The metaverse has captivated notable brands and technology innovators alike because it provides abundant opportunities for new revenue streams and represents a way for consumers to connect with retail stores without even setting foot inside. Many brands believe it's inevitable, and none are willing to be the ones that miss out. But are we overlooking one of the most critical factors to make the metaverse a reality?
The way we shop online today will drastically change with the metaverse. The metaverse promises to be as disruptive as the internet itself was when it went mainstream. One of the biggest obstacles for online marketplaces is that consumers can't see what a piece of clothing, for example, would look like on their body shape and size. However, the metaverse unearths many possibilities to overcome problems like this by enabling users to try on products virtually through body-scanning technology and see whether a particular outfit suits them. This use case is set to unlock enormous untapped potential in the e-commerce space. Furthermore, brands will be digital as well as physical — so your online “self” may be able to “wear” what you're purchasing for use in the physical world.
If the dream of the “retail metaverse” is the ability for consumers to enjoy digital storefronts wherever they are, a high-quality connection without disconnecting, lagging or losing quality network-to-network is essential. On-demand, highly available, seamless broadband underpins this new world.
Why the Future of Retail is More Extensive Than Just Consumer Brands
According to Amdocs research, more than 60 percent of overall respondents felt the metaverse would unlock new and exciting ways for us to interact with others. However, 21 percent of consumers aren't confident their internet connection can handle a metaverse experience like livestream shopping and virtual reality department stores. With this, I believe the next step in the physical-to-digital retail revolution rests on the shoulders of communications service providers (CSPs).
The metaverse has the promise and potential to become an extension of people's lives — opening the door into a parallel virtual reality where people could opt to live, shop and play continuously in real time. However, it can only come to fruition if its relationship with ubiquitous connectivity — including 5G, Wi-Fi, in-home fiber, private networks, satellite broadband, and more — is strong.
Preparing a Network That Can Support the Metaverse
In terms of ubiquitous connectivity, there's no doubt this conversation is becoming more complicated as technology becomes more advanced. We need broadband, fiber, 4G and 5G networks, satellite broadband, and public Wi-Fi to play nice in the sandbox to enable the best possible experience for consumers. With this, I believe there will be opportunities for CSPs to act as aggregators for different types of networks to ensure a seamless experience network to network, providing the best option at the right time to ensure the best outcome.
Also, the high volume of data exchanged to support augmented reality/virtual reality and mixed reality services that travel between the virtual worlds and the physical world requires a highly efficient network and communication infrastructure that optimizes the trade-offs between rate, reliability and latency. The metaverse will need high rates of data transfer, ultra-low latency, and computing to succeed, making CSPs critical.
Private enterprise networks, where physical locations can ensure they have the right quality of service and dedicated resources to connect their store with virtual shoppers, will also become a critical piece of the equation. As more devices connect to the network, there's a risk that shared connectivity will cause buffering, and dedicated resources will become a make-or-break opportunity.
The immediacy and interactivity of the metaverse will arguably redefine retail and how we engage with brands as a society. But its success will be a joint effort, with the network aspect being one that cannot be overlooked. After all, there's no point in the metaverse if nobody can use it.
Niall Norton is the general manager at Amdocs Network, a leading provider of software and services to communications and media companies.
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