Engagement to Experience
Websites and apps track our every action. Can they use this knowledge to make us better? I am writing this on Microsoft Word on a desktop. The app has seen me write tens of thousands of words, and other than some spelling and grammar suggestions, little has changed in the basic writing process. What would a metaverse-enabled Word look like? For one, it could create a digital twin for me based on all the writing I have done, and find me articles and references that keep me updated on topics I have written about. It could organise all my docs in a 3D cabinet, showing me connections between topics and docs. It could show me what I was thinking a year ago! It could encourage me to join a writing community. Or in this case, offer to connect me to others thinking about the metaverse. Each of this can perhaps be done today, with some friction, by separate apps or utilities. The point is: how can a more seamless experience be constructed with the data that our computers and mobiles already have on us?
Imagine time travel – but in the past. I would love to sit through a video of James Buchanan teaching public choice or Hayek talking about liberty – along with others who are learners like me. A few of us could get together virtually and create a small working group to explore some themes further. And as we are engaged, imagine running into today’s experts who could enlighten us – exactly what would happen at a conference we would have physically attended. Imagine next leaving a software agent in the metaverse that would alert us for interesting new ideas and conversations. As I said earlier, independent tools do make all this possible but there are a number of hurdles and therefore we don’t do it.
The uniting theme across these futuristic scenarios is “experience.” Customer engagement is all about customer experience. And yet most businesses have done little – other than faster delivery, lower prices and better recos. Improvements in logistics and AI will make these improvements par for the course for most brands. What’s beyond that? This is the opportunity that the metaverse brings: a way to differentiate based on experience. A few rupees difference in the product may not make us switch, but a truly unique experience could, especially for the brand’s most valuable customers.
Let’s take the example of news media; worldwide, it is facing survival challenges because of the onslaught from various alternatives. Consider Mint or Business Standard. They have excellent reporting and commentary. The print edition doesn’t tell them what I am reading and ignoring; but their digital properties gives them a deep insight into my interests – they can in fact create a replica of me and create a “Daily Me” personalised version. What else can they do for a core audience to generate additional revenues by giving unique experiences? Imagine creating a space where readers can interact with editors in exclusive events, a 3D view of news letting me see connections and context better, and coordinating interactions with others like me who can bring their expertise on specific topics. The metaverse can also offer news organisations the ability to curate 1:1 engagements between business leaders to explore new opportunities. News may have become commoditised, but experiences will never be. What business leaders need is imagination and a willingness for experimentation.