How To Thrive In The Age Of The Metaverse: Engaging With The Five Layers Of The New Virtual Economy
Across the five layers of the virtual economy, we will see the emergence of the metaverse generation, who will be inspired by immersive experiences, engaging communities, and active co-ownership within the brands and companies they love.
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This article was co-written with Dado Van Peteghem, co-founder, Imagin3 Studio.
The internet is coming alive. Ever since Mark Zuckerberg announced the rebranding of Facebook into Meta back in October 2021, "the metaverse" has been on everyone's lips.
Across a range of industries, dozens of companies including Gucci, Nike, Microsoft, Hyundai, and Coca-Cola –and more locally, Christofle from Chalhoub Group and DAMAC– have capitalized on the trend, and they are building what is widely considered to be the next web-based disruption.
More recently, the Dubai Government announced its metaverse strategy in July 2022, highlighting that the UAE's economic success will be measured not only in terms of gross domestic product (GDP), but also in terms of gross metaverse product.
The metaverse economy is also expected to grow worldwide to a size of US$13 trillion by 2030- but what does it really entail? What are we talking about when we frame this metaverse economy?
The metaverse goes way beyond the simple creation of virtual worlds. There are many different moving parts in the current Web3 and metaverse evolution, and it seems critical to stitch the space together with a holistic view.
In a (very) simplified way, these are the five layers of the new virtual economy:
1. VIRTUAL IDENTITY Within a short span of time, most of us will have an avatar to travel into and through virtual worlds, social media platforms, and other digital experiences. One of the leading platforms facilitating this today is Ready Player Me. Over time, it is inevitable that we will increasingly build our digital identities through these avatars, and spend money on virtual wearables to make ourselves look unique. Imagine our current digital identity, but on steroids.
2. VIRTUAL ASSETS Since the rise of the non-fungible tokens (NFTs), we are now able to buy, own, and sell digital assets in the form of virtual land, art, memberships, clothing, profile pictures, and so on. These NFTs are traded through different Amazon-like platforms. Also, we are starting to discover the wide range of possibilities enabled by smart contracts running on the blockchain, creating what we call "the internet with property rights."
3. VIRTUAL MONEY Cryptocurrencies might stay volatile, but the underlying protocols and principles are here to stay, as they enable new ways to transact, with less middlemen involved. Banking corporations across the world are understanding the important shift currently happening. And although some of them are fighting the change, most are adapting and offering new crypto-related solutions and services to their customers.
Related: Why You (And Your Business) Need To Take The Metaverse Seriously
4. VIRTUAL ORGANIZATIONS Different types of public and private organizations are currently emerging, where token holders are replacing shareholders, and governance rights are organized in decentralized communities. This is giving back power to the many, where balanced voting rights will be crucial to make things really work.
5. VIRTUAL 3D WORLDS With the launch of transformative hardware goggles and lenses, we will be able to experience the internet in a convincing and highly interactive three-dimensional environment, both in virtual and augmented reality. This will allow for totally new ways of entertainment, education, commerce, meetings, and more. There won't be just one metaverse platform; it will be a combination of many different 3D environments that are interconnected, and where all the five layers mentioned above will integrate seamlessly.
Each of these five layers can stand on itself, but this is how the dots might connect in a promising, limitless, and borderless "virtual economy." Most importantly, each of these layers is opening opportunities for new business models and jobs– think virtual designers, architects, economists, community-builders. New metaverse-born companies are emerging every day, but legacy companies have an important role to play, as well as to avoid disruption across new channels.
Across the five layers of the virtual economy, we will see the emergence of the metaverse generation, who will be inspired by immersive experiences, engaging communities, and active co-ownership within the brands and companies they love. We need to get ready to delight them.
The time is now to get started, work on prototypes, build a full understanding of those new environments that could very well drive growth across entirely new generations of customers during the decades to come. Just like the internet in the 1990s or social media in the 2000s, the metaverse could become the revolution that defines the next generation. The internet is indeed coming alive.
So, what are your plans for the next 90 days?
Related: Five Things A Metaverse Sceptic Learned By Buying Real Estate In A Virtual Universe