The Metaverse Isn’t Dead – It Might be Coming to a Powersports Dealer Near You

The Metaverse isn’t dead yet. In fact, some believe it will provide powersports enthusiasts, as well as dealers, manufacturers and service centers, with remarkable opportunities.

Like most emerging technologies riding the hype cycle, the Metaverse has seen its moment in the sun quickly eclipsed by a newer shinier tech — generative AI — and a more realistic appraisal of its near-term potential.

In my view, the Metaverse isn’t dead yet. In fact, the evolution of the internet to an immersive virtual world integrated with the real world, holds tons of promise and potential. I believe it will provide powersports enthusiasts, as well as dealers, manufacturers and service centers, with remarkable opportunities.

The Metaverse will merge the virtual with the real. Augmented reality will layer information and simulation on top of your perception of the real world. Fully virtual environments will enable you to move around and explore three-dimensional worlds bounded only by human imagination.

Imagine immediate access to retail stores and sporting events unconstrained by physical limitations. Tours of exotic, inaccessible places. Engaging performances of stories where you are smack in the middle as they unfold. But, beyond commerce and entertainment, the Metaverse will help us reinvent the basics of business – design, manufacturing and operations. 

If the Metaverse is this great, why all the dismissive reports of its early demise? Probably because of too much attention too soon. The Metaverse got a massive PR boost a couple of years ago when Facebook announced that it was repositioning itself around the virtual world concept. It even changed its name to Meta. Then, after some disappointments, Meta deemphasized the Metaverse in favor of another technology that has made an even bigger splash – generative AI. Many other companies have followed suit.

While this may be the case, it’s a mistake to discount potentially transformative technologies like the Metaverse. They take time to develop, evolving in fits and starts, in successes and failures. Consider “the cloud.” Championed as the future computing model for decades, it’s finally become a ubiquitous reality, with businesses spending billions to race to the cloud and tap its advantages.

Does the Powersports Industry Need Virtual Reality?

It might seem odd for an industry rooted in exciting movement through real world environments – ATVs, motorcycles, side-by-sides, and personal watercrafts – to be ripe for Metaverse innovation. In fact, I believe the powersports industry is perfectly positioned to capitalize on this remarkable new platform. It’s not that hard to see why.

Manufacturers could use the Metaverse for prototyping new designs and features. For improving production processes. For testing performance in simulated environments. But, I see the impact of the Metaverse extending throughout the powersports value chain, enhancing the customer experience every step of the way. 

Virtual dealerships in the Metaverse could easily transform the way powersports vehicles are sold. A dealer could provide a potential customer with a virtual motorcycle test drive or simulate riding an ATV on an off-road course, all from the comfort of their own living room or the dealership showroom floor. For dealerships that may have limited resources and staff, a Metaverse solution could also be utilized in finance departments to include product and menu presentations that would ensure compliance and fair reviews of all products and finance solutions.

Think beyond the initial sale of an ATV or personal watercraft. A Synchrony study showed 97 percent of powersports consumers actively purchased aftermarket products within a year of purchasing their unit, an enormous appetite for an enhanced and engaged customer experience. 

Take the maintenance experience, for example. A recent report noted that the Metaverse will make it “easier to train and license third-party technicians in distant locations, as well as allow OEMS to better engage with customers throughout the life cycle of a vehicle.” This could be a game changer in a world where skilled professionals are increasingly scarce.

For simpler repairs, a Metaverse experience might coach an ATV owner through the repair process inside a virtual, 3D garage. But why stop there? 

Imagine something as potentially boring as buying a new set of ATV tires. Available options can easily overwhelm a customer – brands, treads, price point. A Metaverse store could transform the buying experience by, not just showing each customer the various tires for their ATV, but by also offering a virtual ride on each tire type, simulating its unique ride characteristics over various terrains and weather conditions. The Metaverse could easily become an incredible sales tool.  

First Steps

How can the powersports industry get started on its Metaverse journey? Start thinking about immersive 3D experiences in the Metaverse that would enhance the customer experience. How could they be more intuitive, informative and fun? Then, brainstorm how to build an environment for them. Also consider how to monetize and market the new platform, studying ways to integrate it with existing physical locations and processes. 

Don’t forget payments. It’s unclear at this point if the Metaverse will rely on a single currency and, if so, what that currency might be. However it plays out, a robust payments capability together with ways to easily explore financing options, will be essential to the platform’s usefulness for business. Stay tuned.

With the rise of the Metaverse, savvy industry pros could reinvent the way people shop, buy, maintain, accessorize, and enjoy their vehicles. By melding the digital and real worlds, they will delight customers and drive sales. The Metaverse is anything but dead. Long live the Metaverse.

Darrell Owens is a senior vice president at Synchrony and head of the company’s lifestyle platform with nearly 20 years of expertise in powersports financing.

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