• School of Business Consulting Group

The Metaverse and Blockchain: The Future of Business

Metawhat?

In 2009, I completed a presentation about an online platform called Second Life for one of my undergrad classes. Second Life functioned as an online fantasy world where users were able to live and travel within worlds using self made avatars. It was practically a space where people lived their best online life – literally! Little did I know that my presentation on Second Life was the start of my many conversations about the metaverse.



But for real...what is the metaverse?

When Facebook re-branded to Meta, the use of metaverse in their re-branding left many folks asking, what is the metaverse? Is the metaverse a trend? And where do I find it?

Although no formal definition for the metaverse exists, the word is linked to a 1992 novel written by Neal Stephenson and used to describe a 3D virtual world. The metaverse, as we currently understand it, is an online virtual world encompassing augmented and virtual reality, blockchain and digital communication… and it has the potential to evolve into more as our digital space and offerings increase.


Facebook isn’t the only giant diving deep into the metaverse, major gaming platforms and retailers have also taken the dive. In 2021, Roblox, a gaming platform, in partnership with Vans, a popular mainstream shoe company, created Vans World. With just a few clicks on most digital devices, this partnership allowed for gamers to access a virtual skatepark which they are able to enjoy dressed in vans digital apparel. This is a great example of how the metaverse can be used to develop brand awareness and accessibility to businesses in the online world. As businesses begin to venture deeper into the metaverse, the opportunity to expand continues to grow with digital transformation becoming more rapid.


So… who is the metaverse for?

The metaverse is here and it's happening... and you are likely submerged in it with your social media accounts or presence on games as consumers and digital users. When it comes to businesses, metaverse offers opportunities to network, shop and even invest. Forbes recently published an article highlighting the use of the metaverse in networking as hybrid events grow. Non-fungible tokens, commonly referred to as NFT’s, have gained popularity in the past years as digital assets that can be purchased and sold online.


Although our understanding of the metaverse continues to evolve, many businesses are using the metaverse to develop and deepen brand awareness, user experience, convenience, and loyalty with its customers. With the growth of e-commerce, the metaverse allows for both buyers and sellers to offer and purchase physical as well as digital products. The use of social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Tik Tok and development of interactive apps are all tools that can be used to help businesses grow their digital space in the metaverse.


Fortunately, the Alberta School of Business’s Consulting Group helps provide support in these areas. Our consultants can add value to your digital space by supporting social media understanding, content development and improving overall digital presence through initiatives such as the Digital Economy Program. As the metaverse continues to evolve, programs like this are helpful ensuring small business owners in Alberta succeed in being digitally present and accessible.


 

What is Blockchain?

Bitcoin, Cryptocurrency, NFT’s … by now, most of us have heard these buzzwords. What you might not know is that each of them are essentially built on the same foundation - they all exist on a blockchain.



A blockchain is essentially an online public ledger which records and monitors transactions which take place online. Regardless of whether you are a crypto or NFT user, a blockchain ensures that transactions are secure, private, and reliable each time a user wants to purchase something, exchange, or send their digital assets to other users. Different types of digital assets like crypto or NFT’s might operate on different blockchains. Rules on what can be done on a particular blockchain are predetermined and cannot be modified.


The “block” in blockchain refers to groups of data which describe what has happened on the blockchain. For cryptocurrencies, this could be receipts of transactions that have occurred. Once a valid receipt has been published, it joins previous “blocks” of receipts - essentially creating a “chain”.


An online public ledger? Sounds fraudulent

Blockchains are publicly accessible and for popular blockchains (such as the one Bitcoin uses), they are decentralized from private interference. Rules on the type of data or digital assets which can be recorded on the ledger are predetermined before the blockchain is published - these rules cannot be modified. This means that the public manages the activity across the blockchain, can add certain information to the chain, but cannot edit or interfere with other transactions being recorded. Additionally, publicly owned computers constantly check the validity of the data being recorded based on the blockchains predetermined rules - preventing fraudulent transactions from being placed on the blockchain.


Okay, that’s great but how does it work?

Imagine you want to send your friend some Bitcoin. First, a broker sends out a message or “node” to the blockchain stating that a transaction is taking place. Decentralized and publicly owned computers then verify that an authentic transaction will take place and once approved, they register a new block on the blockchain - acting as a receipt. Once registered, your Bitcoin is permitted to transfer to your friend.


So what’s in it for the owners of these “decentralized computers”?

In exchange for successfully enforcing the rules of the blockchain, monitoring transactions, and preventing fraud, computers are given a portion of each transaction as a fee. This transaction fee is securely transferred into the “wallet” of computer owners - using the same securities as other transactions.


Who is Blockchain for?

Blockchain is for anyone who wants to securely transfer or track digital assets between parties. For instance, consider the possibility that a blockchain could allow you to transfer the title of your home at the exact moment that money is transferred to you from a bank - negating the need for title insurance. Alternatively, order and submit payments to your supplier at the moment that your product inventories are low. Many instances could exist to improve business processes but for now, Blockchain is primarily known for its use in crypto and NFT transactions.


Businesses can begin to offer crypto purchasing options on their online stores. Plugin’s are available that either allow you to collect crypto, or immediately exchange the crypto into your local currency during the transaction. Some options to explore are listed below:

  • BitPay:

  • Allows online businesses to collect Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies from your online store.

  • Has a 1% flat rate transaction fee which protects businesses from fluctuating fees.

  • PayPal:

  • Currently only available for US crypto holders, but international businesses.

  • Automatically converts crypto into US dollars upon transaction.

  • Zero transaction fee, with no additional sign-up required.

For assistance in accepting online or cryptocurrency transactions for your business, ShopHERE powered by Google can provide you with free, 1-on-1 support to build and launch an online store.


 

For more information on brand management:


Authors: Amarjit Parmar and Connor Marchand


Amarjit Parmar is a 2022 MBA Graduate from the University of Alberta’s School of Business. Amarjit believes digital transformation is a long-term process but with the right tools and support, can be fun and rewarding.

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