Growing conversations around the metaverse across multiple sectors show that organizations are increasingly looking to throw their weight behind this nascent immersive world.
This new virtual world offers incredible promise. Gartner predicts that by 2026, 25% of people around the world will spend at least one hour a day in the metaverse for work, shopping, education, socializing and entertainment. So it’s not surprising that over $120 billion has been invested in the metaverse in 2022 alone, dwarfing the $57 billion invested in all of last year, per a report from McKinsey. Furthermore, the report projects the metaverse could grow to $5 trillion in value by 2030.
This huge promise has galvanized companies to position their businesses to reap the metaverse’s benefits. Organizations like Disney, P&G and LVMH have recently appointed chief metaverse officers, while others, like Nike, Balenciaga and Gucci, are hiring for metaverse-related jobs. But what is a chief metaverse officer — and why should an organization hire one today?
Typically, a chief metaverse officer (CMTO) is responsible for the development and maintenance of a company’s online presence in the metaverse. However, some industry leaders are debating the need for, and the definition of a chief metaverse officer.
Scott Keeney (aka DJ Skee), CMTO at TSX Entertainment, told VentureBeat that “a chief metaverse officer would be an individual with vast experience in the [metaverse] space with deep knowledge of video games and the Web3 ecosystem. Along with technical knowledge, the typical chief metaverse officer is also expected to be well-versed in the creative side of the market and be able to drive an organization’s metaverse efforts. This includes knowing and recruiting individuals with a background in development platforms such as Unreal Engine, Unity and CryEngine … or Blender and Maya.”
Keeney further noted that the CMTO must have a vision of the metaverse environment, in addition to technical expertise in cryptocurrency, cloud computing, blockchain and gaming engines.
Ultimately, the chief metaverse officer manages the organization’s brand, image, mission and vision across various virtual platforms and accessories, he said.
As the metaverse is still in its early phases, it’s not surprising that only a small portion of the C-suite fully understands the metaverse — as Apple’s CEO Tim Cook admits in an article — and how it might shape things across the enterprise in the next few years. However, Marty Resnik, VP and analyst at Gartner, believes “this is the best time for learning, exploring and preparing for a metaverse with limited implementation.”
Similarly, Vanessa Mullin, business development manager for metaverse and interactive media at Agora, told VentureBeat that “for a business that intends to experiment with the metaverse, employing a CMTO is inevitable.”
“When you think of C-suite roles, they are designed to have particular strategy and resources, as well as management principles that flow from the very tip of the arrow,” she added. “How a company moves forward is based a lot on having a team of very effective leaders pulling their teams in the right direction. The way the metaverse is predicted to go, huge resources and responsibility are going to need innovative, but stable, leadership and management.”
For a business exploring how it will fit into the wider landscape and can take advantage of the endless opportunities within the metaverse, it’s the CMTO’s task to work out the angles and find what works. Hiring a CMTO will help a company stay on top of emerging metaverse trends and focus on what aspects of these trends will help meet their business’ specific needs.
But while Mullin believes it’s imperative to hire a metaverse team right off the bat, she suggests that a CMTO might come in later. “To start, I think a small metaverse ‘strike team’ will suffice. Someone to test, play and research what works best for your business. Once you find your footing and establish your ‘probable mass function,’ then you can hire a metaverse officer to manage and execute on your roadmaps,” she said.
On the other hand, if moving some of your business into the metaverse is a priority, you might have appointed your chief metaverse officer already.
It’s a CMTO’s job to figure out what use cases for the metaverse are best for their company, said Keeney. “It might not make sense to build a bank in the metaverse on a platform like Roblox, or Fortnite, or Decentraland. The CMTO has to figure out new ways to interact or engage or help transactions in the metaverse and build tools to get the business there.”
As Cathy Hackl, founder and chief metaverse officer at Journey, said, “This is how you can test assumptions in some of these virtual worlds or test how your brand might be able to do certain things. You can do those things as prototypes and privately.”
The world is still some years away from mass adoption of metaverse platforms. But if you’re building your own metaverse in anticipation, you need someone who can start moving the bits and pieces in the right direction now. P&G launched a digital platform called BeautySPHERE this year, and reimagined a popular TV ad from the 1980s into a video game. Nike bought a virtual sneaker company, and created a world modeled on its real-life headquarters. Starbucks is introducing coffee-themed NFTs, or nonfungible tokens, linked to its customer loyalty program.
Gartner predicts that “up until 2024, direct opportunities for large-scale adoption in the metaverse will be limited,” adding that “the market is beginning to explore and experiment with applications and use cases with high, long-term value.” The state of the metaverse today may be far from mainstream — even with all the investment in the space, Gartner estimates the metaverse will become mature by 2030. But if your business is looking to be a player in the metaverse when it reaches full maturity, the time to build a metaverse team — and even to appoint a CMTO — is now.
Keeney claims that this early phase of the metaverse is important. “It reminds me a lot of the dot-com era — there was so much hype and people were confused by it. It can be very intimidating; everybody was getting into it, we all knew that it was the future and it just accelerated so quickly. Then it actually had to be built, after which it slowly took over our lives. And that’s what I think is going to happen with the metaverse, like we’re in that phase. We have hit that place where people are now asking questions about it and getting infused by it,” he said.
By hiring a CMTO, your business invests in a long-term strategy that will take you into the metaverse ahead of your customers. An executive who oversees metaverse-related work will interface with many departments: product, marketing, business development and partnerships, policy, legal and more. A cross-company perspective requires someone with peripheral vision and the ability to unify a strategy. It will offer a glimpse into a future when the metaverse is neither a novelty nor a separate entity, but an established paradigm that touches every element of your business.