In fact, it’s been a period full of new concepts: Web 3.0, NFTs, DAOs. Chances are that you don’t go a day without seeing one of them floating across your social feeds. But to be clear, the metaverse and its associated concept - unlike some trends that come and go - are far more than a fad.

There are many definitions around exactly what the metaverse is but in essence, it’s a collection of immersive virtual worlds that users can explore via avatars or headsets. It is how we will explore the new technologies which are driving the next evolution of the internet, Web 3.0. While I grew up scrolling a 2D internet, the next generation is strolling through immersive 3D experiences.

With these new experiences comes new expectations and behaviours. When one-fifth of young people expect to see more brand name clothing for their avatars and new spending patterns emerge with $15.7 billion spent on NFTs in 2021, it is time for brands to start paying attention.

Some of the largest global brands have already made their move, directing time and money to define their place and point of view. Web 3.0 strategy is gaining in importance for businesses who want to build sustainable strategies for the short, mid and long term. The question is - where to start?

Web 3.0 adds a new layer to your omnichannel strategy

For a long time brands have been thinking about how they blend the real world and digital world. The ‘virtual’ world is simply a new layer to think about. We believe the winners will be ‘blended reality brands’ who let consumers experience products and services in each ‘reality’ and move effortlessly between them.

Making customer ecosystems fluid isn't new, but it does become more complex with Web 3.0. The reason being, that many of the existing channels have the potential to become deeper experiences, which in turn have to be created and managed. Prep for Web 3.0 isn’t a part-time job, it’s a department and ultimately, an entire dedicated business function.

While the metaverse is still a highly experimental space, the early adopters’ advantage was very clear to us at R/GA, which is why we’ve invested in launching a bespoke Direct to Avatar (D2A) capability. We foresaw that as the future of retail evolves, and traditional D2C strategies are disrupted by the metaverse, that brands are going to be increasingly looking to explore the creative and business potential of the many emerging virtual spaces.

And many more digital channels will be impacted and disrupted; product strategies should consider virtual product lines; dotcom can be augmented with immersive AR/VR experiences; CRM strategies can extend to NFTs as membership tokens. The opportunities for driving deeper engagement are growing, allowing for new value creation.

With these new experiences comes new expectations and behaviours.

Slow and steady wins the race

But little can be gained by jumping into the metaverse without a roadmap. There may feel a sense of urgency watching the likes of Nike and Adidas jump right in but it doesn’t mean you must immediately follow suit. The clients we speak to are all at different stages - some are at ground-zero learning and strategising, while others are building and testing the next thing on their roadmap.

The springboard to success lies in investing additional time to develop a greater understanding and the impact. Of course, for those that are eager, plans can also be established at speed through education sessions, opportunities mapping, organisational prep and measured pilots.

What’s exciting is that we are still early in this evolutionary cycle despite progress happening at pace. In fact, there are over 180 virtual worlds and I am sure as I write there are more being brought to life.

Community comes first

Despite being at the start of its evolution, the metaverse is going to be powered by numerous communities and subcultures. The key for businesses is to think community-first and focus on providing value for them. Ask yourself the question; Why should they care? How can you add meaning to their virtual experience - and how can real-world experiences complement?

By partnering with the communities your products and experiences are intended for to influence your strategies, it presents an opportunity to drive deeper loyalty across the entire brand ecosystem.

So, the race is on to build the metaverse and brands are sprinting to seize the moment of opportunity. But in the whirlwind of jargon, rebrands and promises, it’s important to remember that the metaverse is a marathon. By taking their time and understanding what makes sense for their products and consumers, businesses will see that they aren’t left behind. Instead, they are the ones able to pioneer lasting, meaningful experiences that make sense and add value.