With the rise of the metaverse and web3 technologies, there’s no denying the next evolution of the internet is already underway. This is what I mean when I talk about the “future internet” – the next generation of the internet, characterized by immersive virtual metaverse worlds (such as Fortnite or Meta’s Horizon Worlds) and decentralized web3 technologies (think crypto, blockchain and NFTs).
For organizations, this future internet brings many opportunities – and threats. This means every organization must take a look at the products and services they provide and consider new and improved ways to serve their customers.
Here are three avenues to explore.
1. Augmenting Your Existing Products And Services
A good starting point is to look at your existing products and services and explore how you could enhance them with metaverse and/or web3 technologies. Consider how Fortnite has reinvented itself from a gaming platform to a trailblazing metaverse platform that provides immersive virtual experiences (like gigs by real-world megastars). Or consider how smartphone manufacturers are increasingly building AR capabilities into their phones, allowing users to see immersive virtual elements overlayed over the real-world view simply by using the built-in camera. Both are great examples of making your existing products or services more compatible with the next, more immersive evolution of the internet.
Could you augment your products and services for the future internet? If you ignore this question, the danger is another company will come along with that improved offering. Consider how services like Audius are reimagining music streaming and challenging established platforms like Spotify. Audius is a blockchain-based, artist-owned, decentralized streaming service with its own crypto token – in essence, the platform lets musicians decide how their music is monetized and allows them to connect directly with fans.
2. Creating New, Digital-Only Products
The next generation of consumers is only too happy to spend real money on products that don’t exist in the physical world. My children routinely spend their pocket money on Fortnite Skins, and yours may well do the same. In fact, Fortnite (and gaming in general) has led the way in creating digital-only products. What’s really interesting is Fortnite is a free-to-play game, so the sale of in-game items is clearly a vital revenue-earner for the game’s makers. In-game purchases are so popular that close to 70 percent of Fortnite players purchase outfits, accessories, and dance moves for their virtual characters. These outfits, accessories and moves don’t give players any actual advantage when playing the game – it’s purely about making your character look different from those who don’t pay for products. It goes to show that, in the metaverse era, digital-only products have very real value.
What about new services for the future internet? A great example comes from BlockBar, the NFT marketplace for high-end wines and spirits. BlockBar is a direct-to-consumer NFT marketplace that connects consumers and collectors with luxury alcohol brands such as Glenfiddich and Hennessy – allowing brands to sell NFTs that are tied to physical luxury and limited-edition products. (The NFT acts as proof of ownership but may also provide the NFT holder with access to exclusive perks and content.) As a service, BlockBar is taking the business of selling wine and spirits into the 21st century. And it's proving popular with brands and consumers alike; the marketplace reached $7 million in sales in its first year and attracted more than 300,000 users.
Ask yourself, could your business create new products and services that are designed with the future internet in mind – or could your existing products or services be threatened by new, digital-native offerings?
3. Creating Hybrid Products And Services That Span Both Digital And Physical
What about blending the physical and digital to create hybrid products and services? One cool example comes from Merge EDU, which has designed a range of digital teaching aids for STEM subjects. The teaching aids immerse students with 3D objects and simulations they can “touch” and interact with – thereby helping students understand complex science concepts. This shows how digital products and services can deliver significant value in the physical world.
Of course, physical products can also be enhanced with a digital element, such as an accompanying NFT. Like how legendary music magazine SPIN – known for its iconic covers that are collectors’ items in their own right – is selling its covers and other art assets as collectible NFTs.
This “tokenization” of physical products is interesting because it also allows products to be sold in a distributed ownership model – where multiple customers share ownership of an asset. One example comes from the Crurated wine platform, which offers members the chance to buy fractions of wine barrels certified by NFT and blockchain technology.
Can You Afford To Ignore The Future Internet?
There’s no doubt in my mind that companies that ignore the impact of the metaverse and Web3 risk being overtaken by startups who are creating new, improved versions of existing products and services – essentially, reimagining them for the future internet.
That said, because the future internet is evolving so fast, some of the products and services being developed now may not exist in a few years’ time. There will be new products and services that we can’t yet imagine. The upshot is amazing innovations are coming our way, and we can't predict where all this is going. But don't let that stop you from reimaging your own products and services and experimenting with future internet innovations. Don’t wait, in other words. The time to experiment is now.