Tangible applications of the metaverse and Web 3 for business
Once definitions are established, key questions brand leaders are asking include: What are the most compelling use cases for brands? Is the metaverse a medium for branding and consumer experience? How should I navigate this vast landscape? Is it possible to monetize this future? How will concepts like DAOs enhance brand innovation and creativity?
1. A medium for branding.
Today, there are brands executing highly creative concepts ranging from gaming to virtual apparel try-on to virtual fashion shows and events. Right now, the biggest challenge is scale of adoption and fragmentation. It is early days for the vast majority of the metaverse worlds, including the most successful, outside of those that are highly established gaming and entertainment platforms. So, while there is branding success in the creative concepts being executed in emerging platforms like Roblox, it is important to recognize the marketing effort required to get people to the experience, and substantial value is driven in earned impressions.
In other words, the principal value, for now, comes from the public relations and social media that surrounds these metaverse efforts today (and this is likely temporary).
2. Physical and digital consumer experiences.
As companies look to enhance their physical world experiences, there is powerful potential for creating hybrid experiences that augment physical retail, travel and hospitality, entertainment, and physical customer service, for example. Like branding, consumer adoption and scale will be the barrier, but brands with loyal and passionate consumers will be at an advantage with an opportunity to create new virtual-physical consumer journeys. Today, the analogous experiences principally occur in mobile applications as we order before we arrive at a quick-serve restaurant, plan a cruise before we arrive on a ship, check into our hotel before we arrive on site and more. The fundamental opportunities are unlocked by the creativity, persistence and three-dimensionality of the metaverse. This is likely not a quick win, but for brands enjoying the sweet spot of the right sector and consumer fandom, it may be a very fruitful endeavor. Companies have a new call to action to look at the full end-to-end journey and find the graceful dovetails between the physical and digital worlds to deepen the experience and loyalty.
3. Employee experience.
The opportunity for large-scale companies to bring their teams into the metaverse is a natural and compelling use case. Companies do not need to wait for consumer adoption for this use case to materialize because they can catalyze it. The possibilities are endless – recruiting, learning and development, culture-building globally, co-creation, collaboration, and more. And done right, the metaverse as a global engagement platform really does reduce travel and benefit the environment. Most importantly, for companies engaged in the war for talent, the metaverse becomes a new enticement to compete for the attention of millennials, Gen Z, and later on Gen Alpha, as future generations are as comfortable in virtual worlds as they are in the physical world. As better three-dimensional virtual work environments lean into the post-pandemic hybrid work reality and decentralized organizational concepts continue to take shape, it is very likely that companies have a dramatically new talent agenda to shape.
Beyond these three ideas, there are obviously many other opportunities for companies to pursue in the metaverse and Web 3, but the key is not simply replicate what other brands are doing. NFTs, which are a frequent topic in brand conversations, must be put in context. NFTs are, fundamentally, a means of establishing ownership or access irrefutably, and when minted, they can offer a form of monetization. That ownership or access can relate to intellectual property, a collectible, art, access to a club or event, and more. But the key is to understand whether the application of NFTs to a brand is (1) natural and seamless to that brand and (2) natural and seamless to the end consumer. If so, then the current NFT craze can absolutely be applicable, but if not, it may be worth reconsidering.