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Defining the Metaverse

RL Pro hosts a roundtable Q&A on the hot topic everyone in retail is talking about.
Elizabeth Christenson
Editor, Retail Leader
Elizabeth Christenson

Pro Tip: The metaverse is easily one of the buzziest terms of this year, but the true question is what are the implications for the retail industry? The metaverse has the potential to unlock a better virtual playground for consumers, which can allow them to engage with brands and retailers via new outlets and experiences. The metaverse allows for seamless integration between a virtual and physical world, which may spur new ways of attracting and transacting customers — and providing new types of product offerings that don’t exist in the “real” world.

With a variety of ideas of what the metaverse is, Retail Leader Pro is here to help you wrap your mind around it. RL Pro tapped several metaverse insiders to help explain what’s up with the differing definitions and to answer the most basic of questions: What exactly is the metaverse anyway?

Retailer Leader Pro: There seem to be varying definitions of what the metaverse even is. How would you define the metaverse?

Lori Zumwinkle
Lori Zumwinkle

Lori Zumwinkle, Accenture’s senior managing director and North America retail lead: When people talk about the metaverse, they’re generally talking about some kind of shared virtual reality space. Right now, there are a lot of early metaverses being built with different focuses and ideas. Some are aimed at companies and employees, others are for consumers. Each has different purposes, partners and technologies at its core.

Given there’s such a broad range of development within the metaverse space, we talk about the metaverse continuum. It’s a spectrum of digitally enhanced worlds, realities and business models poised to revolutionize life and enterprises. The continuum is evolving and expanding across multiple dimensions:

  • Cutting-edge technologies like extended reality, blockchain, AI, edge computing, digital twins and smart objects (e.g., cars and factories);
  • The “virt-real” – a huge range of experiences, some purely virtual and others that blend virtual and physical; and
  • The spectrum of emerging consumer experiences and business models that will be reimagined and transformed.
Rob Crumpler
Rob Crumpler

Rob Crumpler, IZEA’s head of blockchain, NFTs and the metaverse: It’s true that people are approaching the early metaverse from different angles. The metaverse is currently the wild, wild west for creating immersive experiences. There are multiple land suppliers to buy from and build on. I view the metaverse as a digital landscape where people have ownership of their land and what they build on it, just like real life. The beauty of the blockchain is property rights. You can own land, you can own your avatar, you can own your costume or your sword, and you can even own the money (aka, crypto) that comes out of a metaverse ATM.

Olga Dogadkina
Olga Dogadkina

Olga Dogadkina, Emperia’s CEO: An online space that extends our everyday lives into the virtual realm in a more seamless way than the internet has ever been able to do, making the world more social, more accessible and more inclusive by bringing life to our doorstep.

Tyler Moebius
Tyler Moebius

Tyler Moebius, SmartMedia Technologies’ CEO: I think that you’d find the most consensus in defining the metaverse as being “a series of connected immersive virtual spaces within which your digital persona is persistent across all spaces.” As for why there are competing definitions, one of the defining features of the metaverse is that it won’t be built by a single company, and as a result of this, each of the pioneers working in this space has their own language to describe how they see the metaverse manifesting over the coming years. This language is often steered by what they’re bringing to the party, so I think it’s natural that we’ll continue to see different ideas floating around for a while before that consensus is reached. 

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