Which version of the Internet are you currently on? No – we’re not asking for your web browser – we’re talking about which aspects of the worldwide web you’re leveraging to support your eCommerce brand.

Web 1.0, the internet of the 1990s and early 2000s, was simpler and constructed primarily around one-way communication. If you were selling or marketing online, you would create a website using which you could sell direct to customer. Interaction with and between customers was minimal.

Web 2.0 is the current version of the Internet, referring to the more user-oriented and social aspects of the web. As online social networks have been growing in popularity, user-generated content has been gaining prominence. It refers to the transition from static webpages to dynamic, responsive web applications. Instead of communication from the website owner to the user, communication becomes dynamic and interactive. Online sellers can leverage web 2.0 via social commerce, reviews and UGC to improve the customer experience on the website and with the brand. Mobile usage also proliferated in this phase, further improving user-centrism.

While the Internet is currently in the Web 2.0 phase, Web 3.0 is coming quickly. It’s the future, represented by decentralization, immersiveness, permissionlessness, AI and ML, connectivity, and ubiquity.

How do you use Web 3.0 in your eCommerce journey? One important way is through the metaverse and virtual malls.

What’s a virtual mall?

Why do shoppers visit malls and shopping centers? In addition to the experiential aspect of shopping, trials and visual verification, there is also a strong social element to shopping in the real world. Consider two scenarios. In one, a group of friends is shopping together in a mall, trying on clothes and sharing their opinions. In the other, the friends sit in their own residences and browse online stores, sending each other links for feedback. Which sounds like the more engaging shopping experience?

With Web 3.0, a new option is emerging – one that combines the convenience of online shopping with the physical shopping experience. The virtual mall is an immersive shopping experience – a purely shopping-oriented metaverse designed to mimic a mall in every way. Shoppers use unique, custom avatars which are NFTs – they can also act as the entry ticket into the mall. These avatars explore the three-dimensional virtual space, visiting stores and experiencing products. Groups of friends can meet in the mall, wherever they are physically located, for an immersive, engaging online shopping experience.

One such recent example of a virtual mall is the Smilodo Mall. “People don’t want to go just shopping today, they want to get entertained while doing their shopping,” their CEO says, explaining that Smilodo will provide “live concerts, exhibitions, in-mall games, and art galleries”. They are focusing on improving the quality of the metaverse experience, no matter the device being used or the internet connection. They do this through server-side rendering, which “enables us to provide the highest possible graphic quality and short loading times”.

In cases where an SME doesn’t have the budget or requirement to develop a full-featured metaverse solution for themselves (such as Nike’s NIKELAND), renting or owning a 3D shop could be a great way to gain the benefits of Web 3.0’s immersive engagement.

Read also: How the Metaverse Will Shape eCommerce in future and Retail cloud usecases: How the metaverse impacts

How does Web 3.0 impact retail businesses?

  • Optimize your storefront experience using AI/ML to learn more about the consumer and their buying patterns.
  • Scale faster by automating customer support using AI-powered bots, product recommendation engines and personal shopping tools.
  • Provide personalization of store experience, omnichannel marketing and more at scale, using enhanced AI tools.
  • Allow shoppers to preview and trial products using virtual showrooms, product customization, trials on their own image or customizable avatar, and detailed 3D videos.
  • Take social proof to a new level through communities where consumers engage with each other and the brand itself.
  • Engender loyalty through NFT-based programs.
  • Offer an immersive, personal experience through metaverse technologies such as augmented reality, virtual reality, and 3D interaction.
  • Use the blockchain to streamline supply chain management through tracking automation, and improved transparency, accountability and security.
  • Accept cryptocurrencies as payment to increase trust and gain a new user base.
  • Offer exclusive virtual products for sale and use within the metaverse.

How do you prepare for Web 3.0?

Other than buying virtual real estate in an upcoming mall project, how do you as a retailer prepare for Web 3.0? Invest in your immersive metaverse experience. It’s not just an interactive way to shop – it’s also a cool new reason for shoppers to engage with your retail presence. Another important strategy is to keep some parts of your metaverse exclusive, hidden away behind a tokengate, to increase speculation and demand.

Even when it comes to your traditional eCommerce website, you can make it more Web 3.0-friendly by incorporating AI tools to make the buying experience more personalized. Incorporate trial and preview features to improve buyer satisfaction.

When it comes to the technology side of things, Forbes argues that “of all the Web 3.0 terms out there, perhaps none is so important or pervasive as ‘decentralization’.” Unlike traditional infrastructure, which was “designed for centralized data/applications with clouds and data centers”, the decentralized model demands investment in edge computing and “peer-to-peer, private, guaranteed delivery so that the new data models and applications can deliver their value without poor performance”. This also means that you need to prioritize your cybersecurity management, exploring cryptography-based trust and automation.

Some aspects of Web 3.0 are already here, even if it isn’t the dominant phase of the internet yet. Stay ahead of the curve. Develop a metaverse-powered strategy, by taking up a space in a virtual mall or other metaverse solution. Reach out to our eCommerce development team today to discuss how to keep your online store on the bleeding edge of technology.