ACROSS: Brands are quite active when it comes to the Metaverse. Shopping malls, on the other hand, are rather on the fence. Why is that?
YURDAER KAHRAMAN: The Metaverse concept has emerged recently and is swiftly gaining remarkable traction. Research suggests the Metaverse will generate hundreds of billions of dollars in income within a decade. By 2030, 1 billion people will be Metaverse users, with each user projected to spend hundreds of dollars annually within this digital realm. Global brands, in particular, make significant investments in this area. The energy, high-tech, media, and entertainment sectors take the lead in this sense. Shopping malls are exercising caution when it comes to the Metaverse because of the rapid and uncertain nature of changes in customer demands and habits. Shopping malls are places where people come together, socialize and engage in shopping that involves seeing, touching, and experiencing. Although shopping habits have shifted to online platforms to a certain extent, a significant amount of people still prefer physical shopping experiences. In this sense, shopping malls meet the demand for socialization and physical experience. Shopping malls need more data and research to assess evolving customer demands and habits and to take the proper steps at the right time. We anticipate that shopping malls will increasingly invest in the Metaverse due to various factors, including projects initiated by brands and evolving consumer behavior.
ACROSS: What are your expectations about the Metaverse, and what is your biggest concern?
KAHRAMAN: The Metaverse is an immersive digital reality environment where the virtual and physical worlds merge. It’s a digital universe where everyone can interact, do business, have fun, and engage in experiences. It has a lot to offer to individuals and brands: interactive experience, social interaction, cultural experience, education, and learning, as well as business opportunities. As Metaverse technologies develop and become more widespread, the expectations placed upon them are bound to increase. But as technology evolves, important issues such as ethics, privacy, and security must be addressed. The interaction between users across many different platforms presents some potential dangers. There may be privacy breaches, such as monitoring personal data and activities. It can bring problems such as cyber-attacks and fraud. In interactive environments, users may be subject to cyberbullying, harassment, and attacks. Such behavior can negatively impact users’ psychological and emotional well-being. It could lead to users becoming detached from the real world and dependent on the virtual world, widening the digital divide and depriving some people of the benefits of the Metaverse. To sum up, like other topics, the digital world brings challenges and risk factors. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to stand against it. You need to understand your risk and develop a robust risk management strategy as you do on your daily business tasks. That kind of approach will minimize the potential risks and concerns of the Metaverse.
ACROSS: In which areas do you believe the Metaverse applications are most viable and why?
KAHRAMAN: Arts and entertainment, commerce and marketing, education, collaboration, and business environments can be considered areas where apps are already in use and are likely to increase in importance. It is a new platform for artists and creative industries and can be used as a platform for virtual stores, virtual brand experiences, and digital commerce. Companies can showcase their products virtually, offer interactive shopping experiences and build a closer relationship with consumers. It can provide virtual work environments where people in different places can come together to work and interact. Practices such as remote working, virtual meetings, collaboration tools, and project management can boost employee productivity and improve business processes.
ACROSS: Where does your company stand when it comes to the Metaverse?
KAHRAMAN: Technology is critical to ensure sustainability in business processes. In this era, in particular, it has become a necessity rather than an option for organizations to adapt to technology. Technology is developing at an ever-increasing pace and becoming an even more indispensable part of our lives. At the point where corporate life has reached, leveraging all the possibilities technology offers saves companies time and efficiency by minimizing the margin of error and risk. We are a brand that has always been a pioneer in the sector with our work and practices, developing projects and contributing to the sector’s advancement. The concept and applications of the Metaverse are also quite important for us in this sense. It’s a new, engaging way to reach a younger, digitally connected consumer audience. This path can put us in a trendsetter position and let us steer the future of our sector. With the projects we will realize, we will reach a wider audience and seize new marketing and sales opportunities for our brands. By bringing the physical store experience to the virtual environment, we can offer customers more interactive and innovative experiences. We can increase customer loyalty by providing experiences such as virtual shopping, interactive events, and social interactions in the Metaverse. By meeting customers’ expectations to shop, participate in events, and interact socially in the virtual world, we can deliver more personalized and engaging experiences. We continue our work in this direction. Backed by the financial support of Fiba Group subsidiaries, we implemented an NFT project that we all deeply care about. We launched an NFT campaign in İnegöl Shopping Mall and received great interest. We distributed 506 NFT Packs and 2,188 NFTs to our customers as part of the campaign. Although the numbers are impressive, we know we have a long road ahead. To pursue that, we have started to create a road map for our commercial real estate projects in Eastern Europe. By examining the potential demands of our properties, we will have other campaigns to implement. For instance, I will fly to China in June just to explore our needs for Metaverse with our team. You have to be there to understand the current demand and potential ways to provide them. We can also create an environment where Özyeğin University can join us in this project for the upcoming years.
As technology advances at a dizzying pace, the world is changing and transforming. Ten years ago, we couldn’t have imagined that the Bitcoin market would be where it is today, that in 5 years, concepts like the Metaverse and NFT would become so popular. We could not have imagined that the pandemic would trigger such a significant transformation in our lives. As a result of this transformation, we have also seen that shopping malls have evolved into a delivery point. Such examples, studies, and practices will become increasingly common. We continue working on different shopping mall projects with our solid technological infrastructure. In the coming period, we will continue to invest in technology, keep up with the times with these investments and carry FİBA CP into the future.
ACROSS: Who is responsible for this area in the company?
KAHRAMAN: Fiba CP Marketing and Corporate Communications department has started this project by cooperating with our other departments. Since it requires another competence, we plan to have another separate department.
ACROSS: What kind of partnerships are needed?
KAHRAMAN: The Metaverse has excellent potential in the retail sector in terms of offering virtual shopping experiences. Retail and e-commerce companies can open virtual stores on Metaverse platforms, offering customers interactive shopping experiences and creating new revenue models. Therefore, partnering with technology providers or Metaverse platforms can bring significant advantages to retail companies.
ACROSS: What was the most important thing you learned when tackling the subject?
KAHRAMAN: The rapid change in the world now necessitates being more than an observer and follower; it requires rapid implementation. Apps are evolving so fast that you will inevitably be left behind if you are not at the forefront. For this reason, we need to try out innovative business models at the earliest and let our visitors experience them. Our utmost priority has been to embark on this journey of discovery, as it aligns with our organizational and service culture to explore uncharted territories, extract insights, and continuously improve upon our experiences to enhance the overall experience.
The fact that the one-month implementation period of the field practice that we implemented through ELYT.net ended in a short period of three days serves as a clear testament to the immense interest exhibited by our visitors in embracing innovative concepts and technologies. We tried a first in the world and achieved successful results. We know that the path ahead will present us with numerous new challenges. We need to uncover the processes that will effectively convert seemingly inconsequential data for humans into meaningful information, then into experience, and ultimately into wisdom. We have taken the initiative in a field that is the focus of all discussions. We now better understand that the Metaverse is not just about building a virtual world but creating a new experience with an innovative perspective. However, we need more than understanding; we must explain this to our sector and guests. We will continue to explore and create new implementation areas with our other stakeholders in the industry and visitors. We believe that it is mandatory to trust your partners in such conditions. Our partner Finberg investment ELYT is one step ahead of other competitors in the field. ELYT is an opportunity for other companies which wish to improve and support their technological advancements for the trends of the upcoming days. With such a collaboration, companies and ELYT will create a synergy that eventually helps the sector.
More about the Metaverse:
ACROSS has teamed up with Elyt.net, Finberg, and FİBA Commercial Properties to provide first-hand content on how shopping places can benefit from the Metaverse. Stay tuned for articles on:
+ Second part of the interview with Ahmet Usta
+ Technological environment and investment opportunities
+ Business cases within the placemaking industry
+ The solution: Live session on a concrete product presentation in cooperation with Elyt.net and Fiba