What is the metaverse? What does it mean for ecommerce?

What is the metaverse? When can we access it? What does it hold? How it will work? There are some many questions, and we try to answer as many as possible with some of our own predictions.

Facebook earlier today announced the name change "Meta" but, more importantly, they emphasised;


"We're now metaverse first"
Mark Zuckerberg


But what is the metaverse? Why is there so much buzz around it all of a sudden?




The metaverse

The metaverse is not a new concept, software developers have been fantasizing about the metaverse since the 1960s. In its most basic form, the metaverse is a virtual space that allows anyone to log in and; meet up, talk, and more interestingly even shop in this virtual space.

If you've ever played the Sims online, you already have a very good understanding of how a metaverse works. You have your avatar, and you can interact with other users. Other games such as; World of Warcraft, Runescape, Minecraft, Grand Theft Auto and Fortnite are all more basic versions of a metaverse.


The big differences

Unlike online games, the metaverse holds a few unique aspects;


It's not only for gamers

The metaverse is designed so that anyone can participate. You'll only need a few gadgets and an account to login into the metaverse.


NFTs - Non-fungible tokens

In games, your "assets" are held by the game developer, and they can control how they can be used. In the metaverse, your own your "resources", and you decide how to use/exchange them. This is done through blockchain technology, where each digital asset you have in the metaverse is signed to your account, and no one can take it away from you.


Recap #1

So the metaverse is a virtual reality space that anyone can log into and own assets. So up till now, we understand that commerce will be possible.


The big shift for business?

There are many reasons to be excited about the metaverse but there are so many unanswered questions left to cover... (this is going to be a long article).


What will an online shop look like in the metaverse?

The sheer amount of designers and developers working on the metaverse makes it almost impossible to predict what a store might look like in the metaverse. But, we have some predictions.

It will be a unique experience

Online shops have already broken many barriers that pave the way for the metaverse. We can buy online, we can use hundreds of payment methods, we can have virtual tours, and so much more.

But, the metaverse offers this fully immersive experience, and there are virtually no limits to what can be "built" in the metaverse. Thus we predict that shopping in the metaverse will hold very unique experiences.

For example;

  • A scuba diving shop in the metaverse might exist "underwater".
  • A football club store might allow you to "meet" your idols while shopping.
  • You might be welcomed by your favourite superhero as you shop from a comic store.


Recap #2

The metaverse is a virtual space, and we can shop in it too. The items we shop for hold a real value, and the shopping experience will be very unique.


Metaverse preview 

Can we advertise in the metaverse?

Yes! But this is where it also starts getting a little fuzzy. The metaverse doesn't have boundaries, it can keep expanding forever. Also, in the metaverse advertising will be similar to conventional marketing; such as billboards. This means that the value of a "billboard" in the metaverse will quickly decrease, as users expand.

Also to make matters more complicated, the owner of a billboard could sell that space in a matter of seconds. What would happen to the advert?

These are all concerns that are being discussed but unfortunately, there is no answer just yet.

We predict that in the early days of the metaverse, advertising will be less prominent. Early adopters will be looking for brands first.


How do we travel in the metaverse?

We already mentioned that the metaverse is always expanding so how does one go from one point to another?

One can go for a stroll, drive, fly, and even teleport from one point to another. Now that's cool!

But it begs the question; How will we be able to find the parks, shops, and other attractions in the metaverse? We predict that companies such as Google & Facebook will be investing in creating search engines for the metaverse. Very similar to how we use Google & Facebook today, with the added functionality of; "Teleport me to there".


Recap #3

The metaverse is a virtual space. It keeps expanding. We can shop, advertise, travel and even teleport!


Who owns the metaverse?

This is probably the hardest bit to explain. No one owns the metaverse, but everyone may own a piece of the metaverse.

Let's use an analogy here. If you buy a piece of land, you own it. That piece of land could have either belonged to a previous owner or the government. In the metaverse, you'll be able to do that as well. You'll be able to buy a piece of "land" from a previous owner. However, you may also "register" a new piece of "land", this is where the metaverse expands.

The investment in claiming a new piece of "land" will be labour cost, as you'll have to create a digital space (asset) other metaverse users can visit.

This is why companies such as Meta (ex-Facebook) are investing in thousands of designers and developers, and billions of dollars to create these pieces of "land". Essentially turning Facebook into this gigantic real-estate developer.


When will the metaverse be available?

Work on the metaverse is well underway. Many designers have already laid most of the foundations through NFTs. Developers have paved the way with affordable AR technology. The tech giants are committed to investing trillions of dollars into this.

So even though we can't say for sure the exact date as to when a trip down the metaverse will be the same as a trip to the local shopping mall, we can say that it will be in our lifetime.

Official estimates predict that there will be a million metaverse users by the year 2030 but, seeing the speed this metaverse is developing we predict it will be much sooner than that.


Recap #4 (The last one)

So we know the metaverse is a virtual space. We'll be able to log in, interact, and buy and sell just as we do in the real world. It's predicted that we'll be in the metaverse as early as 2030.


There are so many more questions...

Shall we start investing in the metaverse? Will websites still be a thing? What will happen to physical retail? Should everyone hire designers and developers?

Like all new things, we can't say for sure what you and your business should do in the coming years. We can only promise that Lifeboat's team is closely monitoring developments in the metaverse, and will be here to assist you when you open your store in the metaverse.

Who knows, maybe Lifeboat becomes a real-estate agent in the metaverse? 🤷‍♂️



The metaverse is the next evolution in technology and whoever you are, you should start learning more about it.







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