What is the best way for brands to engage customers in the metaverse now, while the technology is still relatively new? Experimentation is the key to finding the right approach for your brand’s target audience and your engagement goals. Another key is to “stay focused on meeting consumer needs,” per Forrester’s Marketing and the Metaverse podcast. 

Of course, there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution to moving into the metaverse. Companies that already have a strong brand ecosystem can more easily integrate activations in the metaverse into an omnichannel strategy to attract an audience. Other brands can use the opportunity to start small and implement test-and-learn strategies before launching their metaverse experiences. Here are some use cases to consider as you build your brand’s metaverse strategies. 

Digital Versions of Products 

Digital versions of real-world products, and digital-only products, are a natural fit for consumer product companies and retailers. Those digital products, usually created as non-fungible tokens (NFTs), can be sold or offered as rewards for customers who engage with the brand in the metaverse. For example, wearable NFT versions of clothing, shoes, and handbags allow users to engage longer with the brand and show it off to other users in the metaverse. Last year, a luxury brand sold a virtual handbag for more than what many of their real-world bags cost. 

[Read more: Lowe’s Looking to Build in the Metaverse, Launches Virtual Shopping and NFT Experiences]

However, you don’t have to be a clothing company to create clothes for people’s avatars. Think about how many consumer brands offer merchandise with their logo and consider the potential for digital versions. For example, one beverage company offered a wearable NFT of a branded bubble jacket that customers could unlock and wear on virtual platforms. This is an area where brands can be creative, try different types of virtual products, and see which ones drive the most engagement. 

Virtual Experiences 

Immersive experiences that engage customers can build brand awareness and loyalty through creative expression and discovery. One fast-fashion brand lets visitors on a virtual gaming platform build and customize their own branded stores, stock them with the products they like best, and even “hire” non-playable characters to work there. Store “owners” compete for the best shop on the platform. This kind of experience drives engagement with the retailers’ products through play.

[Related: Walmart Jumps Into Immersive Experiences With Metaverse Project]

Virtual brand or product experiences don’t have to involve a store. For example, one footwear brand created a virtual skatepark and BMX experience on an immersive gaming platform. Visitors can create custom virtual shoes and clothes from the brand, compete against other virtual skaters and riders, and collect tokens. This kind of experience can strengthen visitors’ association between the brand and the activities its customers enjoy in both the real and digital worlds. 

Consumer Insights and Product Customization 

Immersive experiences can give brands immediate feedback on how products are presented, and on the products themselves. For example, in 2021, one retail group created an immersive experience for Black Friday that invited users to search their platform for items to add to their digital mood boards – in effect, creating visual wish lists with digital versions of real products. 

Participants could win credits and products, and of course they could purchase the products they wanted. The marketing and merchandising teams had the ability to see which products appeared on the most mood boards and which other products appeared most often on the same boards, to get ideas for promotions, recommendations, and product sourcing. 

Brands can also gather product evolution ideas in a natural way by offering virtual product customization experiences. Clothing is a natural fit for this use case, but household products, tools, and furnishings can also be tailored by visitors for different applications, settings, and user preferences and abilities. The data from these experiences can help product design teams improve existing products and develop new ones to meet customer needs. 

Setting Up a Presence in the Metaverse

For brands and retailers without a presence in the metaverse, deciding where and when to start can be a challenge. Just like setting up a new website, the timing of entry into the metaverse can vary dramatically depending on the goals for the initial project and whether the brand is trying to capture a new audience or deepen relationships with fans. Often, the fastest and most efficient way to begin is by offering an NFT, such as a wearable item, a virtual product, or a piece of art. 

Regardless of whether a brand plans to launch in the metaverse in the near term, it’s wise to start preparing 3D assets and developing a strategy for them. That’s because 3D assets are increasingly useful in many cases, including online product catalogs and retail websites, to give customers a more realistic and detailed impression of products than two-dimensional photos can provide. 

Stay Open to New Metaverse Strategies 

Because the metaverse is in its early stages, test-and-learn is a wise strategy. By investing now in finding out what engages customers most effectively, you can let your customer shape your strategy and start building the foundation for a more integrated and immersive approach to promoting your brand in the metaverse — one that drives value through connections online and to the real world and the products your brand offers there. 

— Carina Rolley, Director, Digital Customer Experience, Capgemini Americas

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