Web3 development, built around blockchain technology, a fertile ground for growing non-fungible tokens (NFTs), is poised to impact innovations for e-commerce transactions without cryptocurrency use.
For starters, Nike and Starbucks have shifted their customer loyalty programs to Web3. Although they do not designate the rewards they offer as NFTs, the parallels are unmistakable.
Various industry e-commerce reports show that an e-commerce revolution is unfolding as Web3 lays the groundwork for a permissionless and decentralized internet that can survive with or without crypto funding.
Both companies made this shift to “cash in” on blockchain’s ability to provide the kind of personalization that brands need to authenticate transactions better, according to Ketan Rahangdale, CEO and co-founder of Unitea.
“By expanding their loyalty offerings, these brands and others can add an additional layer to existing engagement practices and further gamify the customer experience,” he told CRM Buyer.
His company, an engage-to-earn platform in the music space, already operates with this model and has delivered next-generation engagement experiences through partnerships with festivals such as Dirty Bird, Gem & Jam, and Breakaway.
Diverging From the Metaverse
Web3 is a decentralized approach used in gaming, and no central authority controls any aspect of a game environment or platform.
Still relatively young, Web3 comprises a series of open-source and interconnected decentralized applications powered by blockchain computing architecture. That notion of decentralization is the power Web3 brings to improving how e-commerce exists over the internet.
Like the Metaverse, much of what Web3 does involves blockchains. But the two online entities are not synonymous or fully interchangeable. However, both overlapping technologies benefit from an equally open-source environment.
“Web3 is not necessarily new technology for customers to engage with. However, its use is more fine-tuned than in previous years. A lot of early focus was limited to NFTs, but brands are continuing to explore more stable means of leveraging the technology,” Rahangdale said.
He added that what will matter more over the next few years is providing users with functionality over this kind of fanfare, which ultimately strengthens relationships between all parties.
Engaging Customers, Allaying Fears
As Web3 grows in popularity, the personalized experiences it brings to consumers will boost the effectiveness of CRM platforms. This technology enables businesses to collect and analyze customer data in a decentralized way.
In essence, it eliminates the need for blind trust or intermediaries facilitating virtual transactions. Also, blockchain technology ensures that transactions are more secure and payments are reliable.
In return, it lets businesses provide highly personalized customer experiences, which can lead to increased engagement, loyalty, and revenue over time.
Web3’s decentralization is vital for greater authority over personal data and data storage. Its decentralized structure shifts control of the internet from big tech companies to those who use it. It can also better protect user privacy.
Unitea is heavily invested in the engage-to-earn approach to building better brand loyalty as it maximizes its engagement platform. Engage-to-earn does not apply to cash or credit, he explained. With the model, users’ attention and time are being valued like cash or credit would be traditionally.
“This gives people the opportunity to earn rewards of tangible value without the need to pay for them and does not have to be exclusive to NFTs at all. The Brave (web browser) attention token is a great example of this in practice,” Rahangdale offered.
The Evolving Web of Brand Loyalty Q&A
CRM Buyer discussed with Ketan Rahangdale the intricacies and the impact of Web3 on marketing strategies and the role engage-to-earn plays in customer engagement.
CRM Buyer: How do brand-sponsored activities work to engage customers better?
Ketan Rahangdale: Brand-sponsored activities work better to engage customers because they can often layer over existing events or initiatives with established and engaged audiences.
For example, music festivals draw sponsorships from across industries and provide ample space for marketers to leverage or enhance attendees’ experience, whether through physical product giveaways or technical partnerships.
How can engage-to-earn activities be adapted to customers outside the music space?
Rahangdale: The beauty of engage-to-earn is that it is not exclusive to any industry. It has worked particularly well in the music space. The model can support any environment with a passion for a certain topic or idea and an opportunity to provide unique or experiential rewards.
What should potential adopters of this strategy consider before jumping fully into new customer activities?
Rahangdale: What is key to think about when adapting that to other consumer bases is the “why.” What impact are you looking to make that could not be done through more traditional means of outreach? How much value can you offer to those most passionate about your product or service?
Why should brands in all industries consider switching to engage-to-earn?
Rahangdale: Adopting engage-to-earn allows brands to access additional customer bases that may have differing interests from their primary targets day to day. When you remove more financial barriers to entry and instead leverage existing loyalty, it can level the playing field and add an additional arm to their marketing mix.
Is the engage-to-earn strategy a retread of a similar brand loyalty approach popular on social media, or is it a new arrival on the CRM scene?
Rahangdale: While engage-to-earn may feature similarities with other approaches to brand loyalty, it is unique in its ability to authenticate user experiences and rewards. Regardless of the industry in which it is applied, incentivizing customer behavior gives brands opportunities to connect with that base in an innovative way.
Is the use of crypto limited to the creator community, given that it is not a primary transaction method for typical customers?
Rahangdale: Crypto’s use is not limited to the creator community. We see it as a means of transacting digitally and efficiently for consumers.
Are there alternatives to using the engage-to-earn strategy without crypto?
Rahangdale: To be clear, using Unitea does not require any interest in or access to cryptocurrencies. We do leverage blockchain technology to authenticate certain user rewards, but the environment prioritizes passion first and foremost. Crypto is neither a necessary piece of the engage-to-earn puzzle nor a part of ours.
How difficult was it for Unitea to make the shift? Does it supplement or replace the company's other customer engagements as a marketing or CRM tool?
Rahangdale: We have always employed gamification as a method to reward fans. It was a natural progression of our innovation roadmap, which saw us starting with custodial wallets for ease of onboarding for our existing Web 2.0 audience. Today, engage-to-earn is capable of supplementing other customer engagement points. It currently does so for artists and users alike.
Is the concept of participation over payment becoming the future of brand loyalty?
Rahangdale: Engage-to-earn is so exciting to us because of the equity it has in the ability to create. Our app is free, and the prevalence of consumer device use allows a much larger user base to leverage time and attention to earn products, discounts, and experiences. It is truly a system where everyone involved wins.