The metaverse — it’s probably all you hear about. From Facebook’s rebranding to “Meta” last Fall, to Snoop Dogg’s mansion in the Sandbox, to generally haunting headlines like “Trouble in the Metaverse,” we’re barraged with metaverse news daily.
We recently talked about buzzwords in our omnichannel commerce article. Words you hear about all the time, but never really bother to understand. Metaverse is the latest of those terms. We hear it all the time but what actually is it? Why should you care? How should you prepare for it?
Don’t worry, you’ve come to the right place. To build off of our metaverse findings in our 2022 Shopper Experience Index, an annual report into consumer behavior, and bolstered by our attendance at the 2022 South by Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, TX, we’ll walk through five tips brands should consider as they strategically prepare to enter the metaverse, even if that entrance won’t be for five – 10 more years.
What is the metaverse?
This feels like a good place to start. The true definition of the “metaverse” is still being fleshed out. The way we interact with technology is ever-evolving, so everyone from you, to me, to probably even Mark Zuckerberg, is somewhat guessing our way into the future.
But essentially, you can think of the metaverse as a network of virtual worlds where people can interact, play, and engage in e-commerce with cryptocurrency and NFTs (non-fungible tokens). A virtual universe, if you will.
While the metaverse as a general concept is not fully formatted yet (Meta suggests that theirs won’t be functional for five – 10 more years), there’s live metaverses today that you can interact with already, like Sandbox, Axie Infinity, Decentraland, and even Roblox.
What are brands doing in the metaverse today?
As the metaverse gets its virtual foot in the virtual door of retail, brands are already exploring how to engage with shoppers. Here’s just a few examples.
Vans teamed up with Roblox to create Vans World, a massive virtual skate park where communities can hang, “pull off the most insane tricks,” participate in challenges, and customize their Vans gear. Some Star Creators got early access to test it before it launched
Giving exclusive opportunities to your creators and community in the metaverse is key.
Heineken pulled the world’s chain by “launching” Virtual Heinekin Silver in a virtual brewery in the Decentraverse, where digitized beverages can’t actually be drunk. Its product detail page is riddled with tongue-in-cheek call-outs. “Introducing the innovation nobody knew we needed,” “made only from the freshest pixels: no malt, no hops…no beer.”
Call it a joke or call it a genius marketing promotion. Either way it got attention from consumers worldwide.
P&G launched the “BeautySphere,” where consumers can interact with P&G brands through live content, games, and panel discussions. A core emphasis in the BeautySphere is responsible beauty. Participants can virtually visit the Royal Botanical Gardens or complete a Herbal Essences program to plant a real tree in Mexico.
What should brands consider when entering the metaverse?
Now you’ve seen some real life examples, how should your brand get involved? Informed by Sébastien Borget’s (Co-founder and COO of Sandbox) presentation at the 2022 SXSW conference, we have five tips to keep in mind as you prepare your brand to enter the metaverse.
Give back to loyal customers
In the metaverse, it’s not enough to just provide a space for consumers to come, buy a product or service, and look forward to leaving so they can return to their television and couch. Providing your loyal fans with connection, exclusive opportunities, and compensation is key to success.
It may sound simple, but asking yourself, “what do my customers want from me?” can get those gears turning in the right direction. Is it vouchers or discounts? Private events? Free NFTs? In the metaverse, customers are virtual king avatars with pixel-adorned crowns, and you should get creative in how you bow down.
Take Snoop Dogg’s “Snoopverse” in the Sandbox. Not only does Snoop have his own virtual mansion there, but he hosts house parties for his biggest fans, accessible via “Snoop Dogg Private Party Passes.” These pass-holders also get VIP access to concerts, Q&As, NFT drops, art gallery openings, and more. If you feel so inclined, you can even buy land next to Mr. Dogg’s mansion, becoming his virtual neighbor. Now that’s giving back!
Reward users for their contributions
The creator era has arrived, and brands should be primed to play in it. As Mark Zuckerberg said, “At the end of the day, it is really the creators and developers who are going to build the metaverse and make this real.” It’s very worth it ($104 billion dollars worth) to reward those creators for how they benefit your brand.
Need proof? Roblox is the embodiment of embracing the creator economy. By not only allowing users to create their own experiences within Roblox, but compensating them too, they’ve grown to upwards of eight million creators and 55 million daily active users in 2022, up 28% YOY.
Borget recommends that brands entering the metaverse experiment with the “play-to-earn” business model, which empowers players to monetize their time spent in the metaverse. The more that users spend time with your brand through games, challenges, or content-creation, the more that they’re rewarded through bonus experiences, NFTs, or social tokens.
It’s a symbiotic relationship — users in the metaverse interact with your brand and create content, which benefits your brand, who rewards the user, which incentivizes them to engage and create even more
Embrace the NFT culture
Embracing NFT culture is all about partnering with existing NFT communities and enabling your fans to benefit from your brand in the long-term.
Adidas did this artfully by partnering with trending metaverse players Bored Ape Yacht Club, Punks Comics, and Gmoney to design the Into the Metaverse NFT digital collection. With an NFT purchase, buyers gain access to exclusive physical clothing items along with digital items to wear in The Sandbox. Never before have velour tracksuits and sand mix so well.
Peppered with limited-edition drops, exclusive metaverse experiences, and more, this project built hype at its finest. As Tareq Nazlawy, Senior Director of Digital Growth at Adidas, aptly puts it, embracing the NFT culture is, “a flip of the normal business model where we make stuff and hope people will buy it…You’re not just buying the product. You’re becoming a member of this community.”
Encourage user-generated content
You’ve likely heard Bazaarvoice preach before that user-generated content (UGC) is everything, and that message remains true in the metaverse. However, Borget recommends that brands take incentivizing UGC submissions another step further by submerging themselves in co-creation — inviting users to remix, play, and create new experiences alongside your brand.
To exhibit this concept, the Walking Dead hosted the “The Walking Dead Game Jam,” running for two weeks in November 2021. A Game Jam is an event during which participants create games from scratch, similar to a hackathon.
Thousands of submissions were made by Walking Dead fans around the world, giving the brand high quality and engaging content and participants new gaming experiences. Winners received plenty of SAND (The Sandbox’s cryptocurrency) and LAND (real estate NFTs), and all other participants received 100 SAND, too. As we discussed earlier, keep those rewards flowing for creators.
Unleash your creativity
To channel one of those wooden signs you see hanging on the wall at your Grandmother’s house, Borget’s penultimate tip is to unleash your creativity. The metaverse should not be a virtual copy of what’s in the real world, because this technology (theoretically) gives society the opportunity to go beyond what was ever thought possible.
Brands should rethink the true value of what their brand is now and in 10 years, take the opportunity to reinvent itself for new generations of users, and make something entirely new.
Get ready for the metaverse
Your brand’s strategy with Web 3.0 will likely be radically different from its strategy in the physical world and today’s Web 2.0 digital spaces. While that might feel intimidating, it’s something to embrace.
As we all keep up with technology’s inevitable changes, we can remember a few things that remain consistently relevant: it’s always advantageous to connect with people, keep customer value at the forefront of your mind, and take courageous steps to get creative.
That, and it might be a good idea to go ahead and buy LAND near Snoop Dogg’s virtual mansion ASAP.