In Comdata’s recent webinar on CX in an immersive world, Joël Hazan of Boston Consulting Group said that immersive technologies are a key differentiation lever, opening up new opportunities for brands, but also some challenges.
THE METAVERSE EXPLAINED
The immersive CX that we can expect in the not-so-distant future is made possible by the evolution towards Web3, of which the metaverse is a key component. The metaverse is often described as an immersive and interactive environment where people can work, play, socialize, shop, learn, and more.
There are various players creating this new environment, from existing giants such as Meta’s Horizon Worlds to social gaming platforms such as Fortnite, Roblox and Zepeto to pure players such as Decentraland and Sandbox, all with fast-growing user figures. These figures are likely to ramp up further over the next year or so.
METAVERSE USE CASES FOR CUSTOMER RELATIONS
To date, the evolution of the metaverse has been driven primarily by gaming, but use cases are proliferating fast. Music, fashion, beauty, luxury, sport and retail are among the early-adopter sectors, looking to use immersive experiences to foster brand engagement:
- Artists such as Arianna Grande, Travis Scott and Lil Nas X have done huge virtual concerts on Fortnite or Roblox, using these platforms to reach millions of people over the course of a day or weekend.
- In the luxury and fashion industry, the Gucci Garden on Roblox attracted 19 million visitors, while Ralph Lauren, Zara and others have created virtual fashion collections on Zepeto for users to dress their avatars. Dolce & Gabbana organized the first ever Metaverse Fashion Week in March 2022 on Decentraland, using cats to model its collection.
- McDonalds has filed trademarks and patents for virtual restaurants that will not just sell virtual burgers and NFTs (non-fungible tokens) but deliver actual burgers to actual homes.
- Football giants like Real Madrid, PSG and Manchester City are among the clubs exploring various metaverse and Web 3.0 options, such as virtual stadium tours, crypto-wallets, the use of digital avatars and multimedia translation tools so that fans in different territories can interact, and selling NFTs with multimedia content, artworks or trading cards.
- The financial services sector is also entering the metaverse, with JP Morgan and HSBC announcing ‘land’ acquisitions to open virtual branches in Decentraland and the Sandbox, respectively.
The common theme across those and many other examples is that clever use of the metaverse allows brands to extend their relationship with consumers and fans.
One way of translating this into practice is for brands to design differentiated and gamified experiences to increase brand awareness, engagement and loyalty. A second option is to use the metaverse as a new sales channel, for either virtual or physical goods. A third option is the offer of immersive and personalized customer care and technical support options.
THE CREATOR ECONOMY EXPLAINED
Another key element in the future of customer relations will be the creator economy, an important differentiator between Web 2.0 and Web 3.0. Whereas Web 2.0 allows people to read and contribute online (through social media, websites etc), Web 3.0 enables them to read, contribute and create ownership online through services based on blockchain technology.
This ‘evolution of ownership’ with Web 3.0 is transforming the way content creators can monetize their creativity. Until now, their main route has been through advertising or sponsorship (through platforms like YouTube or Instagram) or subscriptions (through platforms such as OnlyFans, Substack, Patreon or Twitch). Blockchain adds a valuable new dimension, allowing them to authenticate, share and sell digital assets such as art and other collectibles, and to determine their level of rarity.
HOW BRANDS CAN USE THE CREATOR ECONOMY
A recent study by Influencer Marketing Hub said there are 50 million creators earning some or all of their living by making online content. These creators matter to brands because many of them are building direct relationships with fans, followers or communities – relationships that can bypass (or complement) traditional marketing, advertising and brand-awareness routes. In addition, their content is often perceived as more entertaining and ‘authentic’ than traditional mediated advertising and marketing campaigns.
This authenticity reflects the scope of this new channel, which goes well beyond the purely quantitative considerations of reach marketing. The relationship created with the brand allows closer bonds and gives the opportunity to deliver more “intimate” messages.
Ultimately, the development of this creator economy could be seen as a risk for brands. But on the other hand, it is a great opportunity for collaboration. Content creators can help brands reach younger generations or previously-inaccessible communities. For example, Twitch, with an estimated 300,000 professional streamers, could be an entry point into the gaming community.
CHALLENGES TO OVERCOME
To capture these new opportunities, brands and their partners face a number of challenges.
The first relates to the moderation and regulation of content in the metaverse and Web 3.0. In this new decentralized version of the Web, with its rising number of content creators and communities, it’s going to be well-nigh impossible to enforce traditional moderation approaches. Regulation of behaviors, not content, may be needed instead, in which case there are questions over who will determine which behaviors are acceptable.
The second challenge lies in the ability of brands to create a reliable relationship.
It is necessary to be able to provide guarantees regarding key issues such as data privacy and security, protection of minors and the fight against fraud (swindling, impersonation,etc.). This is a condition for the metaverse to be seen as a place for positive experiences and for its use to develop.
The third challenge relates to technology interoperability, or the ability to transfer digital assets across multiple worlds. With the metaverse still evolving and different players pulling in different directions, we do not yet know which platforms or economic models will prevail. Given this uncertainty, the ability to transfer digital assets between multiple interoperable worlds will protect consumers.
Brands must adopt a test-and-learn mindset, be open to experimentation and evaluate the different approaches. Beyond the technologies, it is the relevance of the use cases that will allow the adoption by consumers and therefore the development of this new experiential model.
More than ever, brands will need expert and innovative partners to help them explore these new possibilities and we at Comdata are delighted to work with you to shape the future of Customer Management.