Companies across all different industries are looking to move beyond Web1 and Web2 to Web3 or the Spatial Web. The next iteration brings together the latest revolutionary technologies — such as augmented and virtual reality, immersion, artificial intelligence/machine learning and blockchain — to help facilitate the metaverse. It creates an exciting opportunity for brands to rethink their relationship with consumers, build trust and create real value for all parties.
This was a hot topic at Meta Festival, the world’s first 24-hour event in the metaverse cofounded by global digital agency Dept and Journee — The Metaverse Company. More than 12,500 people across the globe signed up to create their customized avatars and explore Metapolis, the festival’s virtual world, and hear from leading Web3 innovators and futurists such as Cathy Hackl from Journee and Trouv/Ste at Hape, as well as marketers and technologists from leading brands including Netflix, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
As part of the Americas program, Matt Faulk, CEO and founder of Basic/Dept, moderated a panel of experts including Jeremy Dalton, head of metaverse technologies at PwC U.K.; Jessica Heygate, technology editor at Campaign US; and David Markley, senior director of business solutions at Algorand, on how to pioneer this incredible new terrain.
Building trust among consumers
The advertising technology industry has “not been a great place for consumers up until this point,” said Heygate, kicking off the discussion. “Blockchain provides a lot of solutions that will allow us to empower consumers” and give them “a more diverse and ethical place.”
“Consumers are losing faith in the way organizations operate, in terms of data privacy and the protection of their data,” added Dalton. As a result, “there is a growing trend to decentralize organizations from the ownership of their own data.” Blockchain technology, he continued, is “a potential solution to grow trust in the world.”
To Markley, there is no “better technology to be involved in right now” as blockchain “is the second half of the internet.” While “the first half allowed us to create networks and share information extremely efficiently,” he explained, blockchain enables “us to exchange value extremely efficiently and securely” and help build “the trust layer for consumers.”
The importance of interoperability and blockchain
“Interoperability and decentralization are core components of a true metaverse,” said Heygate. However, “not all players in the chain are incentivized to operate in that way.” For example, Meta’s data ownership “essentially powered its advertising engine and made it into the company it is today,” she explained. While “having interoperable experiences and decentralizing control” is “great for consumers,” she said, it means a company will “essentially rescind control of what has been, up until this point, its most powerful asset.”
The truth is we are already “moving toward a centralized model,” Dalton said. In Web 1.0, there was a “single username and password for every different website,” he noted. While “entities like Google, Twitter and Facebook started to act as the gatekeepers and identity verifiers for login on various sites” in Web 2.0, he said, “blockchain acts as this single centralized way, fully owned by the user, to access any website” in Web 3.0.
Keep in mind that “blockchains don’t magically make data secure or trustworthy,” added Markley. First, “you need to build a new perspective of what is my trust paradigm and what am I trying to solve.” Walmart’s “private and permissioned blockchain,” for example, works for managing “contracts with a known group of individuals” and overseeing “the data that’s being posted,” he said. However, when another entity such as Amazon “onboards into Walmart’s e-commerce infrastructure platform,” he explained, “not everybody’s incentives are aligned and not everybody’s trust model is the same.” In Web 3.0, “public and permissionless blockchain levels the playing field” because “everybody can join the network and play an active role in helping secure the network and validating transactions.”
Marketing in the spatial web
Blockchain technology will “certainly disrupt marketing,” said Heygate. It “changes approaches to ownership and content creation” and puts “consumers in control not only of their data, but of their experiences, being able to choose their own adventure.” As a result, marketers will need to “rethink not only how their brands are controlled in those environments but also how they target consumers,” she added. The new technologies “provide an opportunity to put in mechanisms that respect consumer privacy, put consumers in the driver’s seat, improve consumer experiences and allow for greater diversity of voices.”
Brands tend “to think in silos about these different technologies,” said Dalton. In doing that, “you lose the advantage and the real strength that comes from the convergence of all of these technologies.” It is the combination of “a virtual world with a virtual reality headset” with a “decentralized layer which acts as a parallel economy driver” and an “artificial intelligence-based agent that you can have stimulating immersive and connected conversations with” that creates this “beautifully rich, immersive world,” he explained.
To Markley, this is “a new opportunity for marketers or brands to take what has traditionally been an isolated physical experience and extend that with your audience into these digital worlds.” For example, when a customer wants a Coke today, they “go to a vending machine, buy a Coke and that’s the end of the interaction.” With Web 3.0, “advertisers can take it a step further,” he said. “If you buy a Coke and scan a QR code, you can have a T-shirt or drink in the metaverse.”
Empowering the community with DeFi
While blockchain is transforming “the operating layer,” decentralized finance (DeFi) is disrupting the “application layer” by providing “a public good or utility for all other applications in the network,” Markley explained. That means “any application that wants to build exchange capabilities and have this infrastructure” has access to ”a whole financial toolkit,” eliminating “months, if not years, in product development,” he said.
Simply said, “DeFi has the potential to make the world a better place through greater access to finance,” concluded Dalton. It “brings the best of both worlds to bear” where centralized and decentralized finance “are capable of operating in parallel together to ultimately empower everyone and not just the few.”