Duncan Wardle in Entrepreneur:  Why Your Business Needs to Prepare for the Metaverse

Featured in Entrepreneur.

Duncan Wardle is a CAL Entertainment Featured Speaker

As some people still research what exactly the metaverse is, many major businesses are already taking steps to shape that digital future.

If there was one headline that dominated business publications this past year, it was the arrival of the metaverse.

Of course, much of this press coverage was spurred by the surprise announcement that Facebook — in a very large public commitment to the metaverse — was literally changing its name to “Meta.” But Meta is far from the only company taking steps towards a more virtual future. Retail giant Walmart has been quietly filing trademark applications for various non-fungible tokens, virtual currencies and virtual goods to sell in the metaverse. Epic Games has hosted virtual concerts with global superstars such as Ariana Grande. And Disney recently patented an augmented reality device that does not require the use of glasses or headsets.

But even though the headlines about the metaverse tend to be dominated by global tech giants, don’t be mistaken … This metaverse is not just for billion-dollar brands. Every business needs to learn how to make the metaverse work within its operations. Sure, it’s easy to dismiss as some sort of technology fad at its core, but the metaverse is about experiences. And if we’ve learned anything over the last few years, it’s that the experience-driven economy is here to stay.

Still not convinced? Let’s explore three reasons why your business needs to prepare for the metaverse today:

1. The metaverse embraces the experience economy
I’ve written at length about why I believe the future of business will be driven by experiences. The numbers prove this, though: A recent Harris Poll found that 72% of millennials prefer spending their money on experiences over material things. This number is only growing higher with Gen Z.

Just look at the success of The Museum of Ice Cream. In a time when museums struggle to sell as many tickets as they once did, this attraction is almost always sold out! Why? Because it’s an experience — and one that’s full of oversized candy, sprinkle swimming pools and all sorts of other fun, interesting and “Instagrammable” moments.

This experience economy is not just for places and events, either. Look at the success of 19 Crimes wine. Sure, it started with quality wine. But the brand’s real differentiator is its AR-equipped wine labels, which come to life when paired with the company’s special smartphone app. This technology has turned the age-old ritual of opening a bottle of wine into a one-of-a-kind experience that has helped 19 Crimes quadruple in size over the past few years and be embraced by a whole new generation of wine drinkers.

These types of moments are exactly what the metaverse will enable businesses everywhere to create. The metaverse is the art that pops out of the frame, the Hall of Famer who sits next to you while you watch the game, and the superhero that leaps right off your child’s page.

With the metaverse, experiences are no longer limited by time, money and the physics of the natural world. They’re only limited by a brand’s imagination.

2. The metaverse drives the bottom line
So why are these brand experiences at the center of the metaverse so important? They drive the bottom line.

Of all the things I learned while serving as the head of innovation and creativity at Disney, one of the most important lessons came from Walt Disney himself: Start with the experience, and the sales will follow. Not surprisingly, Walt’s obsession with the Disneyland experience enabled him to turn what was once just orange groves and walnut trees in Anaheim into a crown jewel that’s partially responsible for more than $4 billion in revenue per year.

Disneyland excels as a profit machine precisely because it wasn’t built to be one. Instead, it was built as a place to tell stories. And these stories create experiences, which ultimately lead to consumers opening up their wallets.

With the metaverse, brands will be able to take their strategies to an entirely new level, creating one-of-a-kind experiences for each guest. Imagine a world where instead of spending the day trying to track down your daughter’s favorite Disney princess at the park, the princess appears right in front of your daughter’s eyes on demand (and can even speak to her in the language of your choice)! How much would this enhance your family’s overall Disney experience?

Of course, this is all well and good for brands like Disney, which are able to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into these immersive experiences. But what about your business? This is where the metaverse — to a certain extent — will level the playing field.

Virtual real estate can be purchased for thousands of dollars instead of millions, and designers can craft custom buildings, merchandise, games, rides, events and more without having to pay for materials, labor and equipment. This means creating an unforgettable branded experience in the metaverse can be done for a small fraction of what it costs to do so in the physical world.

And the metaverse won’t just drive virtual sales — it’ll also drive physical sales thanks to an unprecedented level of data and artificial intelligence integration into your business. For example, imagine you bookmark an Instagram photo of a new blouse you love posted by your favorite local boutique. Later that week you run out to grab a latte, and as you’re walking by said boutique, you get a notification on your AR lenses telling you that the blouse you bookmarked is in stock in your size. You can tap once to see a photo of how it would look on you, tap twice to have a salesperson pull it from the rack and tap three times to have it sent directly to your door.

Does that seem like science fiction? Perhaps. But consider McDonald’s, which just filed a trademark for a restaurant in the metaverse where customers can order food at a virtual counter and have that order delivered to their door in real life. This is the customized, consumer-centric world that’ll be ushered in.

3. The metaverse engages previously unavailable consumers
Not long ago, I ran a training session for the Philadelphia Eagles. During this event, I was told that 90% of Eagles fans will never actually attend a game in person due to price, location, transportation and so forth.

Could you imagine if 90% of your potential customers weren’t able to do business with you? This is a huge area of opportunity for businesses in the metaverse. Sports teams are already taking advantage, as seen with the interactive fan displays used by the NBA during its bubble. This was also true even pre-pandemic, when Manchester United used Google Hangouts to give fans across the world a front-row seat.

For smaller businesses, the metaverse means being able to engage with customers who could never make it to your store, sell virtual goods to a subset of customers who cannot afford your physical ones and have your sales reps exhibiting at trade shows around the globe without ever leaving their living rooms. With the metaverse, every company will have the opportunity to become a true global brand.

The metaverse is here — is your business ready?
As you can see, the metaverse isn’t something reserved for the billion- and trillion-dollar tech companies of the world. In time, it will affect all brands. Will your business be ready to take advantage?

The easiest way to get your company thinking about a meta future is by exploring the metaverse for yourself. Metaverse technologies are naturally intuitive, after all; I move my hand or my head one direction, and my virtual avatar follows. And if I want to engage with someone in a virtual world, all I need to do is walk up and say hello. Spend a little time exploring these offerings, and it won’t be long before you’re brainstorming ways to embrace the inevitable future of the metaverse. Who knows — you might have a little fun in the process, too.