When we see big tech companies pushing their newest product or initiative, it’s easy to disregard it as white noise. For most local business owners, new tech trends like NFTs and the metaverse won’t have a noticeable impact.
But isn’t that how all trends start out? I remember when Apple first announced the iPad. At the time, my peers and I thought it was a silly concept. Who needed a big iPhone with no phone capabilities? A lot of people, it seems. Apple is on their 9th iPad model – with no signs of slowing down.
Huge tech companies like Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Meta thrive because they:
- Take risks
- Create (and follow) trends
- Have a customer-forward approach
They know what customers want before everyone else does. That’s why you probably know someone with an iPad (I could name a few dozen – including my grandpa).
Tech trends affect brick-and-mortar stores, too
If you have an in-person business, technology trends might not be top-of-mind when you think about what impacts your bottom line. After all, shouldn’t your attention be focused on the new competitor down the road? Or how the stormy fall weather is affecting foot traffic? I’m not saying those things aren’t important. They are. But as technology evolves, businesses that don’t keep up will have bigger things to worry about than a bit of rain.
As virtual reality models become more widely adopted, businesses who don’t pay attention to the new tech may be left behind.
Don’t believe me? Think about how technology already impacts your business. From your credit card reader to your website, the way you run your business is influenced by consumer preferences.
Tech developments influence the ways that consumers want to pay. In the United States, 85% of businesses offer Apple Pay. And 2 million merchants accept Venmo payments.
Technology is evolving faster than ever. While earlier adaptations – like accepting credit cards or cards with chips – took longer to adopt, the pace of adoption is speeding up. It took the US more than a decade to widely adopt chip cards (they became popularized in Europe in the 1990s). Apple Pay was released in 2014, and is now accepted by the majority of businesses in the US. Venmo took off in 2016, and is becoming a great alternative pay method for millions of businesses. Many tipped employees now accept tips via Venmo – since many customers no longer carry cash.
Now, customers expect to be able to pay or tip wherever they go – even when they forget their wallets. While many smaller businesses and restaurants remain cash-only, it creates friction in the customer journey. In fact, Finder estimates that cash-only businesses lose 11.8 million customers each year. That’s because 40% of customers say that if a merchant has no card facilities, they’ll leave the store without buying anything.
Do we have your attention yet?
The metaverse is the next big trend in technology
The metaverse recreates life as we know it, enabling users to have new experiences and visit new places without leaving their homes. And the experiences don’t even need to be novel. Virtual reality is choose-your-own-adventure. Users can build virtual closets or visit their friend’s virtual apartment. If they’re in a lavish mood, they can take a virtual private jet to Paris to visit the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. The options are as limitless as our own world – only more accessible.
The metaverse may seem like just another gimmick. But beyond its many fun applications, VR is incredibly useful for day-to-day life. In fact, it’s possible that you’ve already participated in the fledgling metaverse without even realizing it!
Functions such as Google’s Street View have been around since 2007. With Street View, users can view panoramic views from positions along streets from all over the world. Google collects this visual data using their infamous Street View-branded cars. The cameras on top continually capture images of streets around the world, including rural areas.
When Street View first came out, it was the first of its kind of technology. People around the world were fascinated by the capabilities of Google Street View – and excited by the prospect of being memorialized in one of Google’s images.
Other metaverse features you may know:
- Filters on Snapchat, TikTok, and Instagram
- Augmented reality on Pokemon Go
The metaverse seems a lot more familiar now, doesn’t it?
The metaverse could change the way we interact with the world
People talk a big game about being spontaneous, free spirits. But deep down, humans love familiarity – we all just want to feel comfortable.
The metaverse brings together the dualistic sides of humanity, giving people the option to explore on their own terms. Sure, virtual reality seems appealing if you don’t have plans to climb Mt. Everest anytime soon. But how will the metaverse impact us on a day-to-day basis?
The potential is limitless. Virtual reality could be the Zoom of the next decade – enabling users to gather virtually. From business meetings to family reunions, the metaverse offers a ton of practical day-to-day use. The metaverse is also perfect for users to scout out what places and experiences they actually want to visit or have.
Here’s an example: say you’re visiting New York for a few days. On vacation, it seems like there’s always an unspoken pressure to go to the best places – to have a nice time. But it can be intimidating to plan an itinerary and find what you actually want to do and see.
