Researching Supply Markets and the Metaverse: Is It Time to Dip a Toe or Dive Right In?

On the recent DisrupTV podcast hosted by R “Ray” Wang (Constellation Research) and Vala Afshar (Salesforce), guest Robin Murdoch (Accenture) described where the metaverse stands in terms of future adoption by reporting that the concept of the metaverse was the “bright, shiny object” at this month’s CES. He also stated in terms of business adoption, we are in “the pre-iPhone moment when things are about to explode…just like the iPhone led to so much B2B innovation, the same thing is going to happen with the metaverse.” In terms of overall adoption, guest Jon Reed (diginomica) admits to being grouchy about the short term view, but bullish for the long term. For companies considering investing in or moving forward in adopting, Mr. Reed made a statement that nicely sums up what many are thinking and having concerns with: “To what extent is the metaverse concept going to translate away from the hardcore adoption of gaming into other arenas and at what speed and is it going to be revolutionary or is to going to be niche.”

Where Supply Market Research Can Immediately Be Applied

In looking at how intensely organizations and market and supply intelligence researchers should be directing their attention to the metaverse and its varying related concepts, it is helpful to understand the areas in which market research can be immediately applied. Quality research is needed on the markets and associated providers that offer the tech products and services needed for organizations to participate and/or operate in the metaverse. Examples of the top technologies that are powering the metaverse include blockchain and cryptography, 3D reconstruction, artificial intelligence, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), and internet of things (IoT), to name a few. Examples of key providers helping to build the metaverse include Snap (lens, avatar VR tech), Roblox (video game platform provider), Nvidia (Omniverse platform), Autodesk (3D engineering software), Tencent (communication and social platforms), Magic Leap (Enterprise AI platform), Epic Games (video game developer), Unity (video game software design), Amazon, Niantic (AR product and platform), Meta, Microsoft (building an “enterprise metaverse”), Google, Apple, and Opensea (NFT marketplace).

In the AR/VR space in particular, it is well known that the companies currently competing are mostly large dominant players such as Microsoft, Meta, and Nvidia. CNBC reports that 2022 will be the biggest year yet for the software and hardware (such as headsets) with Meta, Apple, Microsoft and Google all planning to release new products. The key competitive strategy is understanding that the gadgets “that transport users into 3D worlds” are the gateways to “the biggest new market in software since Apple introduced the touchscreen smartphone in 2007.”

The metaverse landscape, however, is also comprised of a large number of innovative startups all building offerings, as outlined by CB Insights, in the areas of Software Engines (programming engines, asset creation), Hardware Interfaces (VR/AR & haptic, displays), and Products (virtual worlds, avatars, asset marketplaces, and financial services). Another great view of the metaverse market space is provided by Jon Radoff who segments the participating companies via the following layers: Experience, Discovery, The Creator Economy, Spatial Computing, Decentraliztion. Human Interface, and Infrastructure.

Looking to the Future: The Market Research Landscape Itself Will Adapt and Change

It can be predicted that due to the anticipated growth of all things metaverse (PwC predicts the market may reach $783.3 billion in 2024 and Mr. Wang from Constellation predicts that advances in the metaverse economy will provide a $21.7 trillion market by 2030) many more competitors will flood the space and new research/analyst firms, along with market-specific and sub-sector multi-media content providers will launch and form. Current providers will need to evolve and change as well to both provide news, analysis and content in the real world and in the virtual world as well. A humorous quote that touches on this is provided by tech futurist Theo Priestly in a LinkedIn post: “If Gartner doesn’t produce a metaverse magic quadrant that you can only view in Facebook VR wearing a Quest 2 what are they even doing?”

When considering news and research exchanged in the metaverse, how will it be valued? Future News writer Ian Silvera muses that memorabilia, collectables, and currencies are likely to be promoted in the metaverse, but it is uncertain “how information and news will be valued, if at all.” He goes on to state: “You can currently buy NFTs of articles, as shown by The New York Times, but engagements with the digital metaverse are currently focused on entertainment.” Mr. Silvera is writing from a journalistic point of view, but from a market data and insight point of view, my personal opinion is that it will be highly valued.

Examples of Current and Potential B2B Use Cases in the Metaverse

Considering business applications in general, there is activity for market research opportunities connected to consumer commerce with many use cases revolving around advertising and marketing the brands participating in the metaverse, especially in retail. Marketing in the metaverse requires understanding the differences between customer behavior in the virtual world vs. real life. Branding in the metaverse is another area of activity. For example, in an article that covers top ways brands can innovate in the metaverse, Shopify is highlighted for building out a considerable supplier network that helps their merchants move into the 3D medium.

Currently, it seems to be the consensus that applications in the metaverse for enterprise business (or what one Gartner analyst in an opinion piece refers to as “metaversial business”) will not be fully realized anytime in the near future. However, any type of business activity that involves a B2B interaction, regardless if the environment is virtual or real world, can be optimized by the use of supply-related market research. Keeping this in mind, here are current and potential B2B use case areas/categories where supply market-related research can be applied.

Professional Services – Accounting firm Prager Metis set up a headquarters in the metaverse, in Decentraland, a 3D virtual world, as part of a joint venture with Banquet LLC. The firm purchased a three-story digital structure that features a gallery space for non-fungible tokens, a working space with meeting rooms and conference capabilities, and a rooftop space for events and live entertainment. PwC Hong Kong recently bought a plot of digital land for over $10,000 as a non-fungible token using The Sandbox’s SAND cryptocurrency. PwC’s William Gee stated the firm would use emerging metaverse solutions to “leverage our expertise to advise clients.”

Digital Twins for Industry and Other Areas – Nvidia and others are providing platforms that provide a key use opportunity: digital twins creation. Simply put, digital twins allow users to “simulate physical processes from the real world.” Siemens Energy is using Nvidia’s Omniverse platform to create digital twins to support predictive maintenance of their power plants by developing a new workflow process that reduces the frequency of planned shutdowns. AB InBev used Azure Digital Twins to create a digital model of their breweries and supply chain that is synchronized with their physical environments and allows for brewmasters to make adjustments based on active conditions. Google Cloud launched Supply Chain Twin, which lets companies build a virtual representation of their physical supply chain. The data partners currently providing geospatial, sustainability, and risk management data include ClimateEngine, Craft, and Crux.

Training – VR training is a use case that has been deployed in many industries. Successful critical use cases for VR training include environments that are highly stressful and emergency/time-sensitive-related, such as law enforcement, medical, and military. Maintenance procedure training is also an area that can benefit greatly (i.e. airplane maintenance). In healthcare, “medical device companies are using mixed reality to assemble surgical tools and design operating rooms, the World Health Organization (WHO) is using AR and smartphones to train Covid-19 responders, psychiatrists are using VR to treat post-traumatic stress (PTS) among combat soldiers, and medical schools are using VR for surgical training.”

Coming soon will be a listing of resources for keeping up with news of the metaverse and related supply market research offerings.

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