Local mobile telecommunications group MTN has bought 144 plots of digital land in Africarare – making them the first African company to enter the metaverse. This is in line with the current trend of big brands globally investing in an expanded digital presence, from McDonald’s virtual restaurant to Nike’s ‘sneakers for the metaverse’. The big question for small businesses who don’t have billions to spend on intangible products and plots of land, is how they will operate in the metaverse?
“Essentially, the metaverse is the future version of the internet. What small businesses need to do right now, is to claim and maintain digital real estate, in the form of a strong online presence. This will ensure that they are able to compete in a virtual economy,” says Thomas Vollrath, head of local web-hosting company 1-grid.com.
In South Africa, small businesses have had to adapt to the new world of ecommerce and digital retail due to Covid-19. For many, this has increased access to consumers, improved communications, and boosted overall profits. The metaverse represents a further shift into virtual reality, which will mean different things to different businesses. Starting with a website and online presence is the best way to get a foothold on the future.
Websites provide business owners with digital tools to analyse, learn, and predict how their consumers perceive them and the way they make purchasing decisions. “It is a means of gaining as much information about your customer as possible, and converting that into useable data which can help enhance your offering – now and when planning ahead,” says Vollrath.
With free website builder tools and simple ecommerce plugins available online, even the least tech-savvy entrepreneurs can easily set up basic websites. Purchasing a dedicated domain name ensures a business can own their digital space – this provides credibility, in both the virtual world and the real one.
“The connections and trust you’re building on your website and via social media, will still apply in the metaverse. That’s why it’s so important to start building that presence and growing your online community now. The metaverse is virtual, but it’s also real and is likely to explode in terms of its role in the economy over the next few years. Starting now ensures small businesses are perfectly positioned to take advantage of this and stay ahead of the game,” says Vollrath.
The metaverse – which is still in its infancy – is unlikely affect small businesses now, but a lot can change in ten years. “Once the doors are open, there will be a flood of opportunities for local businesses to take advantage of, provided they’ve set up the necessary digital infrastructure in the meantime,” says Vollrath.
With a focus on small-to-medium-sized businesses in South Africa, 1.grid.com offers an all-in-one digital solution, including business and domain name registration, SSL certificates, web security packages, and web and email hosting. Their DIY website builder allows entrepreneurs to build an online store and is accessible via a mobile app, which facilitates website creation and management from any location. For more information visit www.1-grid.com.