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Interview | Leila Salieva, VP of Special Projects at Xsolla Metasites

8 mins
Updated by Geraint Price
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Join to engage in an in-depth conversation with Leila Salieva, VP of Special Projects at Xsolla Metasites. Xsolla Metasites uses AI, 3D graphics, Pixel Streaming, Cloud computing, and monetization tools to create unique virtual experiences.

Drawing upon her wealth of experience in digital, business development, and influencer marketing, we delve into a discussion of “the metaverse” including VR, AR, AI, social gaming, Web3, and blockchain.

Leila Salieva told us how brands face challenges entering the metaverse, its technical complexities, content creation, privacy, and security concerns, and assessing success measures. 

1. You have a rich background in various industries, from fashion to advertising to IT start-ups. How has this diverse experience shaped your approach to the metaverse and digital innovation?

Based on my observations over the years, it is increasingly apparent that industries are adopting new communication channels and content formats to reach their target audience as the world of content consumption evolves. 

Omnichannel strategies now consist of multiple information outflows, which include texts, images, videos, streams, and others. The pattern of content development is clear, with the progression typically being from text to image, video, and ultimately 3D streams.

With the advent of the metaverse, a virtual world of 3D content, the next frontier of immersive brand experiences is being created. Users eagerly embrace this trend, particularly Gen Z, who spend up to five hours a day in these captivating environments, searching for new opportunities to interact with products and brands before purchasing. 

This trend is rapidly gaining traction and expanding across various industries. Brands that fail to adapt to these emerging needs risk being left behind in their respective markets.

2. From your vast experience in digital marketing and business development, how have you seen the concept of the metaverse evolve over time?

The metaverse, once a virtual universe where users interacted within digital spaces, has evolved into more immersive and expansive digital ecosystems. 

In today’s digital landscape, the metaverse encompasses a diverse array of technologies, including virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), extended reality (XR), artificial intelligence (AI), social gaming, Web3, and blockchain. This evolution is opening many ways for businesses and marketers to engage with audiences, offering innovative opportunities for growth and brand enhancement. 

Companies and stakeholders within are beginning to recognize the metaverse as a fertile ground for innovation. They are eager to create immersive experiences, engage customers in novel ways, and monetize digital assets. Well-known brands are increasingly exploring the metaverse for a range of applications. 

  • Fashion and apparel companies host virtual fashion experiences, while entertainment giants use them to promote movies and engage with fans.
  • Gaming platforms have transformed into metaverse-like environments, offering opportunities for in-game collaborations. 
  • Real estate firms are selling virtual properties, and the automotive industry is showcasing vehicles in virtual showrooms. 
  • The metaverse is also a hub for digital art, collectibles, and virtual events, with applications spanning education, healthcare, retail, and social engagement.

Brands are tapping into this digital frontier to connect with audiences, boost engagement, and create unique experiences.

However, it is a must to navigate challenges concerning privacy, security, and the rapid evolution of metaverse technologies. This means that it’s better to join forces with a partner who can guide you through new frontiers. 

3. The term metaverse is indeed broad and can be overwhelming. In what ways can we explain the metaverse to ensure it is more user-friendly for both individuals and businesses?

The metaverse is an exciting advanced version of the internet, the next step after dotcoms and social media eras, that offers a more immersive and interconnected engaging, or how we call them, gamified experience for all users. 

Imagine a digital space where people from around the globe can interact, work, play, and create together in a shared virtual environment with a shared virtual economy. You can attend virtual social gatherings, work remotely, and enjoy immersive entertainment. 

Businesses can also use the metaverse to enhance marketing, customer engagement, collaboration, and training.

4. Can you shed light on the typical hurdles brands face as they enter the metaverse, and what strategies would you recommend for them to overcome these obstacles? 

There is an interesting journey of education for many brands, as a lot of them still struggle to grasp the concept of the metaverse and its potential. To overcome this, I would advise to invest in educating themselves and their teams through workshops, seminars, and partnerships with metaverse experts.

If we think about the key challenges, the major ones will be: technical complexity, content creation, privacy and security concerns, figuring out monetization strategies, protections of brand authenticity, user engagement, regulatory hurdles, and measuring KPIs. 

The easiest way to solve all of that is to collaborate with metaverse experts and leverage technology partnerships, who can provide specialized content creators, prioritize user data protection, ensure inclusivity, explore diverse monetization models, and maintain your brand consistency.

Many brands have successfully navigated and leveraged the metaverse to their advantage. I believe one-third of the Fortune 100 has already tested the waters. There are some examples:

  • NBA Top Shot, an NFT-based platform, has revolutionized the sports collectibles market by selling officially licensed basketball highlights as digital collectibles, creating a thriving marketplace. 
  • Nike has successfully launched virtual sneakers and clothing in the metaverse while staying true to its brand identity and quality. 
  • Adidas has explored the metaverse through marketing campaigns and virtual experiences, using data analytics to measure the impact of its initiatives. 
  • LVMH announced a partnership with Epic Games, creator of Fortnite and Unreal Engine, to transform the Group’s creative pipeline and bring customers new types of immersive experiences like virtual fitting rooms and fashion shows, 360 product carousels, augmented reality, creation of digital twins and more. 