Accessible VR capabilities could enable users to:
- Virtually visit restaurants to determine which best matches their preferences
- Walk down the streets of a city or town (this is already available – but imagine it in real time)
- Get real-time information on lines at popular restaurants and tourist attractions
- Test-drive a route through a museum
Based on Google’s newest updates, this could happen sooner rather than later
Google gives us a look at what the future could look like. The metaverse is more integrated into our lives – in ways we may not even notice. Besides Google’s existing Live View, Street View, etc., they’re launching a slew of new features that prioritize the metaverse experience:
Discovering restaurant specialties
The best restaurants are distinctive. People love a good hook – a good story. My favorite restaurant back home is a family-owned Greek restaurant that’s been around since the 1970s. It has no-frills, straightforward food and a relaxed atmosphere. What if Google told you all of that, right on the search results page?
Now, they will! Star ratings don’t tell the whole story of a place. So by analyzing images and reviews, Google will tell users what makes a destination unique.
As you can see above, Google will provide snippets of reviews to provide details on unique features of the restaurant. Whether users are looking for a cozy, neighborhood vibe or a trendy Instagram-worthy café, Google will give them insider details on any restaurant nearby. Now, users will know exactly what to expect – so they can walk in knowing that the place they chose for dinner is exactly what they wanted.
This update enables users to find a restaurant that fits their exact specifications. And without having to try it first!
Immersive views inside buildings
Users can now take a peek inside your store.
Going far beyond street view, the new Google Maps lets users see the inside of buildings, stores, and restaurants. The immersive view will also show users how busy a place will be, and what the weather will be at a date and time of their choice.
This seems to go hand in hand with Google incorporating more review snippets and unique attributes in searches. Google wants its users to know exactly what they’re getting into – even if it’s just stopping for coffee. That way, users will have the best experience possible.
Users can experience a place before they go there in person. This update draws on the metaverse’s core offering: comfort and familiarity. Consumers can get acquainted with the interior – so they know if a place fits what they’re looking for. Users can rest assured that a place will be exactly as they expect it!
Neighborhood “vibe checks”
Google is giving users a vibe check. Now, users can see the best parts of a neighborhood – before they go. From local gems and hot-spots to tourist attractions and historic landmarks, Google gives users a highlight reel.
Between this new feature and Google’s street view, users can confirm which neighborhoods warrant exploration – and which they’ll save for another time.
Aerial views of landmarks
Google is providing aerial views of different landmarks around the world. Features like this – where customers can see famous landmarks, museums, or natural wonders – became very popular during the COVID-19 pandemic. Users could experience art and culture from the comfort and safety of their homes.
And now, Google is jumping on the trend. Users can experience the wonders of hundreds of different landmarks, a clear step in the metaverse direction!
Enhanced Live View
Have you heard of Live View? Essentially, it’s Google’s answer to users hopelessly turning their phone around as they figure out which way to go (guilty).
Live View enables users to navigate while looking through the viewfinder on their phones. And now, users can use Live View to search for things in their line of sight. Here’s what that looks like in practice:
Here’s what Google has to say about it:
“Say you’re heading to an outdoor market and need to take cash out. With search with Live View, simply lift your phone to search and instantly see the ATMs in an area. You can also spot different places — including coffee shops, grocery stores and transit stations. We’ll show you business hours and how busy a place is, and you can tap on any location to view more details, like what services the barber shop down the street offers.”
How can you adapt your business to be metaverse-friendly?
There’s no need to panic about the coming changes. Just keep in mind that with the rise of the metaverse, potential customers will be checking out your storefront long before they step foot inside.
As we transition into a model where experiences are premeditated, and fewer things are truly novel, how can businesses appeal to consumers? How can businesses continue to win customers?
Make customers confident in your business
As always, social proof is the best way for businesses to win customers. Even a restaurant with the most appealing “vibes” can’t make up for a 3-star rating!
Enhance the customer experience – online and in-store
The customer experience is what keeps people coming back for more. Building loyal customers who champion your business will always be a better investment of your time than trying to enhance your decor or online photos. After all, your brand can only go so far without great social proof.
So, even as things trend towards the metaverse, keep your customers in mind. After all, your customers may not even know – or care – about metaverse capabilities.
How much will the metaverse actually impact your business?
All this stuff about the metaverse is great. But why should you care? Well, the big tech conglomerates of the 21st century shape how we act, live, and interact online. As consumers get used to different standards, like short-form content or 2-day shipping, other businesses are forced to follow suit.
Don’t believe me? Think about it on a small scale. I’m sure you have a friend who loves supporting independent bookstores, but loves their Kindle. Or a neighbor who likes neighborhood coffee shops, but stops at Starbucks a little too often. After all, consumers love:
People are comfortable with what they know. Focusing on providing a great customer experience should always come first. After all, the big tech companies creating these trends are famously consumer-obsessed. And businesses that pay attention to big tech will have a leg up on the competition: they’ll know what’s coming next!