AXA explores the metaverse

In November 2021, Facebook changed its identity and became a Meta. It was up to the American company to highlight its turn towards the metaverse (or metaverse in English), which it perceives as the evolution of the social network as evidenced by an internal report drawn up in 2018.

His conclusion: in 20 years the time devoted to the metaverse will be equivalent to that assigned today to social networks. “Facebook anticipates a massive shift from a digital universe essentially made up of social networks to a three-dimensional universe,” explains Bertrand Wolff, a specialist in virtual and augmented reality for companies at the Paris e-Marketing Show.

Not one, but visions of the metaverse

Since Meta / Facebook also owns Occulus, his vision of the metaverse today focuses primarily on the Virtual reality (VR) and the Augmented reality (AR). The GAFAM founded by Zuckerberg also has a virtual universe: Worlds of the horizon. But like its current applications, Meta develops closed and proprietary environments.

“Our employees want to collaborate in these universes. I’m in the team all day. They may want to participate in more fun activities.

Frank DesvignesAxa Open Innovation Director

The ex-Facebook, despite its change of identity, embodies only one of the visions of the metaverse. Another is a more “open” approach where users can also participate in monetization and actually own the digital assets they acquire or create.

The two best known platforms of this type are Decentral and the Sandbox. And it is not necessary to have a VR headset to connect to these virtual, immersive and persistent worlds.

Decentraland and Sandbox integrate other technologies, in particular blockchain and tokens such as NFTs (non-fungible, unique and non-divisible tokens). These NFT-like tokens can be props and even lands of these virtual worlds.

It is one of these lands, or “Earth”, that bought Axa on The Sandbox. What do you use for? They remain to be imagined.

The current phase is that of marketing and experimentation before a true democratization within the population. The horizon is still far away, although Gartner estimates that people will spend an hour a day in a metaverse-like environment by 2026.

The metaverse: a question of image and anticipation for AXA

Frank Desvignes at the e-Marketing fair

“As pioneers, we will explore this world of tomorrow in different ways,” says Frank Desvignes, director of open innovation at Axa, who spoke at the e-Marketing fair in Paris. “First, we will position our brand in the metaverse. We are also starting to work on the themes of innovation and the creation of new types of services “.

The goal is to target communities established on these platforms, such as on Facebook in its infancy. Financial services provider, AXA could envision services associated with tokens and other NFTs (assets that have a price). However, the market is still too immature to precisely define the contours of such products.

Public blockchains and their applications, including the metaverse, transmit tokens, i.e. value. These digital assets naturally attract the interest of cybercriminals. New insurers are developing and covering, for example, cryptocurrency theft or capital losses.

AXA offers nothing comparable, especially for regulatory issues. The insurer had certainly launched a product supported by blockchain, Fizzy, in order to automate compensation in the event of flight delay. But this offer stopped in 2019.

On the other hand, the French insurer is seriously looking into the possibilities of metaverses to animate their employee communities, particularly within its technology teams. These have more than 2,000 people in France and AXA plans to increase its workforce to support its digital transformation.

“Our employees also want to collaborate in these worlds. I’m in the team all day. They may want to participate in more fun activities, ”suggests Frank Desvignes, who he also envisions uses for his cybersecurity community.

These immersive collaborative uses are also the ones that seem to attract the “first users” the most. The consultancy ESN DXC, for example, created a “campus” with the application Virbela. DXC held an on-site press conference in April to show how they used the metaverse to host meetings.

Screenshot of a DXC meeting in the Virbela app
DXC meeting in the Virbela app

“Immersive collaboration offers higher levels of engagement than traditional online collaboration tools,” said Nathalie Vancluysen, Global Extended Reality Leader at DXC.

As for Meta / Facebook, while it focuses on the evolution of social networks with the metaverse, it is also closely watching the evolution of the B2B collaboration, which it is currently targeting with Workplace. To bring companies into these immersive universes, he has launched a specific application Laboratories.

Usage grammars remain to be written

Through its subsidiary Axa Investment Managers, the French group is currently participating in experiments on the tokenization of traditional financial instruments, such as bonds. The transaction, carried out in cryptocurrencyit was created with the European Investment Bank and Société Générale.

In the field of the metaverse, the initiatives are not that advanced. The uses and monetization options currently seem most evident in the areas of luxury and fashion. On March 24, for example, a fashion week was organized in Decentraland with virtual stores, live shows and NFT sales (such as bags or virtual clothes).

“New technologies don’t come with instructions. The usage grammars have not yet been completed. The main use cases have to be invented. ”

Bertrand WolffSpecialist in virtual and augmented reality for companies

Insurance and finance have yet to create relevant applications. And they are not the only ones. “Like the smartphone […], new technologies are not provided with instructions. The usage grammars have not yet been completed. The main use cases have to be invented, “recalls Bertrand Wolff.

The analysis is shared by Frank Desvignes. AXA’s director of open innovation encourages companies to be curious as the “transition from Web2 to Web3” unfolds.

Web3, another password? Not for Frank Desvignes. This new generation of the web is characterized by the possibility of transferring value without intermediaries, he summarizes.

“Explore. Be curious. And remember. In 2009 Facebook arrived in France. We did not know how to advertise on social networks. Instagram does not exist,” he compares. “And little by little, professionals have developed techniques.”

“We write the marketing guide at the same time as we explore. For the metaverse, it’s being written, ”concludes the AXA executive who, in a personal capacity, owns his own storylines on The Sandbox.

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