The metaverse is making significant strides in the business world

Two thirds of organizations are using technologies such as augmented and virtual reality, blockchain, cryptocurrencies and NFTs, according to a new PwC survey.

Woman using the metaverse in an office
Image: Adobe Stock

Metaverse-related technologies are beginning to offer significant business opportunities, a new study from PwC finds. Sixty-six percent of executive respondents report their companies are actively engaged in the metaverse.

These companies are designing proofs of concept, testing use cases and even generating revenue from metaverse technologies such as augmented and virtual reality, blockchain, cryptocurrencies and NFTs. Eighty-two percent of executives expect metaverse plans will be part of their business activities within three years, according to the report.

Twenty-five percent of tech leaders have already invested in enterprise blockchain, followed by cryptocurrency (23%) and virtual environment tools (23%), the report said.Meanwhile, two-thirds of company leaders report having moved beyond experimentation and expect their metaverse efforts will be fully integrated across the business within a few years.

Forty-two percent of business leaders want to use the metaverse for onboarding and training, the top use case. Other use cases include interacting with work colleagues (36%), creating virtual content for customers to engage with (36%) and engaging with customer-facing staff (35%).

The top consumer use case is to explore new places virtually (65%).

Apps can increasingly enable metaverse experiences through a laptop or phone, according to the report. “The speedy advance of VR, web3, blockchain, crypto, NFTs, and other technologies that enhance metaverse activities may be a sign that the metaverse itself can grow and scale quickly,” the report stated.

Business leaders should strike a cautious tone

These are still early days. “While these numbers might look impressive (and ambitious), it’s important to keep in mind that the ‘ultimate’ version of the metaverse (fully immersive, with seamless and secure transitions among a multitude of metaverse environments) doesn’t exist yet,’’ the PwC report cautioned. “Some metaverse elements are entering everyday business activities, but we’re still in early stages.”

The stakes will be high if the metaverse either revolutionizes business or becomes the next incarnation of the internet, the report notes. “Decisions made now could define your role in web3 and the digital economy for decades to come. You’ll want to think big and, as you build out the metaverse elements that can generate benefit today, also position yourself for the metaverse’s full potential tomorrow,” according to PwC.

PwC advised that just as the way the internet developed, “there may be several cycles of speculation and disillusion before disruption spreads and the true value appears,” and business leaders should not “fall for hype and misallocate capital.”

SEE: Hiring kit: Data scientist (TechRepublic Premium)

Set people and tech priorities as metaverse foundations

Companies are prioritizing metaverse hiring, customer research and upskilling as much or even more than their investments in metaverse-related technology, according to the report. “That’s wise since technology is only an enabler,’’ the report said. “It’s the accompanying processes and skills that determine its value.”

Companies are starting to create and hire roles focused on the metaverse and digital assets as well as investing in tech building blocks like tools for the development of virtual environments, the report said.

Companies are also moving ahead with related organizational changes. Thirty-two percent of respondents plan to hire or appoint a “metaverse leader,” and 51% already have designated roles that focus on metaverse activity—even if not exclusively. Similar numbers have roles focused on cryptocurrency or NFTs.

“The rise of these roles is encouraging, but real metaverse value requires more than assigning responsibilities to a tech visionary,’’ the PwC report said. “You need structures to combine skills, technology, and internal processes to deliver metaverse business outcomes.”

SEE: Metaverse cheat sheet: Everything you need to know (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Address metaverse risks

Not surprisingly, companies are most concerned about cybersecurity in the metaverse, followed by privacy risks, technology constraints and regulatory uncertainty. Consumers are most worried about privacy.

“Consumers are clear on what would build metaverse trust for them: identity and data protection, security protocols and control over their own data,’’ the report said. “That matches what consumers want to trust tech in general.”

To address these concerns, business leaders believe implementing cyber protection and protocols will help, along with letting customers control the data they share, user verification and transparency around commerce and operations.

PwC believes the metaverse “revolution will really be more of an evolution taking place over several years with different components maturing at different times. That’s why strategies should contain both a long-term vision, with designs for the future web3, and a practical path to invest in technologies, skills, and use cases that can deliver specific business outcomes today.”

The PwC report included responses from over 1,000 U.S. business leaders and 5,000 U.S. consumers.

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