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This article was contributed by Valerias Bangert, strategy and innovation consultant, founder of three media outlets. Bangert is also a published author.

Perhaps no other term is as bandied about in customer experience (CX) circles as the “metaverse.” First coined by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel Snow Crash, the metaverse is a digital space where users can interact and create content. 

In theory, it could be a revolutionary platform for CX. After all, the metaverse is largely a representation of the data that companies collect about their customers, and customer data is a top CX priority for executives. The metaverse could be used to better understand customer behavior and preferences, and to create a more personalized customer experience. The metaverse could also be used to identify trends and to make predictions about customer behavior.

But in practice, the metaverse has yet to take off. There are a few reasons for this. 

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First, the user experience (UX) of most metaverse platforms is often clunky and difficult to navigate. Second, there’s a lack of compelling reasons for users to spend time in the metaverse. Finally, most metaverse platforms are geared toward developers or niche audiences rather than day-to-day business users.

Today’s metaverse experience: A gaming hub

Consider Roblox. It’s more than a children’s video game, it’s perhaps the biggest metaverse on the planet. There are nearly 50 million daily active users, which includes over half of American children. It’s also a great example of why the metaverse hasn’t taken off for everyday use-cases, from shopping to banking. The Roblox platform attracts gamers because it’s fun and easy to use, but it doesn’t offer much in the way of utility for everyday activities.

So, what would it take for the metaverse to become a mainstream customer experience platform? There are a few key ingredients. First, the UX needs to be much more user-friendly. Second, the metaverse has to offer compelling reasons for users to spend time there. Finally, it must be accessible to mainstream users, not just developers.

If these things can be addressed, the metaverse could very well become the customer experience revolution we’re waiting for. Until then, it’s likely to remain a niche space for gamers and other enthusiasts.

This isn’t to imply that the metaverse won’t one day take off. It’s simply important to remember that it’s not the only game in town when it comes to customer experience innovation.

The alternative: A better internet, powered by data

The metaverse aims to solve a key CX sticking point with the current state of the Internet, which is a lack of interactive, engaging, and immersive experiences. But there are a number of startups and companies working on improving the Internet experience without the need for a metaverse.

From interactive content to immersive experiences, the future of the Internet is looking a lot more interesting, and it all relies on data. In other words, we can use data to create innovative customer experiences, the metaverse notwithstanding.

The interactive content revolution

For one, the current state of internet content is largely static. Websites are filled with text, images, and videos, and there’s very little that allows users to deeply interact with and change the course of the content. 

This is changing with the rise of interactive content, such as quizzes, polls, surveys, and games. One of the best ways to use interactive content is to create customer feedback loops. This involves using interactive content as a way to gather customer data, which can then be used to improve the customer experience.

There are several ways to do this, but one of the most common is to use quizzes and surveys. You can gather data on customer preferences, demographics, and even purchase history. This information can then be used to create targeted advertisements, improve website design, and create more personalized content.

You’ve likely seen these types of content before, as they’re growing in popularity on websites like BuzzFeed and Upworthy.

That said, everyday creators and businesses are using these techniques more and more. For instance, involve.me bills itself as a no-code tool for interactive content like quizzes, surveys, calculators, and so on. Essentially, it’s a form of gamification that’s useful for everything from customer retention to engagement.

Interactive content is more engaging and immersive, and it allows users to participate in the content in a way that static content doesn’t. This is helping to revolutionize the way we consume information and entertainment online.

Sure, interactive content isn’t as “sexy” as the metaverse. But it’s a more realistic way to improve the Internet experience, and it’s already making a big impact.

Immersive experiences are making waves and could impact the metaverse

While the metaverse and virtual reality are very intertwined concepts, there are alternate formats of digital reality that are gaining traction. Immersive experiences, which combine digital content with the real world, is one such example.

As a VentureBeat article recently explored, immersive experiences are already used in many industries, from airlines to ecommerce. And it’s only going to become more prevalent in the years ahead, with 80% of customers and businesses agreeing that “the experience a company provides is as important as its product or services.”

For example, online retailers are using immersive experiences to create a more personal shopping experience. For example, Amazon allows customers to virtually try on clothes by superimposing them onto a selfie. This helps customers avoid buying clothes that don’t fit and makes it more likely that they’ll buy something they’re actually interested in.

In the case of Amazon, the data they’re using to create these immersive experiences comes both from customers and their own product images. This data is used to boost sales, and also recommend similar or complementary products to customers.

The bottom line

The data age is changing the way businesses interact with customers. While the metaverse isn’t yet the customer experience revolution we’ve been waiting for, interactive content and immersive experiences are already changing how customers interact with brands.

Valerias Bangert is a strategy and innovation consultant, founder of three media outlets, and published author.

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