True Immersion Trends: From Hybrid Events to the Metaverse… More Ways to use Digital Storytelling
Hybrid events are the perfect venues for using digital storytelling. It can be easy to incorporate stories and other digital assets into the experiences for both groups of audiences.
Today, more companies are embracing hybrid events. This trend started as a necessity due to the coronavirus pandemic - however it remains highly relevant today. Why? Because, while the quality of these events varied immensely, people rapidly became accustomed to the convenience and advantages they provide.
Even once it became possible to host in-person events again, a strong online or remote component remains a ‘must have’ today. Such blended events are an immense opportunity for companies to extend their potential audiences by embracing both ‘real life’ and online attendees.
Hybrid events: an opportunity to immerse customers in your brand
Immersive brand experiences are already used by leading companies for bringing their customer experience centers to life. Hybrid events enable companies to share these customer experiences even further with virtual audiences. They also have a long-lasting impact, with 86% of B2B companies seeing a positive ROI, even seven months after the original event.
You can really flex your digital storytelling muscles with a hybrid event. This is especially true for people joining-in as virtual attendees, as their experience can be extended into the metaverse with additional digital offerings.
Many people are curious about how the metaverse might be used for business purposes: Hybrid events are one clear demonstration of how ‘the metaverse for business’ might take shape.
Exactly how metaverse will evolve and play a role in business is yet to be determined, but the potential is huge – as we’ll explore further in this article.
The Advantages of Hybrid Events and Virtual Audiences in the Metaverse
When hybrid events are done well, each component enhances the experience for the other. You can also reach a much wider audience – these are unlimited by geographical location, tight schedules or traveling restrictions. They also reduce carbon footprint thanks to a massive reduction in travel.
Of course, hybrid events are not an isolated phenomenon. These have developed alongside the numerous other remote and hybrid working methods that have become commonplace. As blended experiences such as hybrid events have become more accepted, there has been a lot of excitement about the possibilities for delving further into the virtual world, or the metaverse.
It’s easy to see how the metaverse has become so relevant today. With so many of us joining Zoom meetings, using customized backgrounds, sharing interactive presentations, and collaborating in more hybrid working, it seems that we’re stepping ever closer into a world where the physical and virtual are in constant association with each other - and this is exactly what the metaverse is all about.
Your future hybrid events and customer experience centers may include virtual attendees from the metaverse. But what is the future of the metaverse and immersive hybrid experiences for business? How can these be leveraged by businesses to gain a greater market share or win new customers?
The Metaverse: Understanding the Business Case
Depending on who you ask, the metaverse is either ‘the next big thing’ or nothing at all.
It’s hard to cut through the hype and see what real-world benefits could be gained from an imaginary 3D world. However, the possibilities are wide open, and this means it can go in any direction – or all of them.
The metaverse is a modern-day technological Wild West; full of opportunity for some, and potential pitfalls for others. Early adopters could either seize the biggest slice of the pie, or lay claim to a mountain of virtual ‘fool’s gold’.
We can draw an historical comparison by looking at the invention of the crystal radio set in 1894 by Jagadish Chandra Bose. This simple ‘toy’ allowed people to listen to music being broadcast frommny miles away. It was seen at the time as a marvelous, but frivolous distraction. However, the underlying technology (the crystal detector) continued to be developed and researched. Eventually, this became the foundation for modern semiconductors, which evolved into the microchips that our entire civilization depends on today. So, let’s not dismiss the metaverse just yet, just because it can be fun.
One limiting factor in its acceptability to business is the lack of a clear-cut definition of what the metaverse is. So, let’s start there.
Defining the Metaverse
The metaverse can be defined as a platform that supports an intuitive and easy way to interact with virtual and virtualized physical elements. This action takes place within a 3D, virtualized, persistent environment, which can be accessed through a variety of devices.
In most ‘examples’ of the metaverse, we see something that looks like a 3D game, with people moving around, dancing and wearing crazy outfits. It’s not a solid business case. But this is just one side of the technology. It’s more useful to look at the example of digital twins, and how the metaverse might be used to manage complex physical assets remotely – like oil rigs, or logistics. This kind of application has a solid, bankable value - and there are more examples like this below.
The Metaverse – According to the Experts
According to Gartner, about 25% of the population will spend at least one hour per day in the metaverse by 2026. They predict that we’ll use the metaverse as a convenient venue for work, shopping, education, social events, and entertainment. Despite this, Gartner also cautions against hasty overinvestment in this area, stating that “It is still too early to know which investments will be viable in the long term.”
This is sound advice.
Investments in technology that can only be used for the metaverse is a high-risk strategy. However, multi-purpose solutions could be a very wise investment.
While VR goggles are often used as examples of how people might access and view the metaverse, this isn’t guaranteed. They’ve been around since 1991, and have never truly taken off.
Tablets, Laptops and Phones might become dominant methods for most consumers, while businesses are more likely to use fully immersive technologies like large screens, glasses, or smart contact lenses.
The value of hybrid events and immersive experience in business is already well-documented. If investment is made in a strategic way, then companies can make substantial strides towards being ‘metaverse ready’, while still investing in technologies that deliver benefits today. The 3D virtual worlds that the metaverse relies on can be created, explored, and utilized within the familiar environments of immersive experience rooms for example. This way, they can provide bankable value before extending them further to a wider audience in the metaverse.
These immersive technologies also enable a testing ground for determining which business values can be extracted from the metaverse – because this can vary immensely from one company to another.
Yet Another use for Your Customer Experience Center
Immersive experience rooms and Customer Experience Centers can be an ideal way for companies to start exploring the potential ‘fit’ for different metaverse concepts with their businesses and brands.
The best part of this approach is that it isn’t an exclusive investment; your Customer Experience Center can continue to deliver value for in-person visits and for hybrid events. However, they can also double-up as a laboratory for seeing which metaverse concepts might work, and what values they might deliver.
Provided these immersive experiences operate using the versatile Hyro Digital Storytelling Software, they’re fully capable of supporting the 3D content the metaverse is based on. Indeed, some companies are already experimenting with using their Hyro-powered screens for visualizing Digital Twins, as part of operations optimization or collaboration sessions.
According to Gopal Srinivasan, a partner with consulting firm Monitor Deloitte, this is exactly the kind of area where the metaverse might have the greatest impacts for business, "[For example,] through a remote immersive digital twin, one worker might be able to manage multiple [retail] stores and orchestrate any situation." And there are many other opportunities besides.
Ways Your Company Might be Using the Metaverse in 2026 – or beyond
Virtual Meetings – this is certainly a step up from ‘that jungle background’ in Zoom. Virtual meeting spaces are a natural extension of existing trends.
Office Tour – with a virtual office tour, you can offer customers a walk around a virtual version of your actual office space, and then extend this into a virtual world.
Stakeholder Meetings – get everyone around the same table, even when they’re on different continents. Pixelated avatars could become life-like renderings in just a few years, creating a more natural experience.
Collaborative and Creative Sessions – distance is no object, and neither are the constraints of reality. Ideas can become virtualized and experienced by all team members during collaborative sessions.
A Level Playing Field for Hybrid Working – the metaverse creates a unified environment where both in-person and virtual team members can meet up, share ideas, files, presentations, and reinforce social connections.
Digital Twins – colleagues can examine the granular details of operations within and between facilities – regardless of location. Data can be visualized directly from the Digital Twin. Real-time changes can be made, enabling the rapid optimization of processes.
Entertainment – many consumers will use the metaverse for recreation. There are incredible opportunities for sponsored events, concerts, and collaborations with entertainment concepts – depending on your brand’s positioning.
Training – staff can be given the most up-to-date training, even when this normally requires specialist equipment. A virtual version of the task can be performed in the metaverse with less risk and cost.
Customer Experience – you can help your customers get the most from products and services, by offering a 24/7 knowledge center in the metaverse. They can access instructional videos and other assets using a self-service boutique of your own creation. This can become a virtual Customer Experience Center, offering a wide range of resources.
Brand Experiences – your customer experience center can reach a bigger audience by taking that same 3D content into the metaverse. Enables interactive experiences where customers can access the most relevant information and branded digital stories.
New Revenue Streams - Selling NFTs and other virtual products might be outside your usual area. But do you want them to buy your brand in the metaverse, or a competitor? Fans of virtual worlds spend considerable sums on virtual products like ‘skins’ or accessories. Fashion companies in particular have a massive opportunity here.
Connecting Workers – people need human connections. Companies can have their own metaverse portal or space where colleagues can connect, play games, take virtual walks, or otherwise connect.
Is the Metaverse an Alternative to the Real World?
Avid gamers might see the metaverse as an excellent way to avoid the real world completely, using it to live their entire lives in a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing Game (MMORPG).
But most of us will continue to get on with life as normal. It’s just that ‘life as normal’ will contain the occasional virtual element here and there.
We already use virtual events – they’re a part of the business landscape. Embracing this trend and moving closer towards ways of extending these into the metaverse is a natural step.
Furthermore, as we continue to use immersive technologies to collaborate and create, there are numerous business cases for extending these even further. With these technologies in place, it’s possible to embark on developing the necessary skills and methods to be ready to work with your partners in the metaverse.
If you’re already using the Hyro storytelling software, then you’re on track to start thinking about experimenting with new ideas and immersive concepts like the metaverse. Hyro already possesses native capabilities for executing, 3D content, complex hybrid events and immersive experiences.
Not using Hyro yet? Get in touch with the storytelling experts at Purple, and see how we can elevate your customer experiences even further.
Digital Storytelling FAQs
What do you need for a hybrid event? Hybrid events are technically complex, but much easier to manage with good storytelling software. Digital storytelling software like Hyro can easily deploy complex digital media assets, and help moderators switch between content. As the virtual audience needs special attention, this is an important consideration. In addition to this you need a physical venue, and a range of digital stories that you can use. An immersive experience room, virtual studio or Customer Experience Center can all be used as a venue for a hybrid experience.
How do you make hybrid events engaging? Hybrid events can be engaging for both audiences, provided you take care to craft individual experiences for each. To boost engagement, you should seek ways that you can connect the two audiences with a virtual ‘mingle’, Q&As, and other interactive components.
What can the metaverse be used for business?The metaverse can be used for a number of solid business applications, especially in the area of collaboration and data-led decision making. When combined with digital twins, it’s possible to manage complex operations using the metaverse. There are also numerous opportunities of using the metaverse for branding or customer contact.
How can businesses benefit from the metaverse?Businesses have a lot to gain from the metaverse, provided they look carefully at their business model, and find a good fit. Investments should be made very carefully, and it is wise to invest only in technologies that have multiple end-uses. Exposure is one easy way for businesses to benefit from the metaverse, by leveraging advertising and branding opportunities.
What is a Customer Experience Center?A Customer Experience Center is a specially designed venue equipped with diverse audiovisual technologies. The best Customer Experience Centers use a combination of digital storytelling and interactive screens that boost engagement. The ‘gold standard’ in Customer Experience Centers is an immersive experience room, as these have a massive and lasting impact.