You’re the owner of a store (large or small) that sells furniture and housewares. Imagine having your customers be able to see a visual of those objects in their homes before they buy them. Or imagine customers being able to use filters to see how clothing or makeup looks on them without actually being physically present in the store.
Now, realize you don’t have to just imagine this anymore.
This is the metaverse. And, while it exists in a virtual reality- and augmented reality-fueled space, it is here — and starting to impact the business community in New Jersey.
Ignore it at your peril, for it may not just be a matter of forging ahead, but being left behind.
“We’ve learned during the pandemic that the internet definitely can help keep businesses afloat when customers aren’t able to walk in your doors anymore,” she said. “And we’ve seen businesses learn new and creative ways to engage with their customers online.
“The metaverse is going to really amp up those opportunities. Any smart and savvy small businessperson is going to want to figure out how to stay on top of those trends.”
To be sure, Meta has a huge interest in pushing meta possibilities — and is spending time and money promoting it. And, while the company has moved to virtual formats for its in-person training efforts that help small businesses in New Jersey (and around the country) on a variety of topics, Moylan emphasizes there is still plenty of online content to explain how businesses can use Facebook and Meta to grow.
There is a lot to learn.
Let’s start with the basics: The metaverse should be viewed as the next generation of the internet — taking it from the ultimate source of information to an arena where people (and businesses) will be immersed and interact through virtual reality and augmented reality.
Now, understand this: It’s here.
Few may know of companies offering the previously described virtual reality looks, but nearly everyone is familiar with concepts such as virtual gaming or promotions for exotic travel destinations.
Transitioning this ability to business cases always has been the goal, Moylan said — a move the pandemic has helped expedite.
“I think (the pandemic) has really showed the importance of having a multiprong strategy,” she said.
So, how do you keep up? How do you introduce meta possibilities to your business?
Moylan said it may not be as complicated as you think.
What are Meta and the metaverse?
It’s the next stage of the internet, said Lori Moylan, a public policy director at Meta (the recently rebranded Facebook).
The internet has evolved from being on desktop computers to laptops to mobile phones.
“It was the thing we could carry in our pockets and have it with us everywhere we went,” she said. “And you could use it to access the information you needed and to stay in touch with the people that you loved when you weren’t physically present with them.
“The metaverse is really going to take that to the next level. It’s a set of 3D virtual reality and augmented reality experiences, where you’ll really be immersed and the internet.
“What that means for businesses is that there’s going to be a lot of new ways to interact with your customers.”
“We’ve increased our offerings to have things like Meta storefronts, or Facebook storefronts — so you can actually sell your wares right there in your Facebook page, rather than having a separate website,” she said.
“We’re trying really hard to make it as easy as possible for small businesses, because we know it can be a daunting thought to think about having a website that you keep up to date, and then Instagram and Facebook and whatever other sort of web presence you want to have.”
Moylan acknowledges another aspect of business that the pandemic has impacted: Having enough employees to be able implement such updates.
“I know a lot of small businesses struggle with capacity and having to figure out how to spend resources,” she said. “But, I would just encourage them to think of this as a really wise investment, because you want to stay in front of those trends.
“For a business that is having to think, ‘How do I spend these constrained resources, both time and money?’ we want to offer as many different things as we can. And, hopefully, that helps keep them growing and their Facebook page and other web presence will help them stay in front of the trends that will develop for the metaverse.”
That metaverse, she said, may one day consist of being able to walk through virtual neighborhoods with virtual storefronts.
And, while Moylan said the company still supports in-person shopping, the pandemic showed her firsthand the impact of online sales now. Especially for the next generation.
“A lot of people’s online shopping habits are being formed during the pandemic — and I don’t think we can really expect people to ever go back to completely business as normal, because people’s habits have shifted, and their preferences have changed,” she said.