By Christos Makridis
Crypto may be crashing, but metaverse spending is reaching new heights.
Investments in the metaverse jumped to $12 billion in 2021, from $5.9 billion in 2020 to over $5.9 billion in 2020 to over. The metaverse could grow to $13 trillion — more than half the size of the entire 2022 U.S. economy — by 2030, according to Citi Bank estimates.
The continued growth of the metaverse economy depends on the standardization of web3 luxury features as standard fare, just as air conditioning in cars went from an expensive novelty in 1968 to a basic feature in 1978. Or the transition from cellphone banking from curiosity in 2005 to ubiquity in 2022. Today, web3 is mostly a luxury good, like Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber’s metaverse gigs. It is these novelties that now captivate the media. But soon, Metaverse features will become standard utilities for airline tickets, spa bookings, and dentist appointments.
This is exactly what started to happen. Increasingly, consumer services are provided by online tokens and other Web3 tools.
But the transition of daily activities to digital spaces carries an inherent risk: the loss of community and relationships between companies and their customers, as well as their suppliers and staff. Without being able to run your fingers over the softness of a cashmere sweater or look a waiter in the eye or hear an executive explain its returns to its shareholders, and a thousand other similar everyday things, something vital is lost between a company and the people it depends on. Too easily, the intangible becomes abstract and distant.
Today, entrepreneurs are emerging to fight against this depersonalization. By providing consumers with engaging and fun metaverse experiences ranging from education to banking, these startups promise to not only deliver the standard services, but also build community and wonder.
Consider Quontic, a self-proclaimed “adaptive digital bank.” The founders of Quontic know that digital banking should offer the same services with the same quality as traditional banks, but they also recognize that being purely digital puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to connecting with customers. So how do they meet this challenge?
Quontic has built a unique structure on two plots within the metaverse. Climbing up to the building, you are confronted with a neoclassical facade, with stairs and marble columns. As you enter the digital outpost, the style shifts to more modern furnishings and decor, with posters that will take you to Quontic’s website to learn more about some of their offerings.
At the counter is a cashier named Steve (named after the CEO of Quontic), and beyond that Steve is an ATM. If you interact with the ATM, it opens a traditional 100-year-old bank vault. Walk through the vault and you enter a pool party scene, surrounded by green leafy plants and, near the center, a DJ spinning records, who will give you a free Quontic NFT.
This scene is designed to be welcoming. “We want to invite you into web3, into the metaverse, in a very clean and convenient way. So we’ve created a landing page with a call to action that says ‘Go ahead’, and we give you instructions, and we explain what NFTs are and what Decentraland is,” said Aaron Wollner, Chief Marketing Officer at Quontic.
Quontic realized early on that its primary audience and customer base were not the few thousand people who had already joined the Metaverse. Instead, most of their audience is “meta-curious”. By distributing free NFTs and designing a bank full of educational materials, Quontic reduced the learning curve for using services in the metaverse and attracted people who otherwise might not have joined this space.
But, of course, Wollner and the rest of the Quontic team knew the risks of doing business in a purely digital environment. “The internet can be a cold, flat, two-dimensional experience. We love our dot-com, we’re very proud of it. But there are limits,” says Wollner. As they built their metaverse banking service, Quontic worked hard to achieve its second goal: to create an ecosystem of experiences that would allow relationships to grow and grow stronger, rather than atrophy. “Quontic in the metaverse in 2022 is about planting a flag and being there. It doesn’t it’s not about banking,” Wollner said.
Cogni, a new digital banking platform, provides another demonstration of innovation in how banking is becoming more exciting and personalized. Cogni announced the purchase of a Bored Ape Yacht Club, a collection of NFTs built on Ethereum, some of which have been purchased by Eminem, Serena Williams, Stephen Curry, Shaquille O’Neal, Justin Bieber and other celebrities. (A “Bored Ape” is a series of images, created using a unique algorithm, that are considered a humorous commentary on Establishment personalities.) Now Cogni is taking advantage of the unique intellectual property rights of the Ape to create a Bored Ape debit card that delivers a differentiated and exciting web3 experience for customers.
Applications of blockchain technology also have many practical benefits. Scalable approaches to authentication could allow people who don’t have a Social Security number, but are in the United States for business purposes, to access credit and build a credit history. “We are looking for ways to allow users to accumulate credit on the fly,” said Archie Ravishankar, CEO and Founder of Cogni. Ultimately, NFT applications to authenticate identities using different credentials will not only improve security but also convenience.
These success stories highlight a simple truth: clients seek informative and forward-looking conversations with their bankers. A high-quality conversation with a banker, compared to a low-quality conversation, is 4.2 times more likely to produce a sale with a customer if the conversation was initiated by the banker, according to Gallup’s 2021 study on retail banking.
Banking has long been a boring and mundane process for consumers, but there are growing examples of technology companies using web3 technologies to disrupt the industry by delivering more immersive, enjoyable and profitable experiences. As these innovations bear fruit, others will follow. This is why investments will continue to flow into the metaverse no matter what happens with crypto.