Magnati, the payments business unit of First Abu Dhabi Bank, unveiled a new metaverse platform that aims to offer consumers access to the growing experiential e-commerce segment and boost retailer revenue.
Magnati-MetaV, the “first” metaverse marketplace platform in the region, runs on the company's own blockchain technology and fully integrates the metaverse with traditional payment networks, Magnati said in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.
MetaV will also provide opportunities for merchants to scale up their operations that are otherwise constrained to the resources that they have, Ramana Kumar, chief executive of Magnati, told The National at the launch.
“Experiential commerce is the only way around … there is no other option; it has to come. It is not a new fad — it is a necessity because people want to visualise, see and be very close to reality,” he said.
“It is important that customers feel and experience products today, which doesn't happen because most of the purchases on e-commerce happens by looking at a two-dimensional picture, which doesn't really satisfy what they want.”
Experiential e-commerce is not new but it is becoming popular, thanks to advancements in related technology, most notably the growth in virtual, augmented and mixed realities, and associated hardware such as headsets and wireless controllers.
Amazon, the world's largest online marketplace, already has a similar service called AR View, which lets customers view products in 3D and even position certain products such as furniture in their homes before purchase.
The metaverse is the emerging digital space in which people, represented by avatars or three-dimensional likenesses, can interact in virtual worlds.
It is part of Web3, the next evolution of the web, with blockchain, decentralisation, openness and greater user utility among its core components.
The value of the global metaverse market is expected to exceed $1.6 trillion by 2030 at a compound annual growth rate of over 50 per cent, from an estimated $40 billion in 2021, according to Canada-based Precedence Research.
MetaV is expected to go live next week and will be available on its app, the web and through the use of Oculus VR headsets. Users can create avatars and explore a virtual world featuring a number of retail and services segments.
While there is no difference from standard blockchain technology, MetaV's framework allows merchants to participate in the system by becoming nodes, Mr Kumar said.
Nodes are the parts that run a blockchain and which validate and store transactions.
“We have informally had discussions with different merchants … we are going to meet them and start initiating proofs of concepts,” he said.
Mr Kumar said MetaV will be able to address challenges consumers face in e-commerce, including receiving the wrong products.
In hospitality, the platform will allow customers to see what a hotel room looks like before booking it.
For merchants, especially those constrained to brick-and-mortar premises, the platform will allow them to scale up their services and attract more customers, he said.
For example, in education, where physical seats are limited, companies can offer their services virtually. For live events such as concerts, people can book tickets and experience them from afar.
Overall, MetaV can lead to a very high returns-to-sales ratio, which measures a company's operational efficiency. The higher the ratio, the more efficient the operations are.
The platform is also designed to address security concerns, with Mr Kumar asserting that identities, transactions and avatars are protected to prevent fraud and theft.
“The power of having all of them under one blockchain is to exponentially grow and scale up,” Mr Kumar said.
It would also prepare both users and merchants for “future opportunities around tokens, coins and other technologies that are part of the blockchain”, he said, referring to cryptocurrencies.
When regulations for cryptocurrencies are in place, “our technology is ready”, Mr Kumar said.
“The metaverse has always been associated to cryptocurrencies … not everyone is comfortable with paying through them.”
“What [users] can do is utilise the experiential commerce part of it in the metaverse and use existing payment gateways. And, in the future, when regulations come in, they can pay in crypto.”