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The metaverse versus AI – where should you hedge your bets?

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by Startacus Admin


Thomas Peham, VP of Marketing at enterprise CMS Storyblok, explores the new marketing opportunities afforded by the metaverse and AI and where startups should consider placing their marketing spend.

Ever since Mark Zuckerberg announced Meta's rebrand towards the back end of 2021, it would seem it was all that anyone could talk about. Shortly after, of course, Microsoft joined the metaverse party by announcing the introduction of a ‘quasi-reality’ capability to make Microsoft Teams meetings more engaging. Further major names claimed their stake too, with Disney patenting technology for a theme park metaverse and Nike launching a ‘virtual shoe’ company.

pexels-thisisengineering-3861969 The result? While once a distant, futuristic concept, the consensus was that the metaverse - a virtual space generated by combining virtual worlds, augmented reality and internet services - could be tech’s biggest breakthrough to date.

That was, of course, until the recent arrival of ChatGPT bringing with it an uncanny ability to generate near-perfect human-like text. Able to write everything from proposals, emails and blogs, to even coding and poetry, Open-AI’s highly capable chatbot has roused all sorts of discussions about the future of marketing and whether it could ever be truly usurped by our robotic overlords. 

But while both techs certainly constitute a watershed moment, the question begs - where's it all going? - and, more importantly, where should businesses be hedging their bets? 

Of course, these concepts are very different both in their scope and stage of development. The metaverse is still essentially on the drawing board, whereas services such as ChatGPT and DALL-E are already being incorporated into tech platforms and being used to fulfil specific parking functions. In fact, we quickly got a taste of generative AI being applied to our platform when our partner Virtual Identity created a plugin for our CMS to enable content creators to insert images generated by DALL-E while they are working on webpages. In one fell swoop, Virtual Identity had removed both the tedious nature of searching image libraries, and the need to buy stock photos. Creators could generate the most appropriate image they needed instantly, without even leaving our CMS. 

What the metaverse and AI have in common is that they pose strategic questions to companies. Everytime a new ‘hot’ tech trend emerges, business leaders need to parse whether it is simply hype or a solution that provides a clear commercial opportunity which will require investment to realise. The metaverse itself may not ever arrive in the manner that Meta envisions, however, artificial and virtual experiences do present obvious and exciting new ways to engage customers. Businesses can invest in developing these experiences now and potentially carve out a competitive advantage and align their brand with innovation. On the other hand, AI presents a number of clear ways to both engage customers through, for example, chatbot experiences, and create serious efficiencies through automation. Combining both major trends opens the door to a mind boggling number of new use cases. 

/pexels-matheus-bertelli-16094041So what is the best course of action? Invest time and money on one, bank on both or do nothing until the best applications emerge? The answer to that is far from straightforward and will very much depend on the commercial strategy of individual businesses. What is universally true is that to use AI, AR/VR or indeed any new tech in your marketing effectively, you need to ensure you have the right modern tech platforms. Far too many businesses invest in experimenting with, or applying, new innovations when really their resources would be much better applied ensuring the infrastructure they use is up to scratch. We regularly conduct research into the state of CMS in the UK and the findings show that the majority of businesses are still using outdated and inflexible CMS systems to run their marketing. For example, 55% said they had to use multiple CMS systems. Using more than one CMS can cause disorganised workflows, content siloing, and communication issues, as well as increasing costs and reducing efficiency.

Nearly a third said they were forced to do that because their infrastructure was outdated. 87% of the companies we surveyed said that modernising their content operations produced significant financial and productivity benefits. 

To put it bluntly, if your business is struggling to efficiently run its existing website, produce personalised communications campaigns and effectively manage content on its channels as it is - adding in more complex advanced tech is never going to work. This doesn’t just mean having, for example, a headless CMS platform - it also means ensuring that your data infrastructure is up to scratch. Effective marketing is run on data and that is even more true for AI and VR/AR experiences. 

While it’s certainly an incredibly exciting time for the business sector, as it looks to the new opportunities afforded by technologies to work smarter, not harder, that’s not to say it's time to hang up the bootstraps. More than ever, amid the current economic landscape it’s important the startups do not lose sight of the task in hand and more pressing challenges. Building a foundation with a good, modern tech infrastructure will make your life much easier, save your team time and money, allow you to create more effective marketing campaigns, and yes, set your company up to capitalise on any new tech trend.  

Thomas Peham_colour (ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thomas Peham is VP of Marketing at Storyblok, leading a team of 30+ talents, influencing business growth through positioning Storyblok as the CMS for the 21st century. Storyblok to date empowers content teams and developers in 130+ countries with clients including adidas, Oatly, Harvard Business School and T-Mobile.


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Published on: 6th April 2023

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