The next wave of digital transformation is the metaverse. While some argue the metaverse is still in the equivalent of the internet’s ‘dial-in’ phase, the promise and the technology are evolving in equal measure, and businesses will want to step up to shape the new data economy it will create.
We are already seeing the first forays in the metaverse. In publishing, Pearson announced plans to sell its textbooks in the form of NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens). In retail, Nike has seen 21 million visitors to its Roblox store since it opened, and Gucci created a digital handbag that sold at a higher price than the real product. And there are more. According to new Accenture research, more than 67% of retail executives said their company is starting to experiment and explore how the metaverse and virtual products and services can add to their businesses.
While within our own business at Accenture, the metaverse is changing the way we engage with our people. Our virtual campus in the metaverse, which we call the Nth floor, is enabling better learning and collaboration. This year we have onboarded 150,000 new employees in the metaverse on their first day. The benefits? We can bring people together for a short burst of networking and training in a much more immersive way than a video call, and we are seeing positive results with both our people and our clients.
Just as the internet turned business models upside down, the metaverse is challenging basic assumptions about technology and business. It can change how brands interact with customers, the products, and services they sell and how they run their businesses. It is the art of the possible, and earlier this year we launched a dedicated business group to help our clients take advantage of the opportunities as they continue to evolve.
Discussions have included how a company could completely build and test out a business in the metaverse before ever laying a brick or making a move in the physical world. Or how before ever hiring a single person, a business may create a system of avatars to test real-world roles. Similarly, before taking a single dollar or swiping a credit card, a company may have outlined their own NFT system in the metaverse.
Here in Scotland, we’ve been leading discussions about the impact of a new parallel economy for banks that embraces digitally backed assets, trades in digital currencies and offers a customer experience that engages a whole new generation. These are all innovations that could be critical in maintaining Scotland’s leading position in financial services and fintech.
The underlying technologies, from blockchain to augmented reality, are already in play. Moreover, the metaverse presents huge opportunity for Scottish tech entrepreneurs and innovators in established fields like payments, content, tools, networks, 3D platforms, computing power and hardware, as well as shaping the standards and regulations that are needed to build a responsible metaverse. This entire space has been predicted by JP Morgan Chase to offer a $1 trillion market opportunity.
Back in 2013, our Technology Vision was the first to declare that “every business is a digital business”. This year’s Technology Vision introduced the Metaverse Continuum, a spectrum of digitally enhanced worlds, realities, and business models and we believe it may even be bigger than our 2013 assessment.
The experience of the past 20 years tells us it’s best not to look at technology as it is today, but rather to examine where it is going. While we might be constrained by short-term challenges, or an innate hesitancy about embracing the new, every business needs to look for the next growth cycle to remain competitive.
Those that do will find added value in the metaverse which, as the next wave of change, has the potential to spur growth in every aspect of business here in Scotland.
Stuart Chalmers, Joint Managing Director, Accenture in Scotland