The metaverse is no longer just a matter of speculation — many companies are developing viable ways for companies to interact with their own teams and clients in a virtual environment. While most adoption has been from consumer brands so far (such as Nike and Gucci), the metaverse also has huge potential for the B2B space.
Since the B2B sector is where a lot of the money lies and innovation is still in its infancy, this offers a promising investing opportunity for anyone willing to cut through the noise.
The pandemic has changed how businesses operate. We’ve seen video calling software like Zoom boom in popularity, and many companies continued to take a remote-first approach after restrictions were lifted. However, the experience also highlighted some of the challenges video calls pose, such as the lack of face-to-face communication making it hard to pick up on body language or social queues.
The metaverse could overcome these problems by allowing people to communicate in a virtual reality setting, which would mimic real life more closely and make it easier to collaborate in a large group. This could be a useful environment for conferences, networking, onboarding, and so much more.
Plus, simulations in the metaverse could help employees learn new skills more effectively than current methods (such as training modules with quizzes and videos). Instead of listening to someone else explaining how to do something, they could try it for themselves firsthand.
Companies to watch
Meta (META) is working hard to become a leader in this space, and has put a lot of work into developing Meta Horizon Workrooms, software allowing people to collaborate with teammates through virtual reality headsets. However, it doesn’t require everyone to have a VR headset to get involved — people can also join through standard video calls. While in Workrooms, teams can access tools like a virtual whiteboard, and a mixed-reality option allows people to merge aspects of their physical reality with the virtual space.
Another major company exploring virtual reality and the metaverse for teams is Microsoft (MSFT), which has developed Mesh for Microsoft Teams. It focuses on “holoportation” — using mixed-reality headsets to share holograms of coworkers and work tools so everyone can interact together in one space.
There are also smaller companies innovating in the same space. SoWork (a private company) takes a slightly different approach to Meta and Microsoft. It offers a workplace setup that mimics the kind of virtual world we’d usually associate with a computer game, which allows teams to go from avatars on a screen to entering a call together with the click of a button. In 2021, it secured $15 million in investments.
Metaverse selling and customer experience
Following the same logic, similar technology could be used to improve customer experience by giving more immersive demonstrations or presentations of products using the metaverse. This could mean improved visuals or demos, for instance.
Virtual or mixed reality environments could therefore be a great replacement for sales meetings. They would make it easier to effectively reach people in other parts of the world without sacrificing the quality of the interaction, spending a lot on travel, or damaging the environment).
Since B2B selling and marketing is much more about fostering deep relationships with customers rather than trying to reach as many people as possible (which is more the case with D2C selling), the metaverse is a great option. It makes it easier to gain more interaction and feedback from clients throughout the selling process — and marketers could even collect data from clients based on how they react to a metaverse simulation.
Companies to watch
Most of the efforts so far have focused more on intersecting with consumers rather than B2B buyers, but some companies are already venturing into this space. For instance, HTC carried out its annual conference using the metaverse platform Engage in 2020, which used virtual reality and had people sitting in a stadium as their avatars.
Kaon’s LiveShare is a metaverse platform that holds sales meetings for enterprise software using hybrid and virtual meetings. It aims to offer a more immersive experience by turning buyers into active participants, giving them the option to diagnose their own challenges and receive information tailored to them.
One of the most traditional methods of advertising is billboards, but this could be given a modern twist in the metaverse.
There are now opportunities to put ads or sponsorships in metaverse spaces, especially during major events. Consumer brands have already started to do this. For instance, Chipotle opened a restaurant in Roblox and carried out a Halloween promotion in 2021 to offer free virtual food. Other consumer brands have launched NFTs to boost their brand awareness.
B2B companies could adopt similar strategies.
Companies to watch
Some of the biggest platforms that have held events in the metaverse so far are Roblox and the blockchain platforms Sandbox and Decentraland.
So far, most major events focused on young consumers rather than business clients, such as music concerts in Roblox or the Decentraland Festival. However, if these platforms see more adoption, there could be events aimed at a business audience (or older generations more likely to be B2B buyers) and place adverts.
Another option would be opening up virtual businesses in these virtual worlds to give potential clients another way to test products or talk to customer service representatives.
A new way to do business
As the metaverse is still in the early stages, it’s unclear which B2B companies will be the first to effectively embrace the metaverse for marketing, team collaboration, customer service, or other uses. However, when it comes to the companies creating the software they’re likely to use, a few clear leaders have already emerged.
Major companies like Meta and Microsoft are good bets for investors interested in the space, but there are also smaller companies to keep on your radar.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.