can follow the one common scheme to find the right direction. But what we should recognize is that this transformation happens right now and right before our eyes. So it means that we are the ones who are responsible for the shape and specifics it will get in the future. For that reason, let’s see how brands go meta so that to collect an idea of a possible renewed experience to use in your performance:
Due to the immersion of 3D, augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR), non-interactive formats are losing their relevance compared to those currently offered by the metaverse. No matter how impressive and trendy your static design is, it probably won’t compete with visual and emotional information in virtual settings, where experience is crafted at every pixel level. And Nike knows it well when shifting to 3D immersion.
Nikeland is a bespoke Roblox world that was designed to translate the brand’s mission and its core values to the public in a new, extraordinary way. The project offers visitors to experience Nike’s vision of a connected world with tracks, courts, and parks filled with fun and competition. And for the brand’s supporters, especially those still struggling with pandemic isolation, it is a real gift. Immerse, experience, and enjoy – this is quickly becoming a new format of brand communication, and who won’t enjoy it?
Next, we have Balenciaga, a fashion house that partnered with Fortnite to develop a fully immersive experience for its consumers. Balenciaga-themed four skins were created and then followed by the real-world chic clothing line. The hub also included a virtual store where users could explore and buy cosmetics. Above that, an animated Doggo skin in a hoodie appeared on billboards in the real world. That is how the experience mobility works – the public can taste the brand beyond either the online or offline format, plunging into mixed reality instead of choosing between two. And that’s what allows customers to perceive the brand from all sides and angles.
The momentum of NFTs
NFT holds a special place in the metaverse concept. Over the past year, the term created an excitement probably none can boast of. Non-fungible tokens are digital assets that are unique and irreplaceable, like owning an original piece of art but virtually. And while some NFTs have prevailing monetary value and are seen as a way to open up new profit prospects or raise money, others are extensively utilized as a tool to boost brand image, tell a story, or link the public with the brand.
The scope of industries using NFTs varies greatly, so it would be easier to name what industries are out of the list than count all those who jumped on that bandwagon. Here we have the fast-food brand Taco Bell auctioned NFT GIFs on Rarible (NFT marketplace) to drive brand awareness, and that was quite a success since all GIFs were sold out.
The sport’s also in, NFL announced the fans could receive complimentary virtual tickets as NFTs created in collaboration with Ticketmaster, and that’s an example of how to raise customers’ loyalty.
Another excellent way to raise brand awareness and make a really loud statement is to collaborate with metaverse champions to produce a unique product as the Ray-Ban did. The designer sunglasses brand collaborated with Meta (formerly Facebook) on AR glasses and launched iconic aviator sunglasses NFT.
Some news from the music industry? The Coachella Valley teamed with crypto FTX to introduce an NFT marketplace, offering the Keys Collection of NFTs that would feature lifetime passes to the festival and more virtual experiences open in the future. Sounds great, and Coachella lovers definitely think the same.
Gamification for good
NFTs can also be a part of another meta format like virtual game spaces. Louis Vuitton released a video game that follows a character named Vivienne (a mascot created by the brand monogram) as she travels the virtual world collecting NFT candles. Each candle unlocks a story about the brand’s founder, depicting his way of establishing one of the most prominent luxury fashion houses. The game is aimed at Gen-Z consumers that are pretty hard to impress. And since more than 2.4 billion Gen-Z (it’s about one-third of the world’s population according to Statista) are gamers, the brand found a perfect way to attract new clientele. Besides enrolling new customers into the brand’s heritage, that also makes the existing ones more loyal by developing a universe each player can belong to.
We have another glorious example. Hyundai Motor Company launched a collectively shared metaverse space called Mobility Adventure on Roblox, an online gaming platform. It features Hyundai Motor’s products and mobility solutions targeted at young customers who want to explore the virtual worlds. With that metaverse project, the company wants to build innovative relationships with the audience, enhance their users’ virtual experience, allowing them to create and customize their avatars, and communicate exclusive mobility offerings and new vehicles as the story unfolds.
Reasons to join the metaverse for business
These brilliant examples show that brands are gradually adapting their strategies to the metaverse and doing well at managing different assets to their performance. The list ranges from NFT design to virtual stores and massive virtual worlds. We bet that’s only the beginning, and as time goes by, the number of possibilities will only grow. All that pushes the user experience to a huge transformation. But what are the benefits for the business itself?
Stronger emotional bond
First of all, the highly engaging nature of those assets can help businesses to build stronger emotional relationships compared to traditional models. In short – the metaverse can be seen as the environment in which users experience the same feelings and emotions as they do in real life. But the only difference is that businesses can manage it to evoke a particular response from the public.
Interactivity over passive content
With metaverse, businesses will be able to produce more interactive content over the passive one. Thus, it will be much easier to take consumers on marvelous journeys and amaze them with solutions escaping monotonous passive viewing.
Let consumers decide before buying
From virtual try-ons for makeup, clothing, and jewelry to seeing products in real homes, 3D can be a real advantage if seen as an excellent customer service tool in e-commerce. Let the consumers decide before the deal and show them you value their interests first. That is the way for establishing closer relationships, trust, and the impeccable image every business now seeks.
Make the impossible possible
With metaverse assets, you can do everything – from making your users fly around the moon or dive deep into the navy-blue ocean – whatever you want if your business needs it to excite customers and stand out. That is what makes metaverse an ultimate tool for leveraging users’ experience since nothing is impossible here.
On a final note
With all the complications and ambiguity, the metaverse is still worth considering as it unlocks the power of exponential technologies to help brands and businesses craft profound experiences. And that renewed value can become or already becoming a staple constituent of the business success in the future. There are lots of leverages to enroll. VR/AR, gamification, and NFTs enter the scene rapidly, not leaving a chance to ignore the new course of what we then would call the web3. So, why waste time and not act now?
If you’re still unsure about joining the metaverse or simply don’t know where to start – feel free to contact us. We will do our best to show you the way!