Why The UPS Store Is Now in the Metaverse | Nuggets on Comfort and Failure | Is the Metaverse a Worthy Risk? | How to Get Started in the Metaverse | Types of Companies in the Metaverse | Final Thoughts
If you look up the definition of “metaverse,” you will find more musings than concrete facts. That’s partially the point, really. The metaverse is unfolding and evolving before our eyes.
It’s akin to what the internet was to people just a few decades ago. Lots of people don’t quite know what the metaverse is. Thus people — including businesses — are creating the definitions as we go.
One such business is The UPS Store. Yes, the shipping company whose drivers bring your holiday packages and whose stores handle everything from shipping to notary services.
In October 2022, the retailer announced a new collaboration with business media brands, Inc. and Fast Company. Through this partnership, The UPS Store opened its virtual doors in the metaverse with its “Helping You Be Unstoppable” store.
The store, created in the virtual reality platform, Decentraland, is designed to provide small-business owners exclusive content and tips to help them start and grow their businesses.
Ramon Ray sat down with The UPS Store’s Senior Vice President of Marketing & Sales, Michelle Van Slyke, to hear her take on the move. Here are her thoughts on the metaverse and its significance in the small business world.
Why The UPS Store Is Now in the Metaverse
The UPS Store serves small businesses in numerous ways. For one, it’s a franchise organization made up of small-business owners who own and operate over 5,100 retail locations across the United States.
The UPS Store enables people to pursue business ownership under a famous name brand, with support from corporate headquarters every step of the way. For veterans, too, The UPS Store offers a discount on the initial franchise fee, significantly reducing the barriers to entry.
In addition, it provides valuable services to the small business community. Whether they need a postal address to appear more professional or shredding services, The UPS Store is there to make running a business a bit easier.
However, by venturing into the metaverse, The UPS Store is set to serve small businesses in even more ways.
Van Slyke explains that the company sees it as an opportunity to provide small-business owners with insight, guidance, and support in a different environment.
It’s also a way to be innovative in a world that’s increasingly interested in all things metaverse, Van Slyke explains.
On Moving Away From Comfort and Failure
While the metaverse is a popular topic nowadays, it doesn’t come with a success guarantee. Entrepreneurs and brands like The UPS Store dipping their virtual toes into the metaverse don’t necessarily know how their efforts might go over.
“Yet, that’s exactly why it’s the right place to be,” according to Van Slyke. “It helps us think differently and look at things we haven’t done,” she says. “It’s been a good experience for us for sure.”
With any new venture, there’s always the possibility that things will either work well or be a complete failure. However, “if you don’t try, you don’t know,” Van Slyke urges.
Indeed, as an entrepreneur, you need to be OK with not knowing the precise end result of your efforts. Getting uncomfortable, taking calculated risks, and not being afraid of failure will take you far.
“You need to have that as part of your business. You need to do that on a regular basis. Otherwise, you’re going to get into this routine,” says Van Slyke. “Comfort is never a good thing in the business world. You always need to anticipate what’s coming next and where your opportunities are.”
Is the Metaverse a Worthy Risk for Small Business Owners?
Joining the metaverse gave The UPS Store “a chance to really stretch our legs,” says Van Slyke.
They are no longer simply one of the many stores within 10 miles for 84% of the U.S. population. Now, they are right at your fingertips with a virtual storefront.
The metaverse project also invited collaboration with The UPS Store’s advisory group of store owners. Together, they looked at the business differently and sought additional ways to connect with small-business owners.
But as a small business owner, is taking risks a wise option in the current economy? Coupled with the aftermath of the pandemic, inflation, supply-chain issues, and recruiting woes have impacted small businesses in all sectors. Hence the question, should businesses think about the metaverse amid these challenges?
While there are still many unknowns about this new frontier, it’s clear that embracing technological innovations such as augmented and virtual realities is beneficial. Moreover, the metaverse is a world where traditional barriers to entry are often significantly lower.
But for companies operating under one set of rules for decades or centuries, such a change is tough to embrace.
However, now may be an ideal time to start thinking about how your business will fit into this new world order:
- If you’re open to shifting with the times,
- Being flexible, and
- Adapting quickly when necessary — especially during crises
How to Get Started in the Metaverse: 6 Steps
The metaverse, a hot topic right now, can be a lucrative investment for your business — if done right. Here are some tips on how to get started:
1. Identify What You Want To Accomplish in the Metaverse
If you want to improve customer experience or increase sales, use that as a guidepost when planning your VR project.
2. Do Your Homework
There are many companies out there that offer virtual worlds as part of their services. Find out which ones offer what you need and how much they cost.
3. Get Your Team Onboard
As a small business owner, you know how challenging it is to get everyone on the same page. But with enough in-depth information and a good presentation, you can get your team to see how the metaverse benefits the business.
4. Plan Ahead
Make sure your company has an established plan for its virtual world before developing a new virtual space. Your project must include details about the following:
- How to market and sell products or services through this new channel,
- How much will it cost?
- What kind of return on investment do you expect from this venture within a specific timeframe?
A solid business plan will also help meet the company’s short and long-term objectives.
5. Identify Your Audience
Understand who your customers are. Here, your audience is everyone who uses your product or service — from your employees to your customers and vendors.
6. Understand Their Needs
Identify what motivates people to buy from you and how you can use that to attract and retain more customers.
This will help you create a digital strategy that supports their needs while also increasing your bottom line (and making them happy).
What Types of Companies Exist in the Metaverse?
News Flash: You’re not alone in the metaverse. If you’re wondering what kind of company you will have in the metaverse, know that you won’t be alone.
Many big brands are hopping into this virtual world in different ways and can serve as valuable partners, neighbors, or healthy competition.
Here’s a sampling of which brands you will find in the metaverse:
- Nike. The retailer’s NIKELAND is based at the brand’s headquarters. Pay a visit for an immersive experience in sport and play.
- Samsung. Also built in Decentraland, the Samsung metaverse store 837x has been open since January 2022. It’s a “choose your own adventure” environment where you can interact with other characters.
- Coca-Cola. The beverage brand launched an NFT collection with OpenSea. With a winning bid of over $575,000, the branded assets also came with a real-life Coca-Cola refrigerator stocked with beverages.
For more examples of brands getting creative in the metaverse, see this article from Influencer Marketing Hub.
Final Thoughts: A Brave New World
While you might decide to open your virtual doors as The UPS Store did, it’s important to remember your roots, too. Van Slyke points to the fact that The UPS Store still offers faxing services (arguably, faxing occurs in a virtual reality of its own).
Still, the future of retail will include both online and offline experiences. So, if you want to broaden your universe and remain on the cutting edge, the metaverse might be the perfect place to do it.
Remember, the metaverse is still a relatively young platform for brand building. The barriers to entry are low enough to get started, but you are still at the mercy of many other parameters that could influence your success or failure.
Your best bet is to learn from the experiences of others. Then, carefully analyze how your business might operate in this new marketplace.
Watch this video to get the full gist of Ramon’s conversation with Van Slyke.
About Michelle Van Slyke
Michelle Van Slyke is the senior vice president of marketing and sales for The UPS Store, Inc., which provides print and small business solutions to entrepreneurs and small-business owners at 5,000 franchise locations across the U.S.
Ramon Ray is unapologetically positive. He’s the publisher of Breakfast with Champions BWCDaily.com and ZoneofGenius.com Ramon’s an expert in personal branding and founded Celebrity CEO™ focused on personal branding. He’s a serial entrepreneur who’s started 5 companies and sold three of them. Get to know him better at RamonRay.com