The shift to Web 3.0 and the metaverse is in progress. While there’s still much left to determine, the transition figures to be one of the most seismic shifts in how we interact with the internet since its inception. A more immersive, interconnected norm will likely replace how we interact with disparate accounts, devices and platforms today.
As companies think about this transition, one high-priority agenda item will be to fortify revenue streams. Customers will want to buy items and services in the metaverse, and companies will want to provide that for them. Secure, seamless payments are vital to this next evolution of the internet, but this means a fundamental rethinking of how that occurs today. What works for a point-of-sale transaction in today’s internet doesn’t necessarily translate to tomorrow’s.
Payment testing in the metaverse can help validate some of these emerging revenue channels, just as it does today, but there are several unique challenges that make that effort difficult. Let’s explore the three primary challenges with payment testing in the metaverse, how companies might struggle, and what solutions might emerge.
Challenge #1: Immersion
The whole point of the metaverse is to create an evolved version of the web, where your physical and digital personas blend into one cohesive experience. Ideally, this means less context switching and fewer accounts and passwords. Instead, the digital will augment the physical and open up new social and economic possibilities across a variety of industries.
This concept doesn’t mesh with the reality of payments today. If everything needs to work together seamlessly, any break from that concentration derails the metaverse experience. Yet, many payment processes today involve multi-factor authentication or another means of confirming your identity.
At Applause, we learned this when we conducted payment testing in the metaverse for one of our customers. The goal was for the payment to be seamless as possible, as conducted within the headset. The engineer created a special build for the tester, and the tester streamed their point of view back to the engineer through the whole process. When the tester went to the purchase point, they needed to add a security code to verify the transaction — and it broke the experience. There was no way for the tester to do this within the headset; they needed to take out their phone to verify the transaction, either through a notification or SMS code. This was not a seamless, immersive payment experience.
While this issue might seem minor — as there’s little effort in pulling a phone out of your pocket — it runs completely contrary to the goals of the metaverse. Think about the metaverse in a gaming context. If you’re participating in a game and want to purchase an add-on during gameplay, this kind of verification, while secure, adds a level of complexity and pulls the user out of that immersive experience.
Retail and gaming companies will have to deal with this challenge of context switching. One potential option is biometric scans, where a user can confirm a purchase with an eye movement — companies are working on this, and this could even theoretically work in a metaverse-enabled brick-and-mortar location. Another option is a digital representation of your mobile device that you can use while engaged in a different metaverse experience. This, however, will require a level of interoperability and integration that is far beyond where we are currently.
In whatever way it evolves, payment testing in the metaverse will be an imperative to make sure real end users can pay in their chosen currency — digital or physical — and companies can confirm the transaction, all with ease. Without full immersion, it’s hard for the metaverse to live up to its lofty billing.
Challenge #2: Security
Immersion leads to our next challenge for payment testing in the metaverse: security. And these are more tightly woven concepts than you might think, as it might be easy to sacrifice one for the sake of the other.
Consider the above example of a gaming add-on. If a gamer can confirm payments within the app or store, you don’t want that person verbally or visually presenting credit card information that others might see.
Card security means card complexity. This is why protective measures like Payment Services Directive 2 (PSD2) and multi-factor authentication exist; they provide extra security for users’ accounts. Yet, crafty operators will find ways to breach weak security postures. Recently, a hacker breached the account of a community manager of a popular NFT project, which enabled a broader phishing attack on members of a Discord server. Hundreds of thousands of dollars of Ethereum and the NFTs themselves were stolen in the attack.
This problem also extends to many unsecured or undersecured networks, which hackers can gain entry to and steal information. These are particularly problematic concerns for the metaverse, as gaining access to one account could conceivably cause a good deal of financial and reputation damage.
Cybersecurity is a perpetual game of playing catch-up. There will always be vulnerabilities, exploits and patches to keep up with. As users place more trust in an immersive experience, organizations must do their part to put customer security first.
Challenge #3: Regulation
It’s still the wild west out there for the metaverse, and more specifically the cryptocurrencies that will be prominent within it. Governments generally want these transactions to be safe, secure and legal — but historically, this hasn’t been the case. If someone wants to make an illegal dark web transaction, there’s little stopping them, as it’s easy to mask your identity with digital wallets.
Simply put, there’s no clear understanding of what cryptocurrency use looks like at scale for many corporations. Some companies have even floated the idea of creating their own cryptocurrencies, only to pull back — due either to regulatory pressures, market conditions or risk.
Without a framework in place for how to reliably handle, manage and secure cryptocurrency as a payment method at scale, it seems like a tall task for companies to truly embrace these decentralized currencies. Even if they want to support it on a fundamental level and customers en masse are clamoring for it — neither of those are necessarily true — there’s not a beaten path to follow.
Real testing with real payment instruments
The metaverse presents a lot of opportunities for retailers, and any type of vendor, to stake their claims in a new digital frontier. The metaverse offers exciting possibilities for a new digitally enabled life, such as virtual meeting spaces safe from airborne illnesses, digital cups of coffee with friends on the other side of the world, and even a new form of dating — don’t forget the digital roses. The metaverse could truly become a second home for many people.
Whichever way payment technology evolves in the metaverse, Applause will be ready to engage testers all around the world to ensure strong revenue streams for our customers. We’re uniquely positioned to source real people, with real devices in hand, in real locations, across real virtual systems. Whether you need to test an AR-enabled retail purchase, test promotional offers for new-net accounts, or even supply testers with a prototype on which to perform a transaction, we’re ready to make it happen.
For Applause, it’s just another day at the digital office.
We want to hear about your payment testing and metaverse-oriented goals. Contact us today!