During the summer the tech and business world was set abuzz with Facebook’s Metaverse announcement. Indeed, such is Facebook’s belief in the metaverse that it has now committed its entire brand strategy around it. However, despite the media attention, much of the conversation is still around exactly what metaverse means and, given the questionable role social media has already played, whether a Facebook-built virtual world would be something desirable at all. Nevertheless, with Microsoft and a host of other big tech companies all saying they will make investments in their own ‘metaverses’ over the coming decade, it is becoming increasingly clear that life is going to become much more virtual.
In the meantime, we are seeing that many businesses are well on their way to incorporating virtual and augmented reality into their customer experience. For example, retailers are experimenting with AR shopping experiences to bring consumers back to the High Street and others are incorporating more interactive 3D design into their website offerings. The overarching trend is towards a more engaging, immersive world. However, as any major brand that has dabbled in AI or AR would tell you, it is currently a very complex and time-consuming process to get things up and running. As such, most marketing initiatives are still very much at the ‘one off’ or pilot project stage. The problem is that technology to underpin the creation and management of these virtual experiences on an ongoing basis simply doesn’t exist – until now. The next few years will see the advent of 3D CMS. With it will come a whole host of new and exciting possibilities that will profoundly change what is possible in marketing, how the martech industry develops and what skills modern marketers and developers will need.
Going far beyond
Before we get too carried away, let’s talk about what we mean by 3D CMS. As the whole sector is in its infancy there will inevitably be different names and ways to describe it. For our purposes, it represents a category of next-generation content management systems that will be geared towards enabling the creation, maintenance and modification of virtual, augmented and other immersive content. I say ‘other immersive’ simply because we don’t really know what innovations will come out of this trend.
Practically speaking, a 3D CMS will differ from what we currently understand as a CMS because it will go far beyond enabling the copy, imagery or channel content served to people to allow the easy manipulation of the virtual environment they experience. Imagine going into virtual shops where every product and marketing message is tailored exactly to your needs. The crucial element of the 3D CMS will be that it will integrate with existing marketing channels.This means, a headless 3D CMS will enable marketers to make instant changes on any channel – IoT, social, email, virtual store – without the need of longtail development projects. In essence, it will make virtual as adaptable and manageable as any other communication output.
Of course, theory is one thing, implementing this approach in practice will be quite another. 3D environments will involve using a lot more data. Technically everything in the environment could be tailored to each individual user. It will leverage a mind-boggling array of different data sources – everything from social media and purchasing behavior to in store activity and basic demographic information. Add into the mix third-party sources or zero-party data and the numbers really stack up. Further complication is added when you consider just how much choice will be available to create these virtual experiences. Marketers will be able to create a huge number of different scenarios that will evolve based on the decisions customers make.
This creates a lot of options for marketers and a lot of different scenarios all fuelled by a lot of information sources. To make it manageable one of the key elements of a 3D CMS will be automation. It needs to do a lot of the heavy lifting so that marketers aren’t lost in a sea of technical difficulty and reliant on developers for every campaign they run. They also need to enable asynchronous working – stakeholders in any campaign should be able to contribute and develop a campaign without wholly relying on other parties to complete their task first. In short, a 3D CMS will need to take the most powerful parts of current martech and ramp it up to a whole new level.
Profoundly different CX
Of course, none of this is going to happen overnight. This isn’t just because the technology will need to develop incrementally, it is because what consumers will be comfortable with and the skills marketers will require to execute it effectively all need to be developed. Consumers have been geared to expect the entire journey to be personalized and offer the best user experience. Creating this approach in the metaverse will require a marketing department that is multidisciplinary and cross-functional. Marketers who have focused on refining their creative writing skills will need to expand them beyond the page to truly immersive experience – sights, sounds, architectural design and much more. Similarly, developers in web design and other communication outputs may find their careers take on more of the flavor of game developers as they help to build and manage virtual worlds.
The more you think about it the more you can see that integrated marketing departments will need to take on a whole host of new experts. They need to have data, development, commercial and marketing skills and, critically, the team cannot be isolated from the rest of the business. Information flow between marketing and other departments is both desirable and essential. For example, data gleaned from marketing can inform product development and data gathered from areas such as customer service are needed to enable a truly personal experience.
The payoff will be the creation of profoundly different customer experiences where innovation is only limited by imagination. Underpinning all of this will be 3D CMS – which will do all the heavy lifting to enable creativity to flourish.
Alex Feiglstorfer, Co-Founder, Storyblok