These are just several examples that showcase diverse strategies and successful approaches for brands in the metaverse.

5. Building on the challenges that brands face in the metaverse, could you delve deeper into how they should evaluate the success of their activities within this space? 

Evaluating the success of brand activities in the metaverse requires a tailored approach, considering the unique nature of this space. From my perspective, defining ROI or user acquisition cost as the ultimate KPIs is not the way to measure success. 

When evaluating the success of brand activities in the metaverse, there are a variety of other key metrics to consider that reflect the unique nature of this digital space. 

I truly believe that user engagement is of the utmost importance, and indicators such as visitor count, time spent, and interaction rates can provide valuable insights into how engaging a brand’s virtual presence is.

I also believe that there are unique metrics specific to the metaverse that play a significant role. For example, measuring innovative engagement like user-generated content, avatar interactions, and participation in virtual events can provide valuable information. 

Monitoring user growth and retention rates is also essential for brands with a continuous presence in this space. At the end of the day, the definition of success in the metaverse is going to differ based on a brand’s objectives. 

For some, success may be measured in financial terms such as sales revenue, while for others, it may be about brand positioning, engagement, or establishing a pioneering presence in this emerging digital realm. 

6. Can you tell us more about Xsolla Metasites and its unique value proposition in the metaverse landscape? 

Metasites offers a unique blend of advanced technology that combines AI, 3D graphics, Pixel Streaming, cloud computing, and in-house monetization tools. These technologies help our partners showcase their assets in the virtual world in a way that is tailored to their enterprise’s DNA.

We integrate many AI tools to save development time and create unique experiences. Our AI-powered NPCs are just one example. We also use voice recognition and synthesis technologies that allow for voice-controlled interfaces and realistic voice interactions with AI-powered characters. 

Procedural generation reduces manual content creation by using AI algorithms to create diverse virtual worlds. Facial recognition and emotion detection technologies enhance social interactions by allowing avatars to mimic real human expressions, and gesture recognition in VR environments ensures intuitive user interactions.

We have also integrated blockchain and AI solutions to manage digital assets, verify ownership, and secure transactions. AI-driven animation brings lifelike and responsive movements to characters and objects. 

As these technologies continue to develop, they promise to expand the capabilities and experiences available within virtual worlds, making the Metasites more dynamic and personalized.

7. How does the AI toolset in Metasites, particularly the AI-driven NPCs, contribute to evolving the overall metaverse experience, and in what ways can brands leverage this toolkit to their advantage? 

AI-driven non-player characters (NPCs) are more than just a feature. They can be catalysts for more engaging, scalable, and dynamic user experiences. 

For instance, AI NPCs can interact with users in a more personalized and intelligent way. They can respond to user queries, guide them through virtual environments, and participate in complex scenarios, making the metaverse feel more alive and responsive. 

Moreover, AI can be used to generate dynamic content that adapts and evolves in response to user behavior. This ensures the metaverse remains fresh and engaging, with new experiences continuously being created. 

For brands, AI-driven NPCs present unique opportunities, such as creating brand ambassadors/influencers or customer service agents within the metaverse. These NPCs can provide information about products and services, assist with transactions, and offer personalized recommendations based on user interactions and preferences. 

Think about a virtual AI twin of the influencer or a celebrity that has a contract with the brand, and a one-of-a-kind experience when this influencer takes every user on a guided, personal journey that aligns with brand narratives. 

Interactions like that can provide valuable data insights into user preferences, behaviors, and trends. 

8. Could you shed light on the urgency for brands to start incorporating these AI-driven elements into their metaverse strategies?

As I have mentioned in the beginning, this urgency is fueled primarily by the swift evolution of user expectations. Modern digital users seek increasingly immersive, interactive, and personalized experiences. 

AI-driven features like non-player characters (NPCs) and dynamic content generation are crucial in meeting these expectations. They not only enhance user engagement but also ensure that brands remain relevant and appealing in an environment characterized by constant change.

Moreover, the competitive landscape in the metaverse offers a unique opportunity for differentiation. Early adoption of AI tools provides brands with a significant competitive edge. These tools allow for innovative and captivating experiences that can set a brand apart, establishing it as a leader in the digital frontier. 

Furthermore, AI-driven elements offer unparalleled scalability and efficiency in managing user interactions. This scalability is critical in the metaverse, enabling brands to engage with a larger audience more effectively without a proportional increase in resources.

Finally, the interactive and personalized experiences made possible by AI help in building stronger, more meaningful relationships with users, fostering long-term brand loyalty. 

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