Web 2.5: The Next Frontier for Marketing Is Here

By Urvashi Ajmera, Senior Strategist at Barbarian

The Web3 hype train is exciting, but the revolution can still feel too far off for many marketers. While the metaverse is a virtual world, Web3 is a decentralized, blockchain-based internet that promises to give users more control over their data and privacy. It is still in its early stages, but it has the potential to disrupt marketing.

Before consumers or brands will be ready to make the leap to the privacy-rich ideal of a Web3 world, they will need to bridge the gap between social and digital interactions today and the imminent future. Welcome Web 2.5, where marketers can begin to use existing assets and behaviors to bridge their way into the future.

Here are 5 things that Web 2.5 can do for marketing and brands right now:

1. Build immersive digital communities.

Today’s consumers want more than just product sales from brands; they seek meaningful connections and novel experiences. With Web 2.5, brands can foster interactive digital communities where consumers can engage with their favorite brands in exciting and innovative ways.

The Starbucks Odyssey platform has created a stir for coffee drinkers who are earning rewards without getting a physical card stamped. The digital program offers interactive games and limited-edition NFT collectibles that don’t require a crypto wallet, while the ownership and experiences are securely stored on the blockchain. Its limited-edition digital stamps already have gained value in secondary markets, and in March, Odyssey’s “Siren Collection” sold out in 18 minutes.

2. Enhance the e-commerce experience.

In today’s competitive landscape, brands seek to establish direct relationships with customers. Web 2.5 opens new avenues for brands to enhance their e-commerce strategy, making it easier for customers to find, purchase and showcase the products they want.

By leveraging blockchain technology, brands can curate special collections and make them exclusively available to token holders who have connected their crypto wallets. This approach enables token holders to enjoy shop gated merchandise and participate in invitation-only events. Shopify’s “tokengated commerce” feature empowers brands to mint custom NFTs, sell them on their online stores, and collaborate with other brands to offer unique benefits. Similarly, the Nike .Swoosh sneakers experience allows buyers to export the digital sneaker to games and other platforms that are compatible. Customers can display their purchases.

3. Drive customer engagement.

Web 2.5 can leverage brand innovation to drive customer engagement by creating positive, interactive experiences that are fun and entertaining. With that, brand loyalty can be fostered.

For example, brands can create fun or meaningful avatars that customers can use, similar to Twitter’s integration of verified NFTs as profile pictures. That and other positive experiences encourage user adoption and a smooth transition into the Web3 ecosystem where even veteran brands can reach new audiences. In April, Mattel announced it updated its Mattel Creations Virtual Collectibles Platform with a peer-to-peer (P2P) marketplace. Owners of Mattel virtual collectibles can display, trade, and sell their digital artwork of Hot Wheels’ most popular designs. Tapping into nostalgia can spark customer interest.

4. New ways to reward your most loyal customers.

Web 2.5 can be used to create blockchain-based loyalty programs that reward customers with discounts, early access to products, or other perks. This can help to keep customers coming back for more because the brand takes care of all this back-end work and offers a pure, unencumbered user experience. It’s customer service on a whole other level.

In January, Yves Saint Laurent announced it would give away NFTs to customers who purchase its new fragrance, Black Opium le Parfum, online in France, the U.S., the U.K., and Australia. NFT holders could then download the YSL Beauty wallet app to claim one of two different NFTs, which would grant access to exclusive content, a gift voucher, or the private sale of a second digital activation. Ease-of-use is key.

5. Make Web3 accessible.

Web3 is still in its early stages, but it has the potential to revolutionize the way we interact with the internet. Web 2.5 canmake Web3 more accessible to consumers by introducing them to NFTs and other Web3 concepts through mainstream social platforms. This can help to build excitement for Web3.

Platforms like Reddit have embraced Web 2.5 by partnering with independent artists and creators to offer limited-edition avatars and digital collectibles. In late April, Puma partnered with Meta to bring seven new outfits to the Meta Avatars Store, a one-stop shop for customizing avatars across Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and in VR. These NFTs provide unique benefits within the respective platforms, making the Web3 concept less daunting to the wider audience.

Web 2.5 is right here, right now 

As Web3 continues to develop, marketers need to adapt their strategies, leveraging existing technology and behaviors. Web 2.5 can help by familiarizing consumers with the Web3 technology while also helping brands and marketers position themselves as leaders in the revolutionary space.