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Its hybrid of virtual and augmented reality-based technology aims to create the virtual world a much more convincing replacement for the actual one. As a significant step beyond Zoom, new remote work and virtual collaboration platforms like Arthur, Microsoft Mesh, and Meta's Horizon Workrooms will allow employees to engage with one another's avatars and share ideas.

They'll make purchasing for everything from fashion and luxury items to art much more authentic. It's understandable how such cutting-edge technology may make cities and other physical areas obsolete.

However, the truth is that this metaverse, like every significant previous wave of an invention before it, complements locality rather than replaces it.

Even as the metaverse enables a much more realistic experience of the digital world and allows us to do a lot more things online, it will still be unable to replicate the emotional cues, body language, serendipity, and diversity that occur when people cluster. It will also not be able to lower switching costs between locations and transaction costs in general.

Ironically, the metaverse is likely to diminish the number of locations that actually matter even as it expands the nature of the location and allows people to communicate from virtually everywhere. The size, scope, and connective infrastructure of just a very small number of major global cities enable them to serve as the centers for global collaboration.

The world's top centers for innovation, corporate headquarters, flagship stores for luxury goods, and institutes for art, culture, and research will all continue to be found in these superstar cities.

Physical location will become more—not less—critical for business as a result of the metaverse. This is already happening to some extent, as cities like Dubai and Shanghai implement plans to draw in firms and residents interested in the metaverse.

This may provide perfect testing grounds for brands among eager early adopters. In order to attract and connect talent, businesses will need to think more strategically than ever before about where to locate their offices and innovation hubs, where to locate their retail locations to draw in customers and increase brand awareness, and more generally how to balance their physical and digital footprints.

Cities and the Metaverse Complement Each Other

It is crucial to comprehend how the metaverse and location function as complements to one another in order to think strategically about them. Here, it helps to conceive of them as channels, each suitable for sending various types of data.

A convenient way to get and use a lot of information is through the metaverse. Prior digital channels like Zoom, email, messengers, chat rooms, and social networks are built upon and advanced by this. It will transmit data, simulated videos, avatars, video, audio, and images at extremely high bandwidth.

According to a 2018 study, 20 minutes in a virtual reality simulation can record almost two million body language cues. This robust and all-encompassing virtual link has tangible benefits. Compared to the physical world or current digital platforms, businesses can gather richer data via larger networks. This involves finding fresh, affordable methods for numerous businesses to enhance their goods, services, and user experiences. While some of this can entail virtual reality, it might also include simpler accessibility options like augmented reality provided by smartphones.

Engagement of Consumers in the Real and Virtual Worlds

Customer interaction and the retail environment are two good examples. By combining a virtual channel with a real one, e-commerce transformed how companies interact with their customers a few decades ago. The metaverse presents a wealth of fresh opportunities for data collection that will enhance customer interaction and experiences.

With the addition of digital information, data, and communications, AR headsets being developed by companies like Meta, Microsoft, and Apple will allow customers to participate in live events like conferences, performances, and sporting contests as if they were physically present. The next wave of personalization might be driven by technologies that support the metaverse.

In fact, businesses are already experimenting with novel approaches to improve the customer experience, including special drops and experiences to reward devoted "real world" consumers, digital twins of tangible goods, metaverse games with NFT prizes, and more. By transferring aspects of the actual world into the digital one, such as virtual burritos, Wendyverses, and recreating metropolitan areas electronically in spaces like Decentraland, businesses have thus far dabbled in this field. These are entertaining, but they currently show little sign of being able to fully replace the rich experiences of the real world.

Future Plans for Action

All of this indicates that location will become a more important factor in corporate success as the metaverse era unfolds. Managers need to make location the focal point of business development strategy in order to be ready for this. They require a complementary locational plan in addition to their commercial and technology strategy for the metaverse.

The importance of that locational strategy should be raised to the C suite level, and it should emphasize the synergistic advantages of both virtual and actual spaces and locations.

Insofar as key talent can be found both locally and remotely, there should be a discussion of the distribution of talent pools between "centers of life" and "centers of work," as well as the new social contract governing the expectations of both the employer and the employee. This is presuming that the employee can work from a variety of high- and low-cost locations throughout their career.

Greater than anything that has come before, the metaverse represents a huge technological advance that has the potential to greatly resemble the real world in which we currently live, work, and shop. However, it won't eliminate the requirement for a physical presence in urban areas.

Companies will have access to a wider talent pool and happier employees, typically at a lesser cost, if they meet people where they are and want to be, especially in smaller cities and towns. But in the end, the metaverse is probably going to increase the importance of superstar cities more than ever because this increasingly dispersed workforce will need venues to congregate and connect in the real world.

By James Robinson

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