Rather than trying to define Web 3.0, I tend to think of it more as a term to describe to where the internet is evolving. And whatever your views on the jargon, I think it’s safe to agree that evolution of the internet is inevitable. This is why many describe the ongoing evolution as going from Web 1.0 (information), to Web 2.0 (interaction) and now, Web 3.0 (decentralization).
So for convenience, let’s bundle some of these emerging technologies such as DAO, NFT, AI, IoT, blockchain, metaverse into Web 3.0 and think about what it means to us as B2B marketers.
Asking the Right Questions With Web 3.0
The key at this stage is not to find answers — we can’t know them for sure anyway — but to think about the right questions to ask. Some of these may include:
- What will customer relationships look like in the Web 3.0 future? How will Web 3.0 or at least specific elements of it — IoT, blockchain, connected customers, AI and automated decisioning, metaverse — impact the digital CX and related marketing components? Will customers be more like stakeholders, co-creating their CX with brands? In what new ways will digital and in-person interactions fuse?
- If data was the oil of Web 2.0, will trust be the oil of Web 3.0? What can possibly change in how businesses can build and keep trust with their customers and communities? What new ways will that give marketers to forge relationships with customers?
- How will the role of community evolve in the B2B marketing landscape? Community and peer-to-peer communication is going to play a huge role in the way customers will educate themselves and arrive at a buying consensus. What new ways to engage and educate the community will Web 3.0 offer?
- The very nature of events is already changing with NFTs and creator tokens. Will NFTs be the new currency for services, event tickets and pre-release peeks? Will they be a passing fad? How should B2B marketers who regularly leverage events be experimenting?
- Content has always been central to B2B marketing and demand generation. Will Web 3.0 offer new content distribution, delivery and ownership structures that can impact the way business buyers find, consume and share content? How will that impact the funnel, the buyer journey, the buying cycle and what buyers expect from brands?
- How will privacy compliance, consent and preference management evolve as key elements of the modern digital CX? What about ongoing investments in data management platforms. Will that be impacted by the unprecedented transparency of blockchain or the decentralized web where new models of user-controlled data-sharing and monetization are emerging? For example, will brands need to pay customers to share their data? Will marketers figure out new ways to use data based purely on actions/behavior and not demographics?
- The impact on adtech and martech as we know it: How will these changes in data ownership, exchange and potential 1:1 personalization impact the kind of products and solutions that the digital media, martech and adtech companies amongst us need to build?
- The impact on supply and value chain: How can Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) and Decentralized Exchanges (DEXs) change the dynamics of B2B supply chains, especially the role of resellers and other middlemen? What about the dynamics of the app, open-source and citizen developer ecosystem? How could that impact product and app development for B2B tech brands?
- Will payment preferences change? How will blockchain and a more dynamic digital payments ecosystem impact how customers prefer to pay for services and products? For instance, in the context of subscription or SaaS for tech, or loans and insurance for manufacturers?
- How will IoT impact the way data-informed real and virtual experiences will blend? IoT (internet of things) enabled devices (which are only increasing — from wearables to robots, cars to classrooms) are designed to deliver data that helps make more informed automation and optimization decisions around many digital processes. How will more mature AI and ML, combined with IoT advances and new data ownership model, lead to more relevant and timely product development and marketing than before?
While there are far more questions than answers at this point, we have to start somewhere. I checked in with industry practitioners on what they thought were some of the opportunities for early experimentation in the context of Web 3.0 and digital CX for B2B marketers. Here are some themes that came up.
Related Article: Is Web3 a Buzzword? Or the Real Deal?
Content, Events and Community
Community building and customer/advocate engagement are early Web 3.0 use-cases for B2B marketers, suggests executive growth advisor and martech industry insider Anand Thaker. NFTs offer an interesting array of possibilities to recognize and reward your best customers in the (virtual) community, make events more exciting and offer exclusive content.
But, he adds, the true potential of NFTs will be realized if and when they become transferable.The metaverse obviously has the potential to revolutionize the nature of hybrid events. Gamifying the community experience or taking some aspects of it to the metaverse is another exciting area to experiment with, if you already have an established community. Leveraging and partnering with the emerging creator economy may also be worth exploring for B2B marketers who believe in the power of content.
Even More ‘Omni’ Omni-Channel CX
The new customer engagement opportunities the metaverse offers to capture the attention, dollars and loyalty of younger professionals seeking next-level interactive experiences are immense, says Matthew Marx, co-founder & CEO of collaborative marketing platform Evocalize. Growing adoption of AR and VR and other spatial environments also could change the way product demos and customer onboarding and training have been done so far.
For B2B marketers, this means understanding and experimenting with new channels to engage buyers and customers. “As the lines between work and play continue to blur for younger, digital-first decision-makers, staying opportunistic on new channel opportunities will be important to growing the brand and driving business. The metaverse offers B2B an exciting environment to connect with key business decision makers in real time,” says Sarah Doughty, senior director, strategy at Merkle B2B.
No doubt there is high brand-building potential in the metaverse, and as a new channel, it will force B2B marketers to think differently about their brand experience. That said, experimenting with the metaverse is no excuse for fragmented brand experiences now. Doughty cautions that before deploying any ad tactics in the metaverse, brands should align their technology and digital teams to ensure the brand translates accurately across these new touchpoints. “The audience will notice the brand — not the channel — so consistency is critical, be it across the website, social channels, emails or a metaverse," she says.
Related Article: How Retail Businesses Should Prepare for the Metaverse
The Impact on Data Strategy
The way B2B brands — and in fact all brands — gather and use customer data may also undergo transformations, and it’s best to start tracking this space.
For B2B manufacturers, IoT + ML is certainly worth exploring when it comes to leveraging customer activity and behavior based data to better understand how products can add or create value for customers.
As for how B2B customers will leverage their power over their own data in times to come, Thaker says, “Brands paying to access data controlled by the customer would certainly flip the script on how brands connect or find consumers/customers today. There will be significant pushback, so even small movements would be real progress in this space.”
An important aspect of making the most of Web 3.0 opportunities is better using the world’s information via search in these new virtual spatial environments, says Donn Gurule, founder and CEO of Enviropedia Inc., which is working on creating contextual search for AR, VR and the metaverse. With the search behavior of younger consumers fragmenting (they are increasingly using social media as a search tool, voice and in-shopping search for instance), and current search technology, which seems poorly equipped to handle spatial environments, this indeed could be worth thinking about for B2B marketers.
Ultimately, he recommends, B2B marketers should observe, understand and base their decisions on how audiences onboard to these new platforms, be it AR, VR or metaverse.
‘Tis the Time to Experiment With Web 3.0
Unlike the millennium bug, Web 2.0 and 3.0 are not going to have some linear cutoff date. They will co-exist and perhaps at some point Web 3.0 will simply grow into the new normal. This presents a golden opportunity for B2B marketers to explore the possibilities offered by Web 3.0 and its emerging ecosystem, without taking undue risks.
While many B2B marketers do want to experiment with various aspects of Web 3.0, where they are struggling, says Vikas Chawla, co-founder of digital experience agency Social Beat, is finding the right use-case or the right metrics to gauge success on these new engagement channels. “The real opportunity at this point is experimenting with agility — early wins could help brands punch above their weight against larger but slower competitors as Web 3.0 use-cases become clearer,” he adds.
Marx suggests five immediate (and manageable) next steps for fellow marketers:
- Learn about the metaverse and other relevant aspects of Web 3.0.
- Embrace multichannel marketing.
- Push the boundaries with content marketing.
- Form strategic partnerships that challenge your comfort zones.
- Adopt a test-and-learn mindset. Set aside some budgets to explore the possibilities.
For the first step, experiencing Web 3.0 first-hand — or aspects of it — could be the best way to learn. Participate in the early metaverses, see how relationships are formed and maintained in these virtual communities, and how that extends into real life events and transactions. In other words, by being an early-adopter yourself, you could get plenty more realistic ideas on where to experiment for the business. As Thaker puts it, “The arena, players, and dynamics are very worthy of study regardless of you or your company's involvement. They may inspire ideas that haven't been considered externally or internally.”
For B2B companies specifically, the metaverse presents a new dimension for brand building. And while it is in its infancy, it’s here to say, seconds Doughty. Companies have a lot to learn, so it wouldn't be surprising if there is a surge in demand for marketing talent that’s had real first-hand experience of how Web 3.0 works, lives, and, of course, buys.