There’s much talk about what the Metaverse could be, should, or will be, but the real question is: how can companies build the Metaverse today? One of the most significant opportunities for your business strategy is to create entirely new virtual expressions of branding and customer experience. But many companies’ first forays into the Metaverse have begun with spatial and operational replication. They make a three-dimensional version or digital twin of their business on a digital platform such as Roblox. Or they duplicate their products and sell them alongside actual items to benefit from NFTs. Although it’s a start, it’s not enough.
Building in the Metaverse requires translation.
When we use an online translator to communicate in another language, it may not be enough to convey the intent, meaning, and emotion of what we are trying to say. Translating businesses into the Metaverse is a bit like that. The Metaverse comes with a new interactive language that your business should speak. It requires more profound levels of translation to support the functional elements of your business and express its meaning, values, and culture. That’s why the Metaverse is a business-like World-Building.
It is not about developing unique and literal virtual spaces or the digital duplication of products or services. It’s about creating experiences that change how customers understand you and themselves. These are three critical ways to think about translating your business in today’s world.
Place your products and services in their proper context.
Although initial development in the Metaverse is like the real world, showcasing products or providing services in traditional spaces will be a thing of the past. In the future, contextual translation will remove the business or office from the equation and place your business where it makes the most sense. Mountain bike gear isn’t meant to be lined up on a display stand; it’s meant to be carried by someone traveling the Yukon. Don’t rebuild the store shelf; rebuild the lane. Choosing a destination for your next vacation can be a virtual adventure. Don’t create different lists. Let customers explore Buenos Aires before they even step off the plane. The Metaverse promises you can make anything, so why just create a shop? Customers find your company where and how it should be experienced and see themselves in a completely different context. When they cross the Yukon, they are already adventurers. When you visit Buenos Aires, you are already a globetrotter.
They see themselves not only in their business but also in their world.
Where contextual translation reinvents the diverse realities of your business, emotional translation focuses on how your business feels. It’s about the environment or lifestyle. Lana Del Rey recreates a 1960s American city to promote her new album. A tea company invites you into a virtual booth where you can focus at the end of your day. A brand of vacuum cleaners is developing a conscious cleaning experience.
These translations reflect the experience or worldview that your company embodies. Whether your vision is safe, chaotic, revolutionary, or nostalgic, the Metaverse has the potential to create mood through space and interaction design, using many of the same tools that video games have evolved over the past few decades. This type of translation is the most abstract. It requires the development of virtual, identity-forming experiences, as commercials and the brand’s traditional design have done in the past: For example, imagining yourself in the role of a mountain bike adventurer is only half the battle.
Imagine designing an experience that makes customers feel competent, fearless, and determined to travel the world. You don’t just create the path or the environment in the Metaverse. It can make customers feel like they can conquer you and become part of how they define themselves.
Translate for many, not few
How often have you tried a new 3D virtual experience and thought, “Is this it?” it makes a world come alive: other people. While context and emotions can transform us on an individual level, ultimately, it is relationships that define us. We see platforms like Fortnite and Roblox primarily as social experiences. You cannot exist without the presence of others, and neither should your brand.
Social experiences are the final element in creating a world and defining its culture. Whether it’s competition, connection, or collaboration, groups’ unique interactions make space. Businesses need to view every virtual space as a social space and seek to develop real-time interaction and presence. Give your customers a reason to meet and stay together. Figuratively speaking, your business should consider how people relate to each other in the context of your brand.
If they are competitive, create competition. If they are artistic, encourage creative collaboration. Ultimately you are responsible for building the world, but your users are responsible for defining it.
Start at the beginning.
These three ways of thinking about translation are not mutually exclusive. Ideally, the world you start building includes them all, but some brands naturally tend to take some approaches over others. For example, music and entertainment have a more direct connection. On emotional and social experiences, products and services may require greater functional and contextual thinking prioritization. However, keeping these translations in mind, your world will eventually become an indistinguishable part of your organization. It will be part of the cultural framework of the Metaverse